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In photography the negative means the lightest areas of the photographed subject appear darkest and the darkest areas appear lightest.

But I was wondering: is this the way how negative should actually be described at all?

What if the negative just meant that you reverse the (visible) spectrum.

What kind of image would that produce?

Would the whites still be whites? (unlike in the "traditional" negative where white -> black)

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    $\begingroup$ The result will be a false color spectrum where red maps to purples and blues, and orange and yellow are swapped for green and green-blues. You can approximate the result by switching color channels in a photo editor. It seems that you have hit on a problem that seems to have fascinated people for a long time: plato.stanford.edu/entries/qualia-inverted. The result is actually quite appealing, at least to my taste! $\endgroup$
    – CuriousOne
    Dec 15 '14 at 8:59
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The purpose of a negative is to allow the correct wavelengths through. For example, to produce red, you make the area transparent to red, and opaque to other colours. Then, white light shone through the negative would produce a true-color image.

In RGB terms, if the red colour was say, 192, the negative would be 63, and white light at 255 would be attenuated by 63 to produce 192.

Simply reversing the spectrum would not produce this effect. This is more a case of changing the colour palette. You could probably write a script that does this.

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