Video tutorial: Invert scans of black and white negatives with the ColorPerfect Photoshop Plug-in

ColorPerfect processes scans with color integrity and gives unprecedented flexibility in creative image editing. It even offers a new and superior approach to digital photography but that is a different story. To harness the full potential of our Photoshop Plug-in you will want to read much of what he have on our web pages but most importantly you'll want to get started using it. To help you with that we have recorded this video tutorial for you.

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Using ColorPerfect’s ColorNeg mode to invert black and white negative scans

Welcome. In this screencast I’d like to give you an introduction to the capabilities of ColorPerfect when working with black and white negative scans. To learn how to best scan your negatives please consult our video tutorials and web pages on creating linear scans. The following is going to assume that we have scanned our black and white negatives as actual grayscale images - opposed to having scanned them as color images. ColorPerfect and ColorNeg before it were primarily developed to work with color images. However many of our users also or even exclusively use ColorPerfect for working on their black and white negative scans.

Things to be aware of before inverting black and white negatives with ColorNeg

When using ColorPerfect to process monochrome images there are a few facts to be aware of before we start. For one we need to know what color profile our host application will use by default and will ideally set up the default grayscale profile to match that.

When using Adobe Photoshop as your host application

So let me show you how to check that in Photoshop. Because Adobe requires users to purchase language specific versions of Photoshop I will show you this using Photoshop CS2 because my copy of CS5 is in German. The settings we’re interested in stayed at the same location in more recent Photoshop versions. They can be found in the Edit menu under Color Settings. On this dialogue, which will probably look like this in your copy of Photoshop, we can check what’s selected for RGB. This will usually either be sRGB or Adobe RGB 1998. If you don’t have a good reason not to we recommend you to set your grayscale working space to a matching Gray Gamma of 2.2 in either case. Next OK out of the Color Settings.

When using PhotoLine as your host application

If you are not using Adobe Photoshop as your host application but instead are using PhotoLine the required settings will be found in the PhotoLine Preferences menu under the Color Management Standard tab. PhotoLine does not install any color profiles on your system. Yet sticking with these defaults is not a good idea. So first let’s select an RGB working space that matches the selection we had in Photoshop and next let’s select a grayscale working space of Gamma 2.2 to match that. Like I said PhotoLine does not install any color profiles on your system and because that’s so I will offer the two Gray Gamma profiles seen here for download on this video’s web page. After having set this let’s OK out of the Options.

Assigning a Gray Gamma 2.2 working profile to your scans using MakeTiff

After having created linear scans from your black and white negatives it is a best practice to assign the grayscale working space you use to those files. The easiest way to accomplish that for multiple scans is by using our auxiliary program MakeTiff which is part of the ColorPerfect PerfectRAW system. After starting up MakeTiff for this purpose tick the “show advanced options” checkbox and choose “strip profiles from linear scans”. Some scanner software like Nikon Scan wrongly embeds a color profile into monochrome Tiff files. Apart from stripping any profiles that might already be assigned to our Tiff files we can choose a profile to replace what’s already in the file. So let’s choose Gray Gamma 2.2. To use MakeTiff just drop your files onto it’s interface. You can also drop whole folders. Now the Gray Gamma 2.2 profile was assigned to both of my linear scans and we can exit MakeTiff.

Calling ColorPerfect and setting up things on the Start panel e.g. ColorNeg mode

Let’s open one of the negatives I prepared in PhotoLine because that enables us to use our modern 64 bit plug-in on the Mac which features a resizable dialog among other things and is accessed from the Filter menu’s C F Systems category. Right after starting the plug-in there is a panel that is only accessible now. That’s the Start panel up here. On it we must make sure that the Gamma C value shown matches our grayscale profile of Gamma 2.2. Furthermore we can select one of ColorPerfect’s three modes we would like to use in this session. Since we are dealing with a negative scan we will obviously use ColorNeg mode. ColorNeg mode is already configured to expect our input material to be a linear scan. If this scan were not linear but rather Gamma encoded we could toggle this button from L for Linear to G for Gamma encoded. But since this is a linear scan let’s quickly toggle back to linear input. The Start panel will automatically close as soon as we interact with any user interface element that is not on it or when we press this little plus button up here to toggle to the Main panel.

Setting up Gamma to get a good rendition of a scene or using virtual grades

When working with color negatives or color images in general there is a difference between ColorPerfect’s artistic Gamma feature here and it’s Film Gammas as I will illustrate in a different video. For monochrome images however there is no difference and we can use the artistic Gamma instead of Film Gamma. I think I developed this negative to a Gamma of 0.7 so let’s set Gamma to approximately 1.4. When working with black and white negatives I like having a set of predefined Gammas that I loosely modeled after graded papers in the wet darkroom. We offer a dot NegPos file with such settings we refer to as Virtual Grades on our web page and I will quickly load that file pressing the Load button and selecting the file where I put it on the Desktop. After having loaded the file I can select a virtual grade from the Film menu. And for starters I’ll choose Grade 2 for this image. Note that the image looks much too dark now because we set up an artistic Gamma before so I’ll revert that back to its original setting of 1. Of course we could also have chosen a different setting for artistic reasons either a setting with shallower contrast like this one or one with steeper contrast like this one. Let’s stick with the Virtual Grade 2 setting I chose first.

Crop your scan before using ColorPerfect on it

The positive image already looks reasonably good because ColorPerfect chose suitable parameters for some of its settings on start up. I should probably have mentioned that prior to calling ColorPerfect you should always crop your negatives so that they no longer contain parts of the film holder or film base.

ColorPerfect’s most basic image adjustments: Black and Highlight compression

So next let’s look at the most basic image editing parameters in ColorPerfect. For one that is Black. This setting is what controls brightness or exposure in ColorPerfect’s unique image editing system. Why it’s called Black will become clearer after we have looked at its sibling White. We can brighten the image by dragging the slider up and we can darken the image by dragging the slider down. Actually dragging the slider up removes black from the image while dragging it down adds black to the image. So technically the slider’s direction is reversed for this because most people intuitively expect up to mean brighter and down to mean darker. This behavior can be altered on ColorPerfect’s option screen. When using Black up here is a read out that shows us how many pixels in percent do become pure white and it is quite acceptable if a few of them do because there is a highlight compression system that gets them back into the printable tonal range. For example if I chose to compress one f-stop into a tonal range down to what would be histogram bin number 235 in a Gamma encoded 8 bit image we can see that there no longer is any clipping for the highlights.

ColorPerfect’s most basic image adjustments: White and Shadow compression

The second most basic image editing adjustment in ColorPerfect is adding and removing white, which can also be thought of as adding or removing fog from a scene. Let me illustrate that by adding some white to our scene. Adding white has the same effect as viewing the scene through layers of mist while removing white has the same effect as removing such mist or fog from our scene. The ability to control white in this fashion is an important factor in mastering your image’s contrast. Just as with the highlight clipping indicator up here when using Black there is a Shadow clipping indicator to use in combination with removing white and an according compression system for the shadows. In order to see what that does I’ll perform a right click into one of the darkest portions of the image and next set the zoom of the preview image to a somewhat higher value. Now we can easily evaluate what the several shadow compression settings do. A setting of four brings back some detail while keeping the dark areas reasonably dark. By toggling off the entire white control and toggling it back on we can evaluate what we are doing. I think the current rendition is still to dark so let’s just try a different shadow compression setting. It’s easy to overdo it when removing white so let’s adjust the numerical value of our adjustment to be somewhat less intense and let’s again evaluate what the adjustment does. Setting the zoom factor back to its lowest setting which allows us to see the entire image I think that we have done a reasonable job for this introduction.

Color Perfect’s more elaborate image adjustments: Zones, Curves and Moderate

Something I don’t believe we require for this image but which I’d still like to show you is that ColorPerfect allows us even more subtle control over the tonal values of an image. For that we can toggle from the Basic Adjustment to the Zone Control panel. On it we could for example specify that the midtones shall remain the way they are, the brighter tones shall be a bit brighter yet and some of these darker tones should be even darker. This kind of adjustment can always be visualized by a curve overlay on the preview image where a flat line would mean that the tonal values are unchanged, a position that’s above this flat line shows us that pixels have been brightened and a position that’s below the flat line shows us that pixels have been darkened. This reads from left to right as from dark to bright. Probably the most important and most flexible control when using this feature is Moderate, which allows you to lessen or to intensify such an adjustment. So let’s try that. By clicking into the Moderate text field the slider control gets activated and we can reduce our zonal adjustment to zero or we can even intensify it further. With zones in general it is easy to do too much. So let’s do considerably less just for the sake of having used the feature. Let’s disable the curve display and reevaluate our image.

ColorPerfect’s Turn off panel

The upper panel can be toggled to its turn off mode where we can turn the zone adjustment off and back on to check whether we like the effect. Here we can also reevaluate the effect of the Highlight compression system and that of the Shadow compression system. Please note that whatever is turned off in this fashion will also be turned off if we were to OK out of the plug-in right now.

Creating a final image by leaving ColorPerfect by pressing OK

I hope you have enjoyed this first glimpse at what ColorPerfect can do with black and white negatives and maybe we will take this one step further by using Selections in a future screen cast. For now I’d like to thank you very much for your kind attention. So let’s OK out of the plug-in to create our first black and white positive image.