Mixing Up the Chemicals

How Cross-Processing Works With film photography, there are two main ways of developing the film. One way is with the chemicals used for normal print film. The other way is with the chemicals used to develop slides - the square items used in a slide projector. What happens if you use the print-film chemicals on a roll of slide film, and develop it as if it was really print film? That is called cross-processing.

This might be a little confusing for people who grew up in a digital world, so let's look into this in more detail. There used to be two main ways to handle film.

One was a roll of print film that would then create prints. So the purpose of the film was to have light shone through it onto photographic paper, to make prints like one would have in a photo album. You'd end up with a bunch of negatives for storage purposes and then the paper prints to look at or stick in your wallet. This used C41 chemicals.

The second way was to have a roll of slide film which was intended for making slides out of. The film wouldn't "make anything" else. The film itself would be developed, cut up into squares, and then put into square paper holders to then use in a slide projector. Then the photographer would subject family and friends to hour-long boring slide shows of their vacations :). This process used E6 chemicals.

Slide Projector

The point being, there were two different processes for two different types of film. Each process had its own set of chemicals.

But what happens if you take slide film and don't make slides out of it? Instead you use regular print-film C41 chemicals on the slide film and use it to make prints?

This is called cross-processing, when you use a different set of chemicals on your film than is intended.

When you take slide film and process it in regular print chemicals you tend to increase the contrast and punch up the colors.

Just to make thing more interesting, I mixed a bunch of variables up in this photo set. First, it was the first ever film I ran through my brand new (to me) vintage Diana camera. So the camera itself is from the 1960s. I put into it expired slide film which had expired back in September 2003. So quite a while ago :). I went on a night photo shoot to test its limits. And then I asked the lab to cross-process the results.

So here we go! These images are of Worcester MA.

Cross-Processed Diana 120 Film

Cross-Processed Diana 120 Film

Cross-Processed Diana 120 Film

Cross-Processed Diana 120 Film

Lisa Shea Photography - main page

I have tens of thousands of photos throughout this website as well. Let me know if you're intersted in one.

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