Back To Basics: Cross Processing


Often intimidating to new Lomographers, Adam shares his experience with cross-processing slide film.

For a long time this was my most popular image, with over 200 likes. This is the (difficult to master) Kodak Elite Chrome.

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.

Throughout this article I’ve placed a few of my most popular cross processed lomographs.

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.

Credits: adam_g2000

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.

Credits: adam_g2000

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).

escrito por adam_g2000 el 2012-08-01 #equipo #tutoriales #film #colour-negative #c-41 #tipster #development #e-6 #lomography #x-pro #cross-processing #processing #film-processing #back-to-basics

42 Comentarios

  1. haziqhashim
    haziqhashim ·

    thanks, now i understand better :)

  2. nuo2x2
    nuo2x2 ·

    great article, as always... still waiting for your second part of the Filter article series though

  3. marissa
    marissa ·

    @nuo2x2: "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."

    I was waiting for an article like this! Awesome! Do you scan the results yourself? I don't know how to scan my x-pro results because my scanner always corrects the colors to 'normal' pictures..

  4. megzeazez
    megzeazez ·

    Nice tipster!

  5. gatokinetik-o
    gatokinetik-o ·

    Its cool!

  6. natalieerachel
    natalieerachel ·

    Great gallery!

  7. nuo2x2
    nuo2x2 ·

    then I'll wait for your next Tipster regarding your experiment with the filters then :)

  8. abbsterocity
    abbsterocity ·

    Pretty helpful

  9. dropsintheriver
    dropsintheriver ·

    What's everyone's views on 8? I've heard this before but have never tried it and have also been told to do otherwise. I suppose it varies from film to film but I often get blown out skies so I'll try stopping down next film! Thanks for the tips!

  10. frau_inga
    frau_inga ·

    I have the same experience with no 6. I shot some E100VS last weekend with my Holga 120 on the sunny setting and they all look overexposed / washed out.... The weather wasn't that great.

  11. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @marissa I do scan myself, but my scanner doesn't try to correct the results. Not sure if I can help with that one. I personally hate scanning, the time it takes, the lack of consistency and I struggle with the software. There are some good articles on it in the site if you search!

  12. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @nuo2x2 it's winter here in NZ. For a really good demo of the CPL you need a sky with white fluffy clouds against a blue sky. In winter here we have complete cloud cover, thundering rain or clear blue sky! Until I get a weekend with the perfect sky I am stuffed ;( I'll try my hardest this month though.

  13. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @dropsintheriver I was writing yesterday to a fantastic lomographer, @bloomchen (check out his home it's awesome) who shoots at the normal rating with massive success. So perhaps in the end all you can do is experiment. It's not hard to try on an SLR or LCA to shoot half a film rated normally and half a film rated a stop down to see what you get and what you prefer, or even better use a notebook to record the iso for each frame and shoot a picture twice - this is an old pro's trick called 'bracketing'.

  14. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    PS: EVERYONE! With 6 I didn't mean never use it, I simply think it's the hardest to get a good result with and should be tried after practicing with something easier to master.

  15. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @frau_inga well what you did was the best you can do with that camera. Sunny is the smallest aperture. If you'd selected cloudy you'd have let more light in and made it worse!

  16. marissa
    marissa ·

    @adam_g2000 Yeah I've read a lot here but never found 'the' answer.. Maybe it's just my (cheep) scanner.. I will use different slide films this weekend and will experiment a little bit.. Hope I'll figure it out 'cause I really like good xpro shots :). Thanks for your response.

  17. bloomchen
    bloomchen ·

    @marissa: your scanner does that? probably it´s the software (settings). have you ever tried scanning with photoshop? i got me a canon scanner (9000F) which came with the software silver fast. the handling of the software was really weak and so were the colours. meaning the colours looked like x-proed and as i didn´t knew anything else i believed this is the way it should be. then a user contacted me because of my "30 weeks, 30 cams"-project and he was very honest in matters of telling me that he probably knows what i´m doing wrong with certain cameras. i really appreciated this feedback and i think he is really a cam-guru. anyway he gave me this advice to try to scan with photoshop and i think now the scans are way better. btw: photoshop (elements) is part of the package when buying a canoscan 9000F - at least it came with mine.

  18. marissa
    marissa ·

    @bloomchen Wow, that's great advise! I use Photoshop A LOT for my work but I never knew you could scan with the software. I'm going to try it tomorrow. Thanks! (Vielen dank (: )

  19. bloomchen
    bloomchen ·

    @all: i only x-pro slide and i had a weird experience some weeks ago about which i wrote an article. i got a roll of fuji T64 120 back from the lab and i was really very disappointed about the results because they were not colourful at all. BUT: it was pretty much my fault what i didn´t notice first. i really didn´t pay attention on what i was shooting - i was just aiming for a nice shot. i shot locations/motifs without a range of colours and that´s what it looked like. you might think "what is this guy telling me?" and even though it sounds pretty simple you might just think about the good shot without paying attention on the the colours of the photo but x-pro is senseless when shooting gray/black/white locations. it took me a few days and another look at my scans until i realized that there was nothing on the picture x-pro could make look more colourful.

  20. bloomchen
    bloomchen ·

    @adam_g2000 thanks for your kind words.
    @marissa there is a BUT that probably doesn´t matter much for you: if you always scanned with a certain software you are used to the results. at least i was and first i was a bit unsure if i should continue using PS for the scans. in the beginning i scaned shots twice and decided then about which scan i liked more. but this is very time-eating. so it wasn´t really that more PS-scans looked better but i felt the software is better to handle and from the scans i knew they are more colourful. that´s it.

  21. bloomchen
    bloomchen ·

    btw: there is one guy from germany who could maybe give a good advice on #8. i´ll ask him.

  22. marissa
    marissa ·

    @bloomchen I'll try it out. I'm used to the Epson software, the only 'negative' thing about it, are the x-pro results... so if Photoshop solves my x-pro problem I'll use it for that :)

  23. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @bloomchen "btw: there is one guy from germany who could maybe give a good advice on #8. i´ll ask him."

    that would be cool, we've had a little debate about it, it would be fantastic to get a few more opinions. I may actually go out this weekend with one 100 ISO film and bracket everything I shoot at 100, 200 and 400 to see how the results turn out.... If the weather isn't as bad as it has been!

  24. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @bloomchen et al, when I started X-Pro, I think I read this article or another like it:… Scroll down to the part titled "UNDER-EXPOSE BY ONE STOP" which is how I've done it ever since. Though as I mention in the article, the faster the film, this becomes unnecessary in less bright light (I never underexpose 400).

  25. nuo2x2
    nuo2x2 ·

    @ adam_g2000 whoa, sorry to hear that. I know that feeling, stuffed indoor since the sun just don't wanna come out and play with us. we also experience that in our rainy seasons here in Indonesia. anyway, will wait for another of your great articles ^^b

  26. ck_berlin
    ck_berlin ·

    Hi - I am the german guy :-)

    Here my experiences about cross precessing.
    1.) I never stop down. I allways shot ISO100 with ISO100 (200 and 400 too). Exception: very expired films (10 years and older). In this case I overexpose the films with 1 to 2 stops.
    2.) The scanner I use is a Canoscan 8800F and I am very happy with it. Furthermore I use the standard Canon Scanner software. In almost all cases I scan x-pro film with this settings:
    - automatic color adjustment: on
    - sharpen: on
    - straighten: off
    - reduce dust and scratches: medium
    - color correction: high (!!!!) - This setting makes the biggest difference in the results!
    - the rest: off
    3.) For further processing, I swear on Picasa. Little corrections in lighten/darken/highlights (often automatic), neutral color selection, alignment and crop. I am very fast with the "post production" and I think the results speak for itself. PS and PS Elements too are good but Picasa is better (Is a topic for itself).

    Hope I can help a little bit and excuse my english.


  27. abdulhalimnasri
    abdulhalimnasri ·

    marissa, what model epson scanner are you using?

  28. dropsintheriver
    dropsintheriver ·

    @adam_g2000 @bloomchen and @ck_berlin Thanks for all the input! I'll have a go at bracketing when I've got the time and a spare film I think thats the only way for me to find whats best for me! Unfortunately whats best will probably vary from camera to camera depending on how exposure is calculated, from film to film film as each brand will have different dynamic range and contrast and from lab to lab depending on which chemicals they're using - but its work experimenting! Love all your lomohomes by the way

  29. frau_inga
    frau_inga ·

    @adam_g2000 Thanks for the input! Great article by the way!
    @bloomchen and @ck_berlin Thanks for the input! I'm learning every day. :)

  30. thefinalcoda
    thefinalcoda ·

    I might have to badger you for some sort of list of recommended slide film options in the near future, Adam. I am feeling the urge to cross process more and more, lately.

  31. domlomo
    domlomo ·

    thanks, very helpful for a beginner like me

  32. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @thefinalcoda check out this article: which summarises my experience. The only one I still want to try but never got around to is Velvia. Which seems to look really cool.

  33. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @ck_berlin Welcome to the raging debate! We have the exact same scanner, so I will try those settings next time. I think I'll continue to stop down as my best results come from that.

  34. benedan
    benedan ·

    WOW, so much great advice from the article and follow on comments. Thanks!

  35. spiritedly
    spiritedly ·

    Well written - but as for shooting into the sun - I tried with Fuji T64 tungsten and Agfa CT Precisa, both turned out amazing, the T64 with purplish and periwinkle hues even at 12 noon for direct sun, same for the Afga on a hot hot day, my toy camera has vignetting so this may have made the difference. =)

  36. spiritedly
    spiritedly ·

    @bloomchen: T64 is my favorite and I've shot many rolls, even for black and white buildings it gives a white contrast to the features of the buildings... I didn't adjust any iso settings, just took it under really bright sunlight (I have two albums of buildings and other stuff) one thing I love about T64 is the skin tone it gives, pinky and flattering =)

  37. spiritedly
    spiritedly ·

    @dropsintheriver: I shot a number of photos directly into the sky with interesting results of color tone:


  38. vmhenshaw
    vmhenshaw ·

    Very useful article, just need to have a go myself now!

  39. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @spiritedly there is shooting into the sun, and shooting into the sun. One example...…

  40. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @bloomchen & @ck_berlin So I gave it a go and shot a roll of the MS 100/1000 in my Lubitel this weekend. Processed at 400 and rated at 400. Anything with white areas were almost without detail. and… It seems that unless the sky is without clouds and there is a lot of different tones. I have to stop down. NZ light?

  41. spiritedly
    spiritedly ·

    @adam_g2000 Ahh I get it! (Super photo by the way)
    Is like this?
    Into sun:…
    Not into sun:…

    I thought it meant pointing the camera upwards directly facing the sky, which evidently I did in earlier photos =D

  42. aoizumi
    aoizumi ·

    very helpful, thank you!

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