Question: What is a photo negative

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  1. A photo negative is a piece of photographic film that has the picture on it, but with the colours backwards (red instead of green and vice versa, etc). The reason the colours are backwards is because that is how the photographic chemicals react, but it all works out positive in the end.

    The film has special chemicals on it, and when the light enters the camera and hits the film the chemicals react. Then when the film is developed the colours come up backwards. To make a photo you take the negative and shine a light through it onto special paper that has similar chemicals on it. These chemicals react and then when you develop the paper the colours come up backwards to the negative, which is the correct way around.

    There are also special films for making ‘positives’. These films bring up the correct colours when you develop them. They were used for showing slides and movies, where you don’t want print it on paper, you want to shine a light through it and have the picture appear, with the correct colour, on a screen.

    Of course, film is not so popular any more. Digital cameras and data projectors are much easier.


  2. Hi scribble!

    Thanks for all your questions – but now you are making me feel a bit old – we didn’t have digital cameras when I was at school… all cameras used film. Have you even seen camera film? Or is it all just in museums these days? *giggle*

    Anyway the the photo captured on the film is called a negative – cause all of the colours are reversed. All the light areas are dark and all the dark areas are light.. and even the colours are the wrong way around; Green look purple, Blue looks yellow and red is a kind of aqua cyan colour.

    This is so when you shine light through the negative and make a print of the photo onto paper – all the colours get printed the right way. Like the reverse of the reverse is the original again. And a negative is like a master copy of the photo, you can use it to re-print the image again and again.

    There is a LOT of debate amongst photographers about whether film photography is better or worse than digital photography. But just like some people still love playing music on vinyl records, I think some people will still use film to take photos in the future. But i do prefer being able to snap photos on my phone now!!