ColorNeg is the ideal tool for working with your monochrome negatives in Photoshop
Even though ColorNeg has primarily been developed to convert color negatives it is also ideally suited for working with black and white material. Among our users many professional photographers use ColorNeg also, or even exclusively, for their black and white work. ColorNeg allows you to convert your valuable monochrome negatives into perfect positive images exerting the maximum of control in the process. These positives can then be edited further to suit your artistic needs and finally be printed using cutting edge fine art printing technologies. The combination of traditional black and white negative film with ColorNeg, multiple pigmented inks and the best fine art printing papers available offers more control over your imaging process than ever.
Why not simply convert monochrome negatives using Photoshop?
As we have illustrated before, the assumption that a color negative's orange mask is to blame for inferior conversions in Photoshop is wrong. Any such mask can be removed easily enough. What really is to blame for the inferior quality in inverting negatives using Photoshop are wrong calculations. Photoshop's invert command will subtract the value that is to be inverted from the maximum value possible. For this method to be correct the negative's intensities would have to be additive which they are not. What is additive instead for photographic film are densities. Assuming we are working with a linear scan in Photoshop the invert command is being applied directly to intensity values, while it should be applied to density values instead. The addition / subtraction of such density values equals the multiplication / division of intensity values. What this boils down to is that Photoshop subtracts where it really should divide. If you are interested in a complete mathematical analysis of this issue please feel free to study our technical report Negative to Positive. Photoshop's incorrect approach in calculating inverse pixels will inevitably lead to inferior monochrome conversions. The negative effects are less obvious here than they would be for color images since monochromes as such mean a greater degree of abstraction from a natural representation of a scene. We will provide you with an astonishing side by side comparison on the next page that will prove our point visually.
Why doesn't ColorNeg contain any characterizations for black and white films then?
The C-41 process, as the developing standard for color negatives provides relatively constant results, as long as developing times and temperatures are being met. All film types designed for this process are made to be treated under individual but similar developing conditions. While optimal results will only truly be obtained when adjusting the development to the needs of the film type at hand this is not what happens at your average industrial scale consumer lab. Here the C-41 process is set up for mass development of anywhere between 5.000 and 100.000 films per night. To achieve this all C-41 films will be developed using identical parameters. The films might be sorted according to other criterions like the size of the photos that are to be printed after developing the film but individual film types are generally being ignored. After sorting the films they will be put into a machine where each film will be removed from its canister, marked with an ID tag and will then be glued to the previous film to be spooled onto one large spool for the group. All films on that spool will be developed in exactly the same way. It goes without saying that this will not lead to the best quality possible and that two films developed at two different facilities might even require differing characterizations in ColorNeg afterwards. The fact that this kind of mass development works at all is due to the similarities of the conditions needed for different film types designed for C-41. These similarities are also what makes it possible to create meaningful characterizations for individual color negative film types even though any individual film of that type might have been developed at an industrial lab to the parameters of that lab instead of to the manufacturer's instructions for that individual type of film. The characterization included in ColorNeg will at least be a good starting point here.
For black and white film there is no such similarity in developing conditions. To obtain comparable results different film types might need to be processed for very different amounts of time. This can only be warranted in your own darkroom or at a highly specialized lab but never at your average industrial scale consumer lab where the procedure will be the same as described for color negatives above. Beside this there are uncounted film / developer combinations that can be used to obtain various results depending on the photographer's whishes. Providing characterizations for black and white film types does not make much sense since it can not be assumed that another film of the same type has been processed using the same parameters as the one used to create the characterization. As an addition to this situation there is the crucial difference between color and monochrome imaging presented in the next paragraph to take into account.
A highly important difference between color and monochrome photography
While we strive to obtain the most natural rendition of a scene in regard to color and contrast in color photography, contrast has always been an artistic means in monochrome imaging. The intent of a black and white photograph is not always the most natural reproduction of a scene as a grayscale but rather the most fascinating rendition of that scene using all the tonal values from a very deep black to almost pure white.
The utilization of gamma beyond calibration, of which we do warn you so insistently for color images, is totally normal for black and whites. The variation of gamma as an artistic means which will inevitably destroy color integrity for color images is by all means permissible here.
In the wet darkroom you will alter a black and white print's gamma value by choosing between different paper grades to print your negative on. This means that you may also use the gamma slider in ColorNeg without hesitation for black and whites. To have a reference while working with your monochromes we recommend using certain predefined settings. We offer a *.negpos file with characterizations especially devised for black and white photography for you to download. In this context we will be referring to Virtual Grades.
What speaks in favor of continuing to use film anyway?
Besides the possibility to print your work from previous years and decades using modern printing techniques there are a number of arguments in favor of continuing to use film. For one thing you might posses some optical gems that can not be combined with digital cameras at all and for another many photographers value their favorite film's grain, especially for their black and whites. Another factor in favor of negative film is the naturally greater latitude of negatives giving the ability to correct for overexposure and underexposure later. In addition to this we can note the fact that the scan of a medium format 6x6cm negative that has been digitized at 4.000 dpi will equal about 75 megapixels worth of data and that that of a 35mm negative will still equal about 21 megapixels when scanned at the same resolution.