I am imaging a lot of old negatives.

You can invert the tone curve in lightroom and get a usable image, but having done so the sliders do not work as expected, some backwards, some just wacky.

You can also invert the tone curve in a DNG Camera Profile (if shooting the negatives raw), and it appears to do the same thing; specifically the sliders do not work properly.

You can invert the tone curve in Photoshop, and thus commit to a TIFF (or JPG) image for further editing, which does then allow the lightroom (or photoshop) editing controls to work as normal. Photoshop is also pretty good at removing color cast if you have neutral tones to sample with curves. THere is a lot of information along these lines in prior answers (e.g. starting here).

My question though is whether it is possible to keep the raw image and edit in Lightroom, but make the controls work "correctly", effectively to invert it transparently, as though one took it to photoshop and did the inversion, but somehow got it back as a raw. More specifically, can it be done somehow in the camera profile?

Inverting the tone curve in the profile does not achieve this (the sliders are still backwards). Could one somehow map all the colors to their inverses (perhaps even then correcting for color casts in some way)? You cannot do that in the editor, as it limits the distance you can drag a color, you cannot go to the opposite side of the wheel, but I do not know if one could manually (i.e. with a program) produce such an opposite profile?

I tried taking an image of a color chart, inverting that, and taking a photo of it to build a profile - the profile will not build (interestingly the Adobe editor opens this inverse image and MOSTLY corrects it to the right colors for display, inverting it itself; but it will not proceed with a profile).

Is there some manual way to build such a profile? Or would I be back to the same place as inverting the tone curve, that the sliders still do not work correctly, even if the profile resulted in a positive image?

  • 1
    Damn good question! I'm surprised Lightroom doesnt have a negative RAW mode... Jun 5 '17 at 14:49
  • A good question. In your approach as far as I understood, you'll have to set up a color profile for almost every image? (consider film types, lightning conditions, scan related whitebalance changes, etc) Here is my workflow, maybe you can find something useful: 1) Scan with vuescan (tiff) 2) Open scans in Photoshop, invert them with ColorPerfect (dont do changes here), click save 3) Import in Lightroom (all sliders work normal)
    – j__
    Jun 6 '17 at 7:21
  • @j__ I do not think so (separate for every image). To be perfect perhaps, but all I want as an initial go is to do the inversion AND have the controls work properly, then a lot of adjustment is easy. Inverting outside changes from raw to TIFF, which is fine, and what I will do, but it would be nice to save the step and space. Now it COULD also be negative type specific and remove that negatives color cast, much as Vuescan will attempt, but my question centers more on whether one can do the inversion in a (manually constructed?) profile and still have the sliders work.
    – Linwood
    Jun 6 '17 at 14:14

I know this is a bit late, but I just stumbled across your question. With the recent updates to Lightroom, you can now build a profile to invert negatives and in many cases no further processing will be needed. But even with a film inversion profile, the sliders are still reversed. I do not think this will ever change because Adobe have explained that profiles are actually applied at the end of the image processing pipeline within Lightroom/Camera Raw. Even so, I have found that it is easy to adapt to the reversed sliders and the benefits of having RAW negatives color corrected in Lightroom is worth the inconvenience of working with reversed sliders.

I have written a detailed guide to creating film inversion profiles for Lightroom. https://www.cuchara.photography/blog/2018/5/one-click-inversion-of-color-film-negatives-in-lightroom

Here's an example before-and-after of an image inverted using a profile in Lightroom with no other adjustments. enter image description here


I've tried to find a solution for this in the past, and what I learned is that, no, there's nothing a user can do to achieve the result you're looking for. The functionality of the sliders is hard-coded to work with positive images.

It does seem like an unnecessary limitation, but we have to remember that LR is intended for use with digital images, so there is no need to support negative, from Adobe's point of view.

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