Cross processing is a common practice in the analogue community. However, some crosses are more common than others. The most known is done in color photography, switching C-41 and E-6. In black and white photography, cross processing is less common, as you can use different developers but the resulting differences will be subtle.
While doing research on cross processing black and white film in C-41 we found many opposing opinions. Mainly because the bleaching step in C-41 would eat your latent images away. As you know, where there is online scepticism, we see a challenge.
Black and White in C-41
We wanted to give it a try and see what happened. Would the process still work? To our great surprise, we have developed a Lomography Lady Grey B&W 35 mm ISO 400 with C-41 process. Skipping the bleaching step, the negative, however, was extremely dense.
When processing with regular black and white solutions, the components that reveal the latent image are meant to clean the silver hilites and form a negative copy. The film stripe is usually clear, something that we look for to accomplish a full scale printing.
If you do end up with a dense negative, usually the film is overexposed. This can create other issues, such as the difficulties in printing a correct tonal range of highlights and too many shadow details. In a normal situation, to determine if the damage is recoverable, there is only one way to see it: dodging and burning. Dodging protects the area from too much exposure, while burning gives more light to allow the details to show if there are any.
However, in this case, as we are cross processing, the elements of the process that govern that balance are unbalanced. Something is missing during this process and we still have a patina that fogs our film. This is results in a dense negative.
This is not debilitating as we can still retrieve some images. There could be some difficulties in scanning. However, you can always self scan with the DigitaLIZA and take creative control over your negatives.
Color Negative In Black And White
A known technique is to process color film in black and white. We shot a Lomography Color Negative 35 mm ISO 100 , and then proceeded to develop with HC-110 dilution B cut in half for 500ml solution and Ilford rapid fixer. Since black and white development is at room temperature of 20℃, we have adjusted the time.
Usually, color film is done at 30℃ for 8 minutes. To compensate for the difference in temperature, we rounded up the time to 10 minutes of development to allow the reaction of the chemicals onto the film. With very little agitation to avoid excessive grain. Then we followed 3 minutes fixing.
When proceeding with the C-41 process on color films the chemicals develop the silver grain, which will leave only the black and white translation of a color image on the film stripe.
Despite the fact that this is a black and white process, you will be able to develop the image. The dense negative makes it difficult to see through your film. Thus making it an unsuitable choice for printing.
We added an extra step with washing soda to add an extra wash. We recommend adding this step before fixing, otherwise, you will not see any improvements after fixing.
You can also try to wash it with a quick bleaching bath, if you do choose this way, make sure that the bleach is well diluted and should not be done for more than 10 seconds. However, we have not tried ourselves so cannot give specific instruction.
The pictures here are directly out of the scanner. The negative is so dense that only highly contrasted pictures are visible. When scanning the images, we must do so with black and white settings as trying to read it with colors will not show any good results.
This images are giving a soft focus effect. Even if we tried to agitate as little as possible to avoid excessive grain, it is quite visible in the pictures.
While executing this alternative method of development, we were curious to see the results. They helped us to better understand the different steps involved in developing a film and how the chemicals react.
To know that you can develop color in black and white may be useful to learn. This is a procedure that can be employed in case you are out of C-41 chemicals, if you can't take your film to a lab or if there are no more supplies of C-41 available.
Many factors will influence this development and the final results, so be careful to take notice of the steps and try to adjust to the needs of the film. For example, make sure to add the washing soda before fixing it.
Moreover, it is a way to discover how the chemistry of development works when completely switching mixtures. With experiments like this you may love the results or hate them, but it is always interesting to practice different methods in analogue photography.
Do you know how developer works? Have you ever cross-processed this way? Leave your comments below.