35mm · Film photography · Photography

Cleaning up some mess

I mentioned recently that my local film processing lab has gone out of business and that I’ve had to find somewhere else to carry out my C41 and E6 development. I’ve had a couple of rolls of C41 developed last week by my local camera store (they do E6 as well, but this is sub-contracted to another lab with a slightly lengthy turnaround, so I sent my roll of Velvia to another place fot quicker results).

The camera shop cut and sleeve 35mm in film into strips of four frames, as opposed to the strips of six that the old lab provided (and to which I cut my home-developed B&W negatives) so I opted to receive the developed film uncut and sleeve it myself at home. The roll of 35mm they developed was tucked into a 35mm film canister, as was the roll of 120 film, the main difference being that the width of the 120 roll meant the cannister was uncapped with the film poking out the end. I think this was the cause of the significant amount of dust on the 120 negatives when I scanned them. While imperceptible to my naked eye, once imported into Lightroom there was an entire galaxy of small white spots apparent on the resulting scans!

So this afternoon has been spent painstakingly cloning out the spots in Photoshop. I’d estimate it took a good 20-25 minutes to deal with each of the ten frames that are worth processing further. I really hope that the 35mm roll is not similarly afflicted!

Here’s a photograph that feels apt in the circumstances.


Canon Sure Shot Z135 & Ilford HP5+. Ilfotec DD-X 1+4 9mins @ 20°

Taken on 3 September 2022


6 thoughts on “Cleaning up some mess

  1. This is unfortunate, but not surprising to me in the least. Most labs just don’t handle film with the proper care. I’ve tried tons of different labs in recent years and the overwhelming majority give me my negatives/slides back with an unacceptable amount of dust, fibers, hair, scratches, and/or chemical/water residue. The sad thing is that this didn’t used to be the case. Before they all closed down, even the lowly Wal-Mart, K-mart, and other one-hour photo labs did a better job handling film (and for a tiny fraction of the cost) than many alleged “pro labs” do today. I even have some negatives returned to me from a “pro lab” that are only a few years old, and have been well-stored on my end, that are already developing emulsion damage, obviously due to poor/insufficient washing. Frankly, the lab situation today is pathetic. There are still a few good ones out there, thankfully, but most cost a fortune and give lackluster garbage to the customer in return. They clearly just don’t care and/or are extremely incompetent. Since the demise of the aforementioned one-our photo labs, the situation has only been getting worse. Prices keep going up; quality keeps going down. I’m really sorry your other lab is gone. You were truly lucky to have them. They obviously did exceptional work. Maybe they’ll return, or someone else will pick up where they left off.


    1. I started scanning the roll of 35mm I got from the same lab yesterday – I say “lab” but it’s actually a camera store who do C41 processing onsite. I expect they have a minilab of some sort. These also have a noteable amount of dust present when scanned although, thankfully, much less than the 120 did.

      It could be the fact that I asked for the negatives to be left uncut has contributed to this in some way and that, had I had them sleeved they would have been less affected. If I have more 120 developed there I’ll enquire how they cut and sleeve it – if they use bigger sleeves (four rows of three frames for 6×6, that sort of layout) then I’ll try that option and see if it makes a difference. If not, then I may just bite the bullet of additional postal costs and use somewhere else.

      I’m starting to think more seriously about investing in the kit and chems to develop C41 myself at home – the least dusty negatives I’ve ever had are the B&W that I do myself, despite just hanging them to dry in the shower cubicle, although I do tend to get drying marks if I’m not careful because we have hard water around here.


      1. My experience is that sleeved negatives have even more dust than unsleeved, when coming from a lab. Maybe you’ll have better luck, though.

        Same here. My least dusty negatives are my self-developed B&W ones. I’ve also been considering attempting C-41 myself, as well as E6, and possibly even ECN-2. We’ll see. The chemicals themselves are not cheap, but if I get through enough rolls before the chemicals go bad, then it’ll be cheaper than a lab, assuming I don’t botch everything.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Fear of botching a roll of perfectly good photographs is my major concern (although, given I’ve managed B&W without too much difficulty, it’s hopefully an unfounded worry).

        I can buy the Cinestill C41 kit for £30-40 and it will develop up to 24 rolls, so as long as manage ten rolls before it goes bad I’m still financially better off than paying a lab. I’d probably need some other bits and bobs to ensure I can keep the chems at the correct temps, but that would be a one-off cost.


  2. We moved into our previous address, and I was pleased to discover we had a branch of Snappy Snaps about 10 minutes walk away. Sadly, when I tried them, I discovered the staff had no idea how to handle negatives; dust, scratches and fingerprints abounded. I went back to posting…….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I sympathise. When I first started shooting film again I decided to use a local branch of Max Spielmann with similar results. The negs looked like they’d been dropped behind the minilab and then scraped out by someone’s foot! I used a pro lab after that…

      In fairness to Max Spielmann, another branch I used gave me perfectly good results, but that one was in the centre of town, reducing the convenience.


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