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Cross-processing in film photography

 Cross-processing in film photography

Cross-processing, also known as “Xpro”, is the procedure of deliberately processing film in a chemical solution intended for a different type of film. Since the chemical mixture is optimized for a special kind of film, you often get unpredictable results when combined differently. The process is seen most often in fashion advertising, band photography and in recent years has become associated with the Lomography movement. High contrast and saturated colors is what characterizes this technique.

There are two kinds of film: Color negative film, also known as “slide film”, and color reversal film”, also known as “slides”. Different chemicals are used for both  film types. Color negative film uses C-41 chemicals for processing. Slide film uses E-6 chemicals for processing.

When cross-processing, one uses the chemicals intended for color negative film with color reversal films and vice-versa. When  processing negative film with the slide chemicals (E-6), you will get slides. Although the colors will not be as wacky, you will get a type of slide film with no big color shifts. If you process slide film in the negative chemicals (C-41), you will get negative film, but with the Lomographic burst of colors! This is because the color layers of the film were not optimized for this. As a result, the photos turn out saturated, grainy or with high contrast, added to that you get all other kinds of unexpected results. Different films have different characteristics when cross-processed. Some turn out more yellow or more green while others turn purple or red.

Also remember that everything depends on how you process your film. The make and type of the film, the amount of light exposed on the film. When the film is processed , you will get different results from different labs as  they do not always use the same chemicals and calibrations.

Cross processing effects can be simulated in digital photography with a number of techniques involving the manipulation of contrast/brightness, hue/saturation and curves in image editors such as Adobe Photoshop,   Picnik or GIMP. However, these digital tools lack the unpredictable nature of film cross processed images.

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Written by:
Nadia Jv Vuuren






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