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Creating Negative Art with any Film or Digital Camera

Last year, a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P92 digital camera came into my possession. I already had a Canon EOS D30 digital SLR that I was quite content with. Except my digital SLR did not have any in-camera pictures effects, such as black-and-white and sepia. Althought these effects can be easily done digitally in PhotoShop, I have always been the type of photographer that finalizes my pictures in the camera. Sony's digital cameras and video cameras have always had a host of nifty special effect features, so I thought I would use the DSC-P92 solely for shooting black-and-white pictures.

When I scrolled through the DSC-P92's special effects menu, I was shocked to find only Sepia, Neg. Art, and Solarize modes. What happened to the ninety--just an expression, folks--different pictures effects that Sony has been know to provide in their products? No black-and-white. I was a little bummed. Although Sepia is fairly close to b/w, it has a yellowish cast that most people like due to its warmth. Well, I can already get warmth in highly saturated color pictures. But I wanted the dark, starkly effects that I can produce in pure black-and-white photos!

Although I was quite bummed that the DSC-P92 cannot produce in-camera b/w pictures, I was intrigued by the "Neg. Art" mode in its picture effect menu. I assumed "Neg" stood for negative. What is so interesting about negative art? I have been a film photographer before and shot negatives all the time. None of them seemed all that interesting until printed on paper.

I switched to "Neg. Art", so that it can show me what I already knew, to disappoint myself. Click. "Whoa!" I said. The negative art photo showed up on the LCD screen in florescent blue and every other color is highly saturated. I have never seen anything like that before; totally different than my film negatives. Now I see why Sony includes this mode in the camera.

Truth is that you can create negative arts with any camera. A specialized digital camera that can produce in-camera negative art is not needed. To create your own negative art, all you have to do is load up your favorite (or least favorite, since I have found negative art seems to work best with normal pictures that is generally boring and uninteresting) photo in a decent graphics software. Look for "Negative" or "Negative Image" option in the menu to click on. And, viola, you have a negative art. Or, at least, you will have a negative picture, since art is so subjective.

If you only have a film camera, you can always scan in your prints and work with the digital scan to create your negative art. There are quite a number of places out there that can scan your film directly and provide a CD as part of the processing. So, don't feel left out just because you are still using film.

Experiment with different type of pictures and different colors. The color yellow seems to turn into the most florescent blue. Sometimes a photo that is too cluttered to be a good normal picture makes an excellent color saturated negative collage.

Remember a negative image can be easily turned back to a positive image by performing the "negative" function again. Therefore, if you have sensitive material (think nude) that looks wonderfully and beautifully as art, you might think twice about distributing it for public viewing.

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Copyright © 2004 by Chieh Cheng. All Rights Reserved.