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Monday, 15 April 2013 19:04

FAST FOTO blog: Cross-Processing

Written by jstadele
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Before it was an Instagram effect, cross-processing was a fun and unpredictable way to develop color film negatives and slide film to perfectly compliment the psychedelic 1960’s and 70’s.  Formally introduced by Kodak, cross-processing was a technique which often times transformed negatives into unnaturally aged and moody images with exaggerated hues and contrast.  

So what exactly is cross-processing?  Simply, it is a process of developing film by using the wrong chemicals.  Color negative film is developed in C-41 chemicals and color slide film is developed in E-6 chemicals.  Typically in cross-processing, we switch these chemicals; color negative film is developed in E-6 and color film slides are developed in C-41. 

An interesting result of cross-processing is you can have the negatives developed in 10 different labs and yield 10 different results.  This is due to several factors:

  • Film make and type
  • Image exposure
  • The amount of light exposed onto the film
  • Chemical used to develop film

Though you never really know what your end result will be with cross-processing, there are ways to control the image.  Proper exposure is the key in digital or film photography.  In cross-processing, exposure and contrast are magnified.  If you set a bad exposure with high contrast, the resulting image will be further blown out, pushing the highlights and/or contrast.    
Good Exposure                                                               Over Exposed 

If an image is underexposed, it may appear completely red or cyan.  In these instances, it might be best to have the film scanned normally and then apply cross-processing functions in Adobe Lightroom.


For digital (and film) photographers, Adobe Lightroom offers a lot of creative freedom.  With the click of a button you can transform the mood and feel of an image, then adjust the color tones, exposure and contrast.

Lightroom Original Image                                           Lightroom Cross-Processed Image

Though it can be difficult to find a vendor that still processes film, let alone cross-processes film, labs like yours truly - FAST FOTO & Digital, continue to offer this service upon request. 

Have you ever cross-processed your film?  Share your experiences. 

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