After more than 10 months in development (and 2+ months of beta testing and refinements), Negative Lab Pro v2.2 is here! This is the most rigorously developed update I’ve ever made and I believe it will be a MAJOR breakthrough for your negative film editing.
Negative Lab Pro v2.2 is all about taking your film to the NEXT LEVEL – with a breakthrough new engine, easier editing tools, and breathtaking color and tone reproduction
Buckle up, because we’ve got a lot to cover!
- This is a FREE Update to existing users (You should have received an email with details)
- New users can download a FREE TRIAL (which includes 12 free conversions)
- If you’ve tried a previous version and used up your free trials, this update will give you 12 fresh conversions to try!
Skip to a section:
- Dramatically Improved Colors & Tones - Powered by a Breakthrough New Engine
- New Tools for Faster, Easier Editing
- Beautiful, New LUT-Based Emulations
- Loads More Goodies…
- Notes on Updating Images
- Frequently Asked Questions
🌟 1. Dramatically Improved Colors & Tones -- Powered by a Breakthrough New Engine
The update is more than just a tweak – it’s a completely rebuilt from scratch engine that transforms what’s possible with your negatives.
To create a rock-solid editing experience, and deliver the rich, natural tones and colors inside your negatives, I had to go back to the drawing board. Using everything I’ve learned the past 3 years of development, I completely gutted and rebuilt the core editing engine. It was a monumental undertaking, but the results are absolutely worth it.
Let me just show you just how great the tones and colors are from this new engine:
These were converted and edited entirely in Negative Lab Pro v2.2 – no positive copies, no photoshop exports. And not only are the finished results better, but it’s faster and easier to get there.
This new engine was the missing piece to making Negative Lab Pro deliver on the promise to bring out “impossibly good” tones and colors from your film.
With the new engine in place, you have:
- A Better, Faster Workflow – Keeping your entire workflow RAW and Non-Destructive is a game-changer. There’s no need to create or maintain additional copies. You can see all of your work perfectly cataloged, and add rich, film-centric metadata to organize and share.
- The Purest Results – Every conversion and adjustment is happening against the original RAW. That means every edit in Negative Lab Pro is foundational, not just adding a new layer on top of a bad foundation. You can edit and re-edit core assumptions (like the black and white clip points) at any time with zero degradation.
- Editing Tools Designed Just For Film – All of the editing tools in Negative Lab Pro are designed specifically for film - using film-centric analysis and film-centric functions (like specialized gamma, logarithmic and linear curves). This makes it easier to edit and to bring out the nuances of film in a way you can’t by hand or with other plugins.
So let’s talk about the fun stuff of how exactly the tones and colors are now so much better in this new version.
Powered by “MAGIC”
"Multilayer Auto-Generating Integrated Curves"
The beauty of working with color negative film is the incredible amount of potential inside each negative. The new editing engine in Negative Lab Pro allows you to easily and naturally uncover the potential inside each frame.
How does it do it? The new engine has its own processing pipeline with 9 internal processing layers working together seamlessly under the hood. Internally, I can define, order and combine each layer in the way that makes the most sense for film processing. For instance, color balancing happens earliest in the pipeline, so your color balance remains stable even if you drastically adjust your tones.
Negative Lab Pro then auto-generates up to 42 curve points in real time (14 integrated points for each color channel), which are then fed directly into Lightroom’s curve control.
It’s actually quite beautiful to watch it all work together.
Here’s what it looks like when you’re adjusting brightness:
The main curve you are seeing there is the blue curve, but if you squint, you can also see the green and red color curves updating perfectly as well.
Here’s what contrast looks like now:
Because it’s calculating everything internally in a multilayer approach, the controls work beautifully and naturally together. Here’s what it looks like as you start to edit your image using multiple controls together:
Not only does this look beautiful on its own, but it’s the secret to how Negative Lab Pro v2.2 produces purer tones and colors in your own negatives.
Perfect Color Stability
Using the new multi-layered pipeline in version 2.2, your changes to the color balance are now foundational. Once you reach desired color balance, it will continue to stay balanced, because the color changes are being computed before the tonal changes.
In version 2.1 and earlier, changing the tonality could lead to big changes in the color balance, as you can see below
This could made editing a frustrating process of adjusting and re-adjusting color balance.
Now in version 2.2, the color balance remains perfectly stable as I edit the tonality of the scene, as you can see below.
This is because the new engine in 2.2 makes color changes fundamental, and calculates all other tonality changes after the color balance. This alone makes the editing process in Negative Lab Pro so much easier and more enjoyable!
Editing Latitude that Brings Out the Full Potential of Your Film
One of the biggest advantages of working with Negative Lab Pro is the ability to edit non-destructively against the original RAW file.
Previously, you have noticed that extreme changes could “break the curve.” No more! In version 2.2, you can adjust your images as much as you’d like, with natural responses and no breaks.
As an example, look at how much latitude the brightness slide in Negative Lab Pro now has. And the resulting curve is a thing of beauty.
The same holds true with all of the controls. For instance, here we can see how wide the range is on contrast control. And again, the curve is produces is perfect even in these extreme cases.
Of course, you won’t need to go to the extremes of each control all the time, but having that added latitude makes is much easier to get the final look you want from your film!
The Secret Sauce Behind New Features
Not only does the new engine make all the existing tools work better, but it is absolutely essential to many of the new features that are introduced in this version.
- Cinematic Tone Profiles, which use a new logarithmic curve to produce the beautiful highlight separation and flat even mid-tones we typically associate with “cinematic” processing.
- More precise AutoColor Analysis - Previously, the auto color analysis only used hue and saturation of the color cast for input, and then approximate the right settings to offset the cast. Now, it uses hue, saturation AND brightness in its analysis and the settings it generates are much more precise than previous versions.
- The Color Picker Tool - which requires precise color space conversions, settings reversal (to back-out what the original color would have been before NLP settings were applied), and precise way to calculate what the new temp/tint settings should be to achieve perfect balance.
And the core engine improvements will continue to enable new features in the future!
🌟 2. Tools for Faster, Easier Editing
Not only does the new engine make better colors and tones possible, the editing controls themselves have been improved to make it faster and easier than ever to get incredible results.
Integrated Temp/Tint Sliders — Designed Just For Film
The centerpiece of color balancing in v2.2 is the new integrated Temp / Tint sliders. Not only is this an easier, more familiar way to deal with color balance, but now with the new tone engine, it just works beautifully with any tonal adjustments you make!
The sliders here will act similarly to what you’re used to, but with the following advantages:
- The algorithm here has been designed especially for film - to provide more even, natural color adjustments across the full tonal range
- The Temp/Tint settings are integrated with the WB Dropdown, and the ColorPicker controls. So if you update one of those, the values of Temp and Tint will also change accordingly. This makes it easy to fine tune.
You should now see the most natural color results by adjusting color-balance entirely inside Negative Lab Pro, rather than creating a positive copy in Lightroom, or trying to adjust a copy in Photoshop. That’s because LR and Photoshop’s WB controls are not optimized to work with film.
Let’s look at a quick example:
In the image on the left, I’ve made a positive copy of the original conversion, and then used Lightroom’s white balance tools. You can see that this has created some unnatural gradients in the sky, and blown out some of the sky detail. I’ve also run out of room for adding more magenta, as it is maxed out to 100.
Adjusting the color balance in Negative Lab Pro (right image) has produced much more natural results! Notice how even and natural the gradient is in the sky as it moves all the way from deep blue at the top to light pink at the bottom. And there’s still plenty of room left in the control to add more magenta if I want to.
One of the biggest requests I’ve had since launching Negative Lab Pro was to add a ColorPicker - where you can click a neutral grey spot in the image and the color balance will automatically adjust.
Ask and you shall receive!
The new color ColorPicker is integrated directly into the Temp/Tint control (similar to how it works in Lightroom), so that when you use the ColorPicker, the results are shown in the Temp/Tint control, and allow for further editing from there.
Here, with this grey card, we can use the ColorPicker on one of the neutral grey points, and it will balance the entire image around that point.
You can see that the original conversion is actually pretty close to neutral, and if you were just viewing it in isolation, you may be content with it. But using the ColorPicker on something we know is truly neutral grey, we can be sure we are getting perfect color balance.
Here’s a more extreme example, this time without the use of a grey card. When you don’t have a grey card, you may just have to try a few different points before you find the right balance. The spot you pick should ideally be in the middle of the tonal range (not too bright, not too dark) and something that is very very close to neutral.
Quick Tips for Using the ColorPicker:
- The use instructions are different for Windows and Mac. Click the ⓘ icon beside the ColorPicker to bring up the instructions on using with your OS.
- If your initial results are close, use the Temp/Tint sliders to refine further
- The color picker will work best if you select a neutral mid-tone pixel. If the pixel is too bright or too dark, it may not be able to determine a balance.
- High grain film can throw off the picker (because of all the color noise). If you’re working with high grain film, try adding “Color Noise Reduction” in Lightroom beforehand.
- It’s generally best to use this before making other changes to your photo. Although it is designed to reverse out any changes you’ve made when doing its calculation, small colorspace errors can become exaggerated with lots of changes.
Range Control for Highlight and Shadow Toning
Negative Lab Pro has always offered a dedicated tool for Highlight and Shadow toning. This tool is particularly relevant to working with color negatives because it lets you adjust the fundamental assumptions about the black point and the white point. It’s an important tool not just for correcting conversion assumption, but also if you want to replicate some of the “beautiful mistakes” made by traditional film lab systems.
The biggest issue with previous versions of highlight and shadow toning was that there was a lot of overlap. So for instance, adjusting the shadow toning could cause issues with the highlight toning, and vice versa. There needed to be a way to control the tonal width of the adjustment.
That’s where the new “Range” control really comes in handy. Once you have your primarily color balance set, you can now make very precise color adjustments to just particular tonal ranges.
Increasing the “range” makes the color impact broader and further-reaching. Decreasing the “range” makes the color impact narrower and more discrete.
The highlight toning tool is incredible for:
1. Adjusting skin tones without effecting the shadow tones
Here, the skin-tone has a weird green tint to it, but the shadows and midtones look pretty balanced. Using Highlight Toning, I can precisely adjust the skin tones without impacting the overall color balance of the shadows.
Not only did this fix the skin tones, but it has also improved the hue of the brighter portions of the sky!
2. Bringing back the natural look of light sources, like in sunsets, flames, lamps or direct bulbs.
Highlight toning is also a life-safer in situations where a direct light source is in the frame. Much like traditional film scanners, NLP will push the brightest part of the image towards white, but using Highlight Toning, we can add back in the light source’s natural tone. For instance, here, the direct setting sun begins to render as white, but we can easily bring back in the natural tone.
It makes a subtle but important difference!
3. Emulating warmer paper types, like Ilford Warmtone
For black and white shooters, the highlight toning is also fantastic for emulating certain types of paper, like Ilford Warmtone, where the toning is more pronounced in the highlights. (To really make the toning come through, it is helpful to also bring down the “whites” slider in the main tone section.)
I find that the shadow toning is most useful for emulating the “beautiful mistakes” of lab scanners
While there are some cases that call for making corrections to just the shadows (without impacting the highlights) the most common way I use shadow toning is to emulate lab scanners.
For instance, the image on the left is from an actual Noritsu scanner. To fully replicate this look, I had to use a very narrow, green/yellow shadow tone. The other secret to this look is to push up the “blacks” slider in Negative Lab Pro, so that the hue of the shadow tone is more visible.
As you can see, having the ability to add and adjust distinct toning in the highlights and shadows is a powerful tool for both correction and for emulation!
The 3 Tone Profile “Families”
When I originally launched Negative Lab Pro, my focus was on recreating the glimmering, high-contrast look of lab scanners. So that’s exactly what the default “Standard” tone profile did. But pretty quickly, it became apparent that that was not every film photographer’s goal!
With the addition of the “CINEMATIC” tone profiles, I’m now organizing the tone profiles into three distinct families: CINEMATIC, LAB & LINEAR.
Depending on your editing style and film choice, you should find a tone profile that best suits your needs for beginning your editing.
1. CINEMATIC - New!
log // rich // flat
The new Cinematic tone profiles provide great tonal separation in the highlights, and smooth, low-contrast mid-tones and shadows.
What it’s doing: These profiles use a logarithmic curve, with the steepest portion of the curve in the highlights, and then it levels out to create that low-contrast look through the rest of the image.
Pairs Great With: Any “Cine film” (like Cinestill, Kodak Vision3, Fuji Eterna). It’s also a great starting point if you like a softer, moodier style.
standard // soft // hard // highlight hard // highlight soft // shadow hard // shadow soft
This is the original series of tone profiles available in Negative Lab Pro. The “LAB-Standard” was modeled after the punchier, higher contrast look of lab scanners
What it’s doing: Similar to a lab scanner, is adding auto-toning based on a scene analysis, then mid-tone contrast. It’s also raising blacks and lowering whites just a tad to create some breathing room on each end.
Pairs Great With: I find this works really well with Kodak Portra or Fuji 400H. I just love the added contrast – it gives it that “pop” that you’d expect from a lab scan.
gamma // deep // flat
A flat, neutral starting point. Good for editing from “scratch” or replicating the low-contrast default look of home scanning software (EpsonScan, Silverfast, etc).
What it’s doing: At its core, the “linear” profile is just a flat, linear curve between the white point and black point.
Pairs Great With: The “Linear + Gamma” is my go to for all B+W film processing (the gamma is set to mimic traditional black and white photo paper). The “Linear + Deep” is great starting point for working with consumer-grade film that already has higher contrast (like Kodak ColorPlus, Kodak Ektar, Fujicolor, etc). Or, if you want to handle all the tonal adjustments from scratch, this is the place to begin!
🌟 3. Beautiful New LUT-Based Emulations (LrC Only)
One of the most powerful features of Lightroom Classic is the ability it integrate 3D Lookup Tables (LUTS) into the workflow. LUTs are pre-determined instructions for how to manipulate any given color (hue, sat and value) into another color. The possibilities with a LUT are virtually unlimited.
This version includes 4 new LUT-based emulations, each with the ability to increase of decrease the strength of the emulation to your taste. Let’s take a look at each LUT and how/when to use:
Having LUTs added to the pipeline allows for some incredibly nuanced adjustments to color and tone reproduction, and in the case of Negative Lab Pro, enables more precise, more beautiful emulations.
NOTE: This feature is only available for Lightroom Classic users. You will not see this feature show up if you are using Lightroom 6.
You may have noticed that Negative Lab Pro tends to render blue skies more on the “cyan” side. (At least, so I’ve been told )
While this cyan hue is inherent in the negative film itself, in a traditional printing process this would have been offset by the limited gamut of the photographic paper, which had a limited ability to render cyan as well as bright “cherry” reds. The wider gamut of digital processing is able to render colors that were not possible in traditional printing, but this wider gamut may actually produce colors you don’t want. So this “natural” LUT basically emulates and inversion happening within the more limited color gamut of a traditional printing process. This produces:
- More traditionally “accurate” color
- More natural “azure” blue skies, and less cyan.
- Warmer, less intense cherry reds
- More natural foliage hues.
There were some very specific characteristics of Frontier scanners that I wanted to capture, but wasn’t able to capture in the pre-conversion “color model” – tiny nuances that just couldn’t be adjusted with that method. So with the Frontier LUT, you’ll see:
- Richer overall colors
- Purer neutral points
- Healthy skin-tones with the classic “Peachy” hue.
- Lusher greens and richer yellows (and better separation between the two).
I wanted to capture a look based around Fuji Crystal Archive Paper. In the right circumstances, this LUT can produce extraordinary results. But be warned: this is a strong emulation, so you may find that 25% to 75% strength will suit most images better. With this LUT, you should expect:
- Incredible depth with a tendency towards green in shadows
- Rich, “print-like” color reproduction that emulates a subtractive color model
As the owner of an F135 myself, I really enjoy the color reproduction of this classic little scanner. It can pack quite a punch, so you may need to adjust your main contrast down when using this LUT to give room for the luminosity curve to work it’s magic. From this LUT, you’ll see:
- Tons of “punch” using a special luminosity curve
- Very pure neutrals, especially in highlights
- Enhanced saturation and color separation.
Tips for Using the New LUTs
- You can vary the strength of the LUT - this is a great way to see what the LUT is doing and either dial it up or pull it back.
- Don’t expect the LUT to do all the work! You will still want to use Negative Lab Pro’s main controls to get the edit to a good place. The LUTs are just the “cherry on top” at the end.
- The LUTS will only be visible if you are using Lightroom Classic 8.0 or later AND you have the enhanced profiles installed properly.
- For MAC, the LUTS should be installed automatically as a part of the installation manager.
- For Windows, you will need to add the “enhanced profiles” which contain the embedded LUTs inside.
🌟 4. Loads More Goodies...
I know we’ve already covered a TON of new stuff, but I should point out a couple of other improvements as well:
- The ⟳ button lets you cycle through dropdown options faster
- The instructions in the convert tab have been improved
- More “tooltips” have been added to provide help
- The custom metadata includes more standard film-format options
- You can now “auto-caption” your main Negative Lab Pro settings
- More camera profiles have been added (up-to-date with LrC camera support)
- Various bugs fixes.
🌟 5. Upgrading Your Existing NLP Conversions
One of the major advantages of a raw, non-destructive process is that when improvements come out to Negative Lab Pro, you can take advantage of them in your existing conversions (without having to go back and reconvert or create additional files).
When you launch NLP v2.2 on a previously converted image, it will automatically be upgraded to the new engine.
In general, you shouldn’t need to “reconvert” images that you had previously converted (the only advantage would be the improvements to the AutoColor analysis). If you do want to re-convert, I recommend using the “reset photo” option in Convert tab, this way it will also zero out your previous edits so that you can edit fresh.
If your previous edits to that image were minimal, you should notice very little difference initially. You can now start further editing the image to take advantage of the new tools and engine improvements.
If your previous edits were dramatic you will likely see some changes when it upgrades. This is because your previous edits were probably compensating for color stability issues with the old engine. In this case, you may find it helpful to hit the “reset” button (above the tone settings) to clear your previous edit and start re-editing from scratch. You can also hit “cancel” at this point and it will return your image to the way it was before the upgrade.
If you want to preserve your previous raw edits exactly as they were, you can make a “virtual copy” of the original converted RAW in Lightroom by hitting the (Command + ’ ) shortcut key before opening in v2.2. The beauty of the “virtual copy” in Lightroom is that it doesn’t create any new files, it just preserves the edits and metadata working against the same original.
If you want to make a positive copy off the original (without the image being updated to v2.2 first), you can do that by “right-clicking” the image and selecting “Export > NLP - Positive TIFF”. This does this same thing as creating a positive copy in Negative Lab Pro, but avoids having to open NLP on the image first (which would trigger the upgrade).
🌟 6. Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the cost to update?
The update is FREE to licensed users. If you are trying out Negative Lab Pro, the update will give you 12 new conversions to try.
How do I download?
If you’ve previously downloaded or purchased Negative Lab Pro, you should receive an email with a new download. If you want to try Negative Lab for the first time, use the download page on this site.
How do I upgrade?
This plugin is more complex than typical Lightroom plugins, so it’s important than you carefully follow the upgrade instructions. Included in the download is a “README” file that contains very specific instructions for upgrading, and this instructions are different for Mac vs Windows. Follow those instructions carefully!
I heard you were working on v3. Is this it?
While this update does include some of the features that I had talked about being in v3 (such as LUTs, range control, and ColorPicker) and many additional features, this not V3. I still plan on releasing a v3 later this year with additional features (like preset management, library navigation during use, and roll analysis). Before implementing these features, it was important to get the core engine out first, as this will improve my ability to implementl future features as well.
I’ve seen others posting about v2.1.7, v2.1.8, or v2.1.9. What are those versions?
Those were beta versions preparing for the launch of v2.2.0. Whenever I launch major updates, I want to make sure to iron out any issues or bugs before general launch.
I’m already using one of the earlier beta versions… should I still upgrade to 2.2.0?
Yep! The final release contains improvements based on testing in the beta versions. Most notably, the ColorPicker algorithm is significantly more advanced, and does a better job of considering your existing NLP settings during its color analysis. Also, the tonal evenness of the Temp/Tint sliders has also been improved.
I have Lightroom 6. Is there a way I can use the new LUT-based emulations?
Unfortunately, no. This feature was introduced in Lightroom Classic, so it will not work with Lightroom 6. I am trying to find other ways for LR 6 users to take advantage of these new LUTs, such as previewing them as “soft copies” and then being able to apply them during export.
I shoot primarily black and white. Will this new version have any advantages for me?
Absolutely! The improvements to tone and editing latitude are big improvements for black and white. The improvements to highlight and shadow toning w/Range control also make it easier to do all your toning without needing to go to an external program.
Hey, you made it to the end!