Saturday, 10 December 2011

Guide to Developing C-41 films in B&W Chemistry (Kinky Cross-Processing)

What is the cheapest way to develop your colour negative film? Develop it as you would any black and white film!

It all stared when I bought too many rolls of expired Portra 400 just to find out that this film is useless for my photos (YES - I THINK PORTRA IS NOT THAT GREAT, EVEN WHEN NEW, and I'm not Anti-Kodak: I dig Tri-X and HC-110) I shot 1-maybe-2 rolls of this film just to find that the NC version looks very dull. so the 2 remaining rolls got abandoned in the freezer for another year. Finally I took one roll for a shoot just as a backup and shot it all in a couple of minutes just to see how it develops in B&W. But I didn't even have the fainstest idea how to do this. Here's how I worked it out!

If you're not interested in the story, but only in the formula for developing you can skip right away to the red block of text.


Nowadays there are numerous forum threads on this topic, but I couldn't find and solid information I could use at least as a reference point. When I was looking for any info a year ago there was even less google search results on the internet - but by some weird coincidence (I'm not as persistent as I would like to be) I found a photo on filcker with a short description. Basically, some guy was sloppy with his developing and BY MISTAKE developed his colour negative film in B&W chemistry. This turned out to be the most informative detail I could find - he confused Portra 400 with HP5+ (shot at ISO400). So there you are, it's like blind leading the blind, but the guy was lucky enough - the film developed quite well. It was downhill from there. I found on the Massive Dev Chart that HP5+ @ 400 should be developed in HC-110 (dilution B) for 5 minutes. Just to be on the safe side I gave it 5.30 - negatives are better off overexposed than underexposed. I immediately developed it and was quite disappointed when I first saw the film: it was nearly opaque - not transparent at all - but it got better when I looked at it against the light so I hung it to dry. Later on I scanned the film and found out that it produced quite decent results:

A shot taken with my Pentax 67 + 45mm + Portra 400NC in B&W ChemistryA shot taken with my
Pentax 67 + 45mm + Portra 400NC in B&W Chemistry

100% crop @ 3200dpi - you can see that there is some weird jpg-artefact-like quality to the image100% crop @
3200dpi - you can see that there is some weird jpg-artefact-like
quality to the image

This photo is of course literally and metaphorically garbage, but you can see that there is an amazing amount of detail both in lights and darks, lots of various greys with smooth tonal transitions. Not LOMO-like at all, this is a well balanced image - I thought it would be miles behind real B&W films, but it isn't. I'm not saying that it is better or as good, but it might be useful and look qiute decent. That was all I wanted - to get rid of the dull Portra (guess it means no free Kodak merchandise for Christmas) and get some fairly decent shots with it. Let's now rewind and see how I did it, because developing was easy - scanning was a bit more tricky.


As I said the film comes out quite opaque. In the photo below I compared it to C41 film developed regularly, B&W film developed regularly and with slide developed regularly just to give you a poin of reference (the frames there are completely black):

1 - C-41
film in B&W Chemistry (Portra 400NC in HC-110)

2 - C-41
film developed regularly (Portra 400NC in C-41)

3 - BW film developed
in B&W Chemistry (Ilford Delta 100 in Rodinal)

4 - E-6 film (slide)
developed regularly (Provia 100F in E-6)

The darker negative means lighter photos. I scanned a sample photo and made sure it is not in any way altered by the scanner. The result was this:


Of course you can still achieve a well balanced photo out of it. It took only a few seconds and setting the scanner to AUTO to get a really satisfactory photo:


Then I only had to adjust the contrast a little and crop it a bit to get rid of the frame. I'm really glad about the final product (below). I was very surprised to find that the photo has a lot of detail in both lights and shadows - and on top of that the grain is really soft and pleasant.


There are a few things left. The negatives are really dark and as I said this does not make them any worse, but they are more tricky to scan - my Epson V500 was a bit lost and more often than not it couldn't find the frames, I had to do it manually. Initially I thought I would have to bleach the negative (I thought the negative was too dark to scan) so I tried it with Domestos and ACE (I think both brands are international) - I basically dipped the negatives after the whole proces of developing in a solution of one or the other. I don't remember proportions or times, but that does not matter. This proved a waste of time, maybe I didn't try hard enough. While domestos was better, it was too thick and you can see that it left a mark on the last photo in the bottom right corner. If I were to experiment with it any more I would keep trying with solutions of domestos as the only thing ACE did was dissolve the gel off the film so it flaked - the negative sample was distroyed. I also pondered using a real C-41 photographic bleach, but eventually gave up. This stuff is very expensive and this would be spoiling the whole fun of guerilla developing. Also, when zoomed in 100% the film has a tendency to look a bit like there is jpg compression - even though there isn't. I guess that is just a price you pay by violating the film like that. This is almost invisible in medium format and more annoying in 35mm film - there's more to lose - the grain is relatively bigger to the size of the whole frame and the ugly jpg artefacts too.


I advise you to use the times for HP5+ @ ISO400 as a rule of thumb for all C41 films. You can use it as a reference point to start from. I used it for 2 different films and it worked fine. The secret is that when you develop C-41 the regular way the development times are always the same no matter what the ISO is. So I figured out it it might be the same thing or similar with this method and I was right. I did some bracketing (-2EV, -1EV, 0, +1 EV, +2EV) and the middle frame was the most usable so this was really a well balanced exposure.

HOWEVER: There is one more thing you have to take into account. I've been talking a lot about expired film, and what you have to know about it is that as the film expires it loses sensitivity, but this is a general rule, even when you develop you films in C-41. So what I do is: When my portra is expired by let's say 1-2 years instead of shooting it at the nominal 400, I shoot it at 200.

Summing up:

- cheap way to develop (especially when you have cheap expired film that you want to get rid of)
- nice tonal transitions and a creamy look
- you become a creep pervert monster hipster guru

- scanning is a bit more problematic for a beginner because negatives are really dark
- when you zoom in 100% there is a jpg-compressionish look (mainly a concern in 35mm film)

OFFTOPIC: If you liked my article please take a minute to check out my wedding photography website. Thank you :)

Some more examples from a Nikon FE10 + Nikkor 20/2.8 (Fuji Pro 160S exposed @ ISO 100):

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

47: Hooked up on even more Slide

cart fetish - have no control over it any more
not a foot freak but I like this photo
car insurance ad

Oly XA2 + Slide

Saturday, 19 November 2011

46: Holga on Slide

Holga + Slide

my facebook:

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

42: Let it Slide

Sure I like scanning slide but seeing it with a magnifying glass is amazing! Almost 3D, great colour and contrast. Nothing compares (sic!) :D

Thursday, 30 June 2011

41: Olympus XA4 ! ! !

Hi, I finally got round to write something about my recently purchased Olympus XA4. I had owned an XA2 for almost a year before I bought the XA4 and you have to know the latter is a rare bird. First of all it was produced only in 1985 so there's probably not many to go round these days, second it has got a wide angle 28mm lens so no wonder it is so hard to come by.

Here's the camera itself:

It differs from the XA2 by quite a number of things and what sets it apart from the other XAs is that it has a focal length of 28mm (the rest have 35mm). The XA2 has three focusing zones: close, mid range and far. :) represented by a bust, a couple of people and mountains respectively. The XA4 has 7 focusing zones: 0.3 - 0.5 - 0.7 - 1 - 1.5 - 3 - infinity which gives greater precision, but then again at 28mm what difference does it make if you focus at 1.5 or 3m. After using it for some time I can say that it does make a difference, but getting the hang of setting the value without looking (this camera is known for being used for candid photography) is a little harder than in the XA2 where you had only 3 positions.

Having scanned the first roll of slide I was amazed at the quality. I once compared the XA2 with my Nikon + Nikkor 20mm 2.8 lens stopped down to f/8. For some strange reason the XA2 was considerably sharper. Well. the XA4 is even sharper!

The light metering is great, but I don't see the differences between the two XA in this matter. They are both great. When the camera needs compensation you just have to alter the iso value for this shot. Eg ISO800 instead of the nominal ISO400 of your film for +1E.V. or ISO200 for -1E.V. The XA4 has one advantage when ISO sensitivity is considered, it do

All XAs have a central shutter so you will be amazed what long exposure time you will be able to make hand-holding (I had a couple of occasions where I held a really long exposure like 1/5 to 1 sec[only my estimation] and they worked out great while I was sure they would be smudged)

The leash of the camera can be easily used to measure the two closest focusing distances 0.3m and 0.5m (when extended)

Macro shots (0.3m measured with the leash):

This camera is amazing and I recommend it to anybody who is able to buy one which is not that easy after all.

More technical details availavle on this www.
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Monday, 27 June 2011

40: Concrete Poetry

Nikon FE10 + 50mm + Ilford HP5+ @ 3200
Olympus XA4 (28mm) + Tri-X @ 1600

Saturday, 18 June 2011

39: Drying

One of my favourite things to see is drying film after developing and just moments before scanning it. And yes, I hang it on the chandelier. :) From left: Delta 100, Tri-x 400, HP5+ all developed in HC-110 dil. A

Thursday, 2 June 2011

38: Death Denied

A shoot I did for my friends from a metal band. You should listen to them, they sound nothing like Manowar:


Nikon FE10 + D90 + Nikkor 50mm/1.8

Saturday, 14 May 2011

37: ...Guide to Cross Processing Slide in C-41

And now just a lesson on developing your film the wrong way. There are basically two main processes in colour photography. Negative and slide (positive) films are meant to be processed in C-41 and E-6 processes, but when you process your slides in C-41 you will get a negative and when you process your negatives in E-6 slide image will come out. In this entry I would like to show you images taken on Ektachrome E100G film (rated at ISO 50 and not native 100 for more contrast, but when you cross process slide>negative no exposure compensation is needed in general). Some labs will cross process treating it just as a regular technique, while some others may refuse to do so as apparently this spoils the chemicals. Whether it is true or not I don't know, but what I know is that you can always scrape off the data from your 35mm film casettes and lie to achieve your goal if necessary!

Here are just a few examples of the Ektachrome E100G film developed in C-41:

As you see the 'results may vary' but in fact the differences in colour are just a matter of scanning the negative with different settings. You may want to scan the film and set the desired colour yourself. One thing is for sure: When you develop your slide in C-41 very contrastive and colourful images will come out, the photos will be dominated by one colour (depending on the film), but it is easy to alter that during the scan or post processing. This film was naturally green-yellowish, but I managed to squeeze out nice blues and oranges from it quite easily.

Good luck fooling your lab guys!

Camera used: Pentax 67 + Takumar 105mm/2.4