Developing Negatives In Photoshop Elements 9

In my last post, i discussed getting back into film and how i was approaching that move in order to be more self-sufficient in regards to developing the film into photographs.

I know that i have not covered developing film; though, i will most likely cover that in a different post.  At this point in time, i am on the fence between developing it myself at home or taking it to my local camera store to develop.  

In regards to developing my own film at home, i came across something really cool some time ago. Check this out:  (

To begin the process of developing your “negative” in Photoshop, you first need a JPEG of your “negative”.  Here is a sample image of a “scanned” negative:


As you can see, it’s simply a JPEG – straight from my Olympus TG3 – of the developed 135 film.  This photo in no way has been altered or edited.

I scanned the negatives with my camera set to shooting JPEG.  It is probably best to scan them with your camera set to shooting RAW, seeing as you will have more flexibility with a RAW file.  

Once you have your JPEG of the negative, bring it into Photoshop – i will refer to Photoshop in this post, since that is what i used.

Once you have the JPEG of the negative in Photoshop, the first thing that you will want to do, is to crop out anything to the left, right, above and below the frame of the “photo” on the film.

I suppose if i wanted to, i could keep the perforations as part of the final JPEG that i will work with.  But, to me, it does not make much sense.  After all, you are turning an analog “file” into a digital file, so what’s the point?

Once you have cropped your JPEG file down to what you want to work with, you are now set to flip things around.

Step one: use Ctrl J to create a new layer.

Step two: use Ctrl I to invert the photo.

Now your “negative” has been inverted and it is starting to look more like a photograph.

Step three: click on “create new fill or adjustment level” and scroll up to “levels”.  Click on “levels”.

From here, you can mess about with the sliders or you can just click on “Auto”.

You now have a photograph that you can print or use on your blog.  Of course, you can also do further editing to the file if you wish.

Here is the result i got with the “negative” that i posted above:


This photograph is a perfect example of why you should not lay your developed film directly onto the screen of your smart device when using it as a lightbox.

All those white, squiggly little shapes that you see in the middle of the photo, are the pixels of the screen showing through.  This is why i said that you need to put a piece of white, translucent plastic between the screen and the film.

I made a little film holder out of cardboard that actually lifts the film up from the screen by a few millimeters.  Lifting the film up a few mm while still keeping it flat, is another way that you can avoid these artifacts in the final photo.

And there you have it!  A cheap and easy way to scan some old, developed 135 film into digital files that you can use to print or post to the web.

A few things to consider:

  1. This was merely an experiment on my part to simply understand the process and the feasibility of it.
  2. The photos that i ended up with are far from being good.  Some factors that may have affected the quality of the final photo are: the age of the film, not using the sharpest aperture on my camera’s lens, my camera not having an APS-C sensor (i used my TG3), using the lens at a wide-angle setting and perhaps because the film was not completely flat.
  3. Going back to #2, i really don’t want to sound like i am making excuses for the bad photos.  I simply wanted to point out some factors that might affect the quality of the final product.  This is the first time that i have ever done this, so i may not have performed some aspects of it correctly.
  4. As i said in #1, this was only an experiment.

I hope that i was able to peak your interest in scanning film in some way and that you will experiment with this yourself.

Who dares wins.

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