• Olly

Converting Black and White Negatives the Easy Way

Updated: Aug 16, 2021

Do you scan your own black and white negatives?

I’ve always found that the hardest part of scanning and digitising negatives with a digital camera is gauging what exposure in the camera to use. I can generally get it pretty right but sometimes I feel it could be a little easier. You might have heard of the feature which allows you to digitise your negatives using the Nikon D850, and output a ‘positive’ jpg file. However, this feature is only available on the D850 which is a shame as I’m sure Nikon could push this out to other bodies easily enough but that might stop folk upgrading, and after all Nikon are in the business of selling camera bodies as much as anything else.

However, I’ve created a way of doing the exact same thing using non-D850 Nikon bodies, using a custom Picture Control profile. Simply load the profile onto the camera and change the shooting profile to the newly loaded custom profile, which I’ve called “Invert B&W Negative” - An inventive name, isn’t it!

This will allow you to output a positive jpg file, making it quicker and easier to digitise your images. You can then download the images from Snapbridge as 2mp jpgs direct to your phone or tablet if you just want to share them quickly on social media.

Here's a quick video for you to see what I mean. Note that increasing the exposure actually decreases the exposure and vise versa:

Two things to note:

  1. As demonstrated in the video above, your exposure dials will be inverted, so to decrease the exposure you turn the dial as if you would be increasing the exposure, and vice versa.

  2. This will only output a positive jpg file, your NEF raw file will still be just a digitised negative - the same thing happens with the D850 however which is something a lot of folk are disappointed with, but that’s due to the fact that raw files have ZERO processing applied, and if Nikon decided to invert the raw file you’d only end up with same as the jpg in any case - but if this bugs you, I’ve included the link to download my simple “Invert B&W Film Negatives Lightroom” preset at the bottom of this post as well. This simply sets the profile to Adobe Monochrome, and inverts the tone curve. Again your exposure control sliders are inverted. It’s a bit weird, but you soon get used to it. 🙂

Here's the photo of the Llama in the above video, straight out of the camera as a jpg
Converting B7W Negs? No Probllama!

How to load your profile:

1. Download the Picture Control profile to your computer using the link below.

2. Insert a memory card into the computer and copy the file to the root folder (the one that usually contains the folders “DCIM”, and “NIKON”. Your folder should look like this now:

3. Insert the memory card into your camera and navigation the ‘Manage Picture Control’ menu, inside the ‘Photo Shooting Menu’. Go to the option ‘Load/Save’ and then select ‘Copy to camera’.

4. Finally, choose the Picture Control profile in the camera and you’re good to go. Point your camera at your negatives and off you go!


It seems at some point Nikon changed the process, and with older cameras the above method doesn't work. After I was contacted regarding loading onto a D7000, I did a little experimentation, and I managed to load the profile onto my D7000. Also, I changed my card from a 64GB to a 32GB to see if that made a difference, and it would appear that it did, so it might be worth using a smaller card if you were trying a 64GB?

To load it, you need to put the custom control in. folder called CUSTOMPC contained within the NIKON folder in the top level (see the below screenshot).

Then, once the file has been placed in that folder, put the memory card it into your camera and go to MENU > Shooting Menu > Manage Picture Control > Load/save > Copy to Camera, and this screen will come up:

From here you can name it as required and begin using it!