The word ‘Negative’ in modern photography is a noun to describe one of two things.
- A tonally reversed image on film used in the process of developing the final picture…
In the days of film the negative was a transparent, flexible film that was coated with photographic chemicals. These had been developed in a chemical bath and some of the chemicals had been dissolved off the film. What was left was a picture ‘fixed’ to the film. This picture was a ‘negative’. It was so called because the tones had been reversed. When a print was made from the reversed-tone image in the negative it comes out as a correct tonal display, forming a positive image which is normally then printed to photographic paper.
- A tonally reversed image created in post-processing of a digital file…
In digital photography the images are all positive. They are taken from the camera in a file and displayed in normal tonal arrangement on screen as originally imaged. However, a ‘negative’ can be displayed by applying a post-processing filter to the file. The filter mimics the negative by reversing the tonal relationships in the file. This is an artificial change and therefore not a negative in the original sense (1. above). Today this treatment is seen as processing to create a new image in its own right. In previous times the negative was part of the process of creating a photograph and was not normally used as a piece of art in its own right.