Often intimidating to new Lomographers, Adam shares his experience with cross-processing slide film.
First, I apologize for being a little late this month, and also for not continuing with Filters Part II. I am in the process of trying to collate more examples of filters, and need the right weather to really give a good demonstration of the Circular Polarizer.
In the meantime, I wanted to talk about Cross Processing (or X-Pro). We’ve basically come to the end of the subjects I wanted to discuss that related to the science and technology, the basics of photography. We’ve covered film, we’ve covered camera controls…
So now, we are venturing into creativity. I’ve said in the past, there are far more creative people in the community than me, and I’ll leave it to them to share their talents. Mine are in amassing knowledge and putting it into practical use, and sharing it with others (and you dear reader).
All films are designed to be processed in some sort of chemical. Color negative film is designed to be processed in a chemical called C-41. Slide film or ‘Colour Reversal Film’ is designed to be processed in something called E-6. Slide Film was designed to create slides that you could project and also provides a wider colour range than Colour Negative. Slides (otherwise known as transparencies) were the defacto choice for professionals for years before digital came along.
TOP TIP: On the packets of slide film, you’ll often see other chemicals mentioned, as long as E-6 is listed you’ll be fine. Avoid Kodachrome though, it can’t be processed at all and Cross Processing doesn’t work!
There are many types of developer for Black and White film, but we’re not going to talk about those today.
When you see Cross Processing mentioned on this site, or in the cool books that come with Lomography products, they will normally be talking about taking Slide Film designed for E-6 and processing it in C-41.
This has 4 major effects:
1) It wrecks the film, tortures it even, and is a blasphemy to its original purpose!
2) Creates a deeper contrast between light and dark in the final image.
3) Changes the colour to lean towards a different colour; we call this colour shift.
4) Look utterly amazing, creates different worlds and opens up Lomography to a whole new aspect of creativity.
I helped start a group of Lomographers here in New Zealand. What amazed me when we first met was how few people had tried cross-processing. It was almost as if it seemed like an expensive, difficult and frightening prospect.
When I started Lomography, after leaving film for a decade, it was the first thing I tried. I’ve done it a lot now so can share some tips to get you noobs started.
1) It can be a little more expensive; it shouldn’t be a lot more expensive, though — shop around if you can. Slide film definitely is more expensive, but if you buy it expired, it doesn’t matter.
2) Some labs will not do it. Don’t let this stop you, find one that does.
3) Make sure you tell the lab not to colour correct anything you give them when you ask for cross processing. You’ll get something very similar looking to standard colour negatives back. If you told them and you got regular looking shots. TELL THEM TO DO IT AGAIN!
4) Proper labs will give you a better result than 1 hour booths.
5) Expect the unexpected. the pictures will not be normal.
6) I expect this one to get a reaction in the comments. Do not start cross processing with Kodak Elite Chrome. Every time I shoot this I get washed out shots. It may happen to you too and knock your confidence. I think a better bet is one of the more predictable Fuji films. A Provia, or Velvia or even better one of the purpose-built Lomography Slide Films.
7) Don’t bother shooting into the sun, you’ll get nothing in the frame.
8) Shoot a stop down from what it says on the packet. if it says 100 ISO/ASA shoot at 200. If it says 200, try 400. In my experience though, stop here. I find 400 is better at 400.
9) Ignore 8 and experiment.
10) Whatever you do, try it, try it, try it!
Here is an older article I wrote that talks about colour shifts, give it a read if you wish.
There is one more, slightly less common possibility. This involves cross processing Colour Negative Film in E-6. This is the final frontier for me, I’ve never done it, but if you are interested many have, search around this site.
I realize this is little more than a brief introduction (it is Back to Basics afterall!), so how about some comments from the experienced, or links to other excellent X-Pro articles? Who wants to try it? Did you like it?
Back to Basics is a monthly Tipster series by Adam Griffiths where he seeks to impart a little more technical film photography knowledge. For each installment, he chooses a fundamental subject and explains it quickly and in simple terms (with examples where possible).