Correcting Scratched Negatives

Discussion in 'Contact Printing' started by Lobalobo, Dec 6, 2006.

  1. Lobalobo

    Lobalobo Member

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    So here's the problem. I have some scratched 4x5 negatives, which I contact print. (Don't own an enlarger.) The best solution I've seen suggested for the scratches is to brush a small amount of scratch removal liquid (I bought Edwal) over the entire negative on the side (or sides) of the scratch then expose as usual. Is this sound advice even for contact printing, though, when the sratches are on the emulsion (pressed against the paper)? Won't the solution on the negative ruin the print? I will experiment, of course, but can't for a week or so and am curious. Also, any suggestions of a better method are welcome.
     
  2. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    I'd avoid using Edwal No-Scratch on the emulsion side in contact printing. It might transfer to the paper and interfere with development. If the scratches are deep enough to penetrate the emulsion, Edwal No-Scratch wouldn't help, anyhow. Such scratches would have to be filled in with something like a very soft graphite pencil, or the marks bleached and spotted in the print. If the scratches don't penetrate the image on the negative, first try contacting them to see if they really hurt. If they do, one possibility when printing onto silver-gelatine paper is to thoroughly wet both paper and negative and press them together with no bubbles. This might best be done in a tray of water. Then contact print as usual. Because, unlike No-Scratch, the index of refraction of water is somewhat different than the index of refraction of film or gelatine, this might not completely eliminate the scratches.
     
  3. Lobalobo

    Lobalobo Member

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    Many thanks.
     
  4. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Perhaps some of the more senior/experienced members of the forum can provide some info on what I think may be appropriate to this discussion -- what's the deal with NOSE OIL. Under what circumstances is it used, and how is it used most effectively?
     
  5. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    i'm not a senior member here (what does that mean anyways?), but i do know that nose oil or oil from behind the ear (better grade of body grease from what i was told) works very well to mask certain kind of scratches. the oil spreads the light and sometimes it masks scratches.

    i made the unfortunate mistake of dropping on the darkroom floor a 5x7 negative of our state's governor (before he went to prison that is) and when i nervously picked it up to make the 150 5x7 glossies it had some scratches. i was nervous enough that i had plenty of behind-the-ear-oil and after i covered the whole negative it was inspected by the studio owner (who made sure i used ear oil not nose oil!) and into the solar enlarger it went. the prints were scratchless, and were published soon after ...

    before i used some sort of bottled chemical to mask a scratch, i would attempt a little body-grease, it might just do the trick.

    good luck!
    john
     
  6. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    regardless of the process, I always leave my negatives in a mylar sleeve while printing and eliminate the problem of ruining the negative.

    I ruined one years ago, and have using the sleeve since.
     
  7. Maris

    Maris Member

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    If the scratches are relatively minor the first thing I try is to use a very large area light source for exposure.

    The usual method of putting a contact frame on the baseboard of an enlarger involves a very small intense light source; the stopped down enlarger lens. Small specular light sources accentuate sharpness but they also accentuate negative defects.

    For the opposite effect I wire my light table to the enlarger timer and scoot the face down contact frame around on it for the duration of the exposure. Scratches are significantly suppressed. The difference is like the difference between point source and diffusion enlargers.
     
  8. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I have some scratched negs and have just started experimenting with duplicating them by scanning, fixing up in photoshop, and then making a contact-printable negative by printing the repaired image on premium transparency film. Various people report that one can then get excellent contact prints that way. I haven't optimized the process yet but it does look like a very promising way to get a flawless traditional silver gelatin print from a damaged neg.

    I know, I know, it's not a purely analogue process, but if it means the difference between being able to use a cherished negative or not....

    And if you are open to such decadent practices, it might be wise in general to get a good scan off any important negs before trying any procedure that involves applying oil or even water.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2006
  9. RobertP

    RobertP Member

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    Adams retouch machine....great little tool
     
  10. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    The Adams Retouching machine indeed is a wonderful tool for those who know how to use them. I have been using one for more than 40 years, and I can guarantee it will be of little help in solving emulsion scratch problems.

    The machine was designed to increase density with graphite or reduce density with a properly ground knife or abrading compound on portrait negatives. It was never intended to be a "cure all" as some today claim.

    Charlie...............................

    A scratch in the emulsion can be repaired with india ink and a 00 Rapidograph
    pen. Over light table place the negative emulsion down. Carefully ink over the scratch (on the base side) When dry, print as normal and spot and blend the white area in the print with Spotone or other dye for such purposes.
     
  11. RobertP

    RobertP Member

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    Charles I have no doubt that you are very experienced. But emulsion scratches can be fixed with an Adams machine. I've been using one for a little while myself. There is more than one way to accomplish this and I agree, it will take some practice to become efficient with an Adams machine.You can use graphite on both sides of the negative. Using retouching fluid will give you the tooth needed for the graphite to adhere. If the scratch is a radical one you can use dye on the base side to cover most of the scratch then blend with graphite on the emulsion side. If you have pinholes then this can be fixed with the abrading tool. An etching knife is used for removing emulsion to allow more light to pass through. All of these techniques and tools require a touch that can only be achieved with practice. I use mine on 8x10 and 8x20 negatives so I don't have much experience on the smaller formats but the principles and techniques are the same. A good starting point would be Veronica Cass Weiss' book "Retouching From Start to Finish". A good example of what can be done with graphite retouching is a lot of Hurrell's Hollywood portraits. He was a master at it.
     
  12. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    Robert,
    Hmmmm, for what it is worth, Veronica Cass was one of my first instructors in retouching and the use of the Adams machine. I took this class at the old adams factory and she was fairley new using the machine.I did not intend to get into a pissing war with you, but the method I described is the best, quickest and easiest way to overcome an emulsion emulsion scratch. Using varnish and graphite will cover a multitude of sins, but the needle and etching knife do not enter the picture unless you are creating a scratch on the base side directly over the scratch in the emulsion. The scratch on the base side as you well know will print white. (sometimes called abrading)

    Again, for what it is worth, the majority of pencil retouching should be done
    on the base side rather than the emulsion. Why???

    A retoucher will do what ever that is necessary to remove the blemishes and improve the negative. A professional photographer should not be bothered by deep emulsion scratches as they simply do not allow any opportunity for a
    negative to get damaged in the first place. Scratched negatives are created by careless handeling.

    I also attended a 2 week PPof A session at Winona tought by one of Hurrell's
    staff of retouchers. He stressed the fact that as much retouching of a negative as can be should be done on the emulsion side. When the base gets too slick to hold more graphite he sprayed over the retouched base with thinned Kodak varnish (retouching fluid) with an air brush. this sealed his first efforts and provided tooth for his additional graphite work. Rather than retouch directly on the emulsion, he again applied a thicker coat of varnish and did his pencil work using the tooth of the varnish. This method allows for removing, if necessary where the retouching on directly on the emulsion is much more difficult.

    Retouching directly on the emulsion places the graphite in the grain of the image. When printing we focus on the grain, thus every pencil mark will show up as sharp as the grain. A bunch of tiny white figure 8's will proclaim I've been retouched. On the other hand if you do the retouching on the base
    it will show much less since the retouching graphite is the thickness of the film itself away from the grain. Focus on the grain, then the retouching is diffused. (That is three stops down from wide open)


    Sorry this got so long, but Robert, I did not fall off the wagon last night, I am glad you have so much faith in the old Adams. I averaged 16 to 20 thousand negatives a year on my Adams, doing College students and high school seniors. I did this over a span of nine years. Seldom did I ever have a damaged negative to repair.


    Charlie..............................................

    BTW, I also spent a week with Joseph Schnider at his studio in MO. learning
    his method.
     
  13. RobertP

    RobertP Member

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    Charles, How many high school pictures or when you fell off the truck is of little importance to me. As I said before I don't question your experience. What I was addressing was your claim that the Adams machine will be of little help in fixing emulsion scratches. I can show you some LF and ULF negatives and the resulting prints that have had emulsion scratches repaired with the Adams machine that look beautiful. I agree, most if not all repairs should be done on the base side of the negative. But you can also blend on the emulsion side and this is addressed Veronica's book. As far as grain goes, it is not as big of an issue with contact prints as it would be with the smaller negatives used for projection printing. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think most of Hurrell's Hollywood portraits were contact prints.I don't know how many Large Format or Ultra Large Format negatives you have ever tray processed but even with the best techniques a scratch can happen. So I'll have to disagree with you again when you say a professional will never scratch a negative. The Adams machine requires time and patience to become efficient with it. I'm sure you are the one of the best but emulsion scratches can be repaired with the Adams machine with the use of retouching fluid and graphite. Applying the varnish (retouch fluid) with an airbrush is the optimum way of applying it but it can also be done by brush and then buffing with tissue to smooth.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 17, 2006
  14. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    Not wanting to derail the thread, but is this a common practice? I store in mylar sleeves inside paper sleeves but it had never occured to me that I'd want to print through the mylarm as that's four more surfaces that must be clean and which may or may not degrade the enlargement by introducing diffusion or refraction.
     
  15. John Curran

    John Curran Member

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    I used to use sleeves, but found blemishes on the sleeves showing up on the contact prints.

    John
     
  16. filmnut

    filmnut Member

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    Contact printing with any liquid like Edwal will not work well, because, as pointed out before, it will interfer with the development, also it will likely leave a "halo", as the part of the neg with oil on it will have a ridge were the oil is not in contact with the paper. Try a sheet of diffusion material above the contact frame, say about 2-4 inches, this will be like a diffusion enlarger, instead of a condenser. If the scratches are not serious, this might work. I have used this technique in the past with some success, the only downside is that it will reduce sharpness unless the neg is in very close contact with the paper.
    I have also used the Edwal oil and nose and ear grease, in enlargers, all with degrees of success, if the scratch is in the base, then there is a good chance that it can be hidden with one of these methods, if the emulsion itself is damaged, then some kind of retouching, be it digital or conventional is needed. I should add that this makes the neg a bit of a dust magnet, so it can increase the spoting that is needed, unless care is taken.
    If I might add, without being chastised, this is were digital can really work wonders, as I am "Old School" and having done all this stuff with dyes, etc., its' so much better to be able to fix these in Ph---s--p!
    Keith
     
  17. Stephen Frizza

    Stephen Frizza Member

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    Nose Oil

    I have never practiced this however I do know amongst other professional printers in Sydney if the scratch was not on the emulsion side of the film
    the printers used to wipe their index finger on their nose and collect the oil from their skin and then wipe the oil into the scratch, I have result of this and yes on certain scratches it can make them disappear. The film was always washed after printing and the client was always NEVER told what had been applied to the negative to hide the scratch.

    ~Steve
    The Lighthouse