Correcting Scratched Negatives
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.
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.
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?
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.
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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.
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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.
Photography, the word itself, invented and defined by its author Sir John.F.W.Herschel, 14 March 1839 at the Royal Society, Somerset House, London. Quote "...Photography or the application of the Chemical rays of light to the purpose of pictorial representation,..". unquote.
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 keithwms; 12-15-2006 at 09:56 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Adams retouch machine....great little tool
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.
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.