Retouching Negatives

With negative film, it makes sense to retouch the original before you make prints, because all the changes will be reflected in each of the resulting prints. Black-and-white negatives, because they consist of a single image layer, can be retouched using etching knives, reducing chemicals and bleaches, as well as pigments. Color negatives consist of separate layers for each color of the image, so those remedies are not practical. However, color negs can be retouched with colored dyes, black lead, colored pencils, or a combination of dyes and pencils. Because color negatives have an overall orange or red tint to them (masks which optimize color reproduction), and all negatives have their colors and tones reversed, retouchers often must make a proof print to use as a guideline. Even experienced retouchers may have to view a color negative through different colored filters to evaluate areas being retouched. I can't emphasize how much skill negative retouching requires. For example, to correct prominent veins in a portrait, the retoucher has to learn to look for yellow-orange lines on the subject's face, and obscure them with cyan dye or blue pencil, because clear areas on negatives represent shadows, dark areas represent highlights, and colors are reversed.

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