What is color negative film and C-41 processing?

Color negative film is the most common and widely used type of color film. One of the main features of color negative film is its flexible exposure latitude. This means that it is very forgiving of incorrect exposure, particularly overexposure. Missing the correct exposure by 1 or 2 stops is no big deal with color negative film as you will usually still get decent results.

Color negative film is made up of three layers of emulsion, each sensitive to a different color of light (blue, green and red). The layers contain light-sensitive silver halide crystals, and chemicals called dye couplers. When the film is developed, the interaction of the silver halide, dye couplers and developing chemicals produces a negative image.

© Bradley Higginson via Flickr, Image used under Creative Commons license

There are many different varieties of color negative film, with a wide range of film speeds and color reproduction. This is part of what makes film photography so fun. Some films produce vivid colors, while others give paler tones to images. At Lomography we have a wide variety of exciting color films. Our Color Negative range produces accurate and true to life colors while the LomoChrome family of films create dramatically altered colors for stunning effects. However all of our color film uses C-41 processing.

C-41 is the name for the standard process for developing color negative film. The majority of colour film in use today uses C-41 processing and it has been the industry standard since 1972. Because of this standardization, C-41 processing is usually done by machine and is therefore cheaper than B&W film to have developed at a lab.

It is also possible to develop color negative film at home, however it is more complicated than developing B&W film because of the precise temperature and timings that are required to achieve good results.

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