Tag Archives: cross+process

Cross Processing Tips and Suggestions


It’s no secret… I love film photography. But if there’s one thing I love more than film, it’s cross processed film. There’s something so intriguing about it — adding a touch of unpredictable to the imperfect nature of film. Many photographers tend to either hate it or love it. Some love it so much that they attempt to recreate the look with Photoshop.

I’ve had this article on the half-finished backburner for a while. I figure we’ll take a slight detour from the photo backup series and get this one out there. One reader recently commented on another cross processing article, asking some questions about it. So I’m guessing that at least one person will find some of this useful.

Here are some tips for choosing films to cross process, exposing the film, getting it developed, and color correcting it. So grab a cheap film camera start cross processing!


It’s a beautiful thing… simply put, you shoot a roll of film (most commonly slide film, or E-6) and develop it as if it were something different (most commonly color negative film, or C-41). Intentionally processing a film in the wrong chemicals. Doing this with slide film works out well for several reasons: the results are very cool and C-41 processing is much more available than E-6.


Darkness Creeps InWe Have LiftoffThe Wind CatcheruntitledjesusLanterns

The largest differences in the outcome of your cross processed photos have to do with the film you’re using. Each film has it’s own unique look, and they can vary drastically. The most obvious difference is the color cast produced during development. Here are some results from those that I’m most familiar with:

Kodak EktaChrome (or EliteChrome) = very green
Fujifilm Velvia 50 = green + some blue
Fujifilm Velvia 100 = very red + some magenta or yellow

And here are some others that I have yet to try:

Fujifilm Sensia 400 = blue + green
Fujifilm Sensia 100 = red
Fujifilm Provia 400 = green + yellow
Konica Centuria 100 = little color cast

It’s also worth noting that different developer solutions will have slightly different effects on the outcome of the film. For any given slide film that can be cross processed, I’ve seen a vast array of colors show up from different photographers.


Color slide film has a lower dynamic range than color negative film. On top of that, cross processing tends to boost the contrast between highlights and shadows, thus requiring that you properly expose your shots. But cross processing (in my experience so far), tends to over-expose the film by about one stop. The first few rolls I got back were overexposed — some being unusable. So I figured out that if I underexpose the shots by one stop, I got better results with the exposure of the developed film.

To underexpose by one stop, you just have to set your ASA/ISO value to double what it should be (assuming that you have a light meter on your camera). So if you’re shooting with ASA100 film, set the camera to ASA200. This makes the camera “think” that you have a faster film loaded, so it lets in less light.


Cross processing requires the C-41 process, and most of us aren’t equipped to do this ourselves. However, just about any lab that develops film will have this capability (since it’s the most common process for consumer film). The tricky part is finding somebody who will cross process your E-6 film as C-41 film.

When film is developed, a lot of chemical reactions are taking place. The end result is a stable piece of film with an image on it and a bunch of extra “stuff” that gets left in the developer solution. Developer solutions have to be changed out on a regular basis to continue to work properly.

From what I understand, developing slide film in C-41 chemicals can leave behind stuff that normally isn’t left behind. I don’t think this does a great harm to the solution or to the other film being processed in the developer, but shops with less-experienced technicians will shy away from cross processing because of this. You’re better off finding somebody who knows their stuff.

It’s also recommended that you find a shop with a higher volume. Developers that are used more often have their solutions changed out more often. For example, I’ve got a place downtown that changes the solution every day, and they have no problem cross processing as much as I want. But my local place has a lower volume and they only change out the solution once per week. They’ll cross process for me, but they ask that I don’t bring in more than a couple rolls at a time.


As I mentioned above, cross processing can produce some very strong color shifts in addition to other things. Sometimes these color shifts work really well with the subject and you’ll want to keep them. But other times, it’ll be too much an you’ll want to back it off a bit. This section is aimed at those of you scanning your film and processing the digital files (but this can also be done in the darkroom).

The best tool that I’ve found for this is the white balance adjustment found in software such as Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom. A color curves adjustment in Photoshop might be slightly better, but the white balance is so quick and easy in comparison.

For photos with a strong green color shift, increase your “tint” into the magenta region (or away from green). Depending on the film and the specific color shift, you may also need to adjust the “temperature” toward yellow or blue to take care of secondary color shifts left behind.

For photos with a strong red shift, move your “tint” into the green region (away from the magenta). Again, you may have to adjust the “temperature” to clean up the rest of the colors.

The same rules apply with yellow and blue color shifts — just move adjust the white balance in the opposite direction. So basically, you’re just evaluating the color shift of the photo, finding that color or combination of colors in your white balance adjustment, and compensating for it by negating the colors.

Another thing that works well with Adobe’s raw processor is the White Balance Tool even with cross processed film scans. Just find something in the photo that “should” be a neutral gray and sample it with the tool. This will adjust the white balance for you, then you can fine-tune it from there. I usually like to leave a bit of color shift in my photos (and sometimes all of it) — if you go too far with the white balance adjustments, you’ll start to see weird colors showing up in those neutral gray or white areas.


If you’re on Flickr, one of the best ways to get excited about a topic is to join a group dedicated to that topic. Seeing the photos and reading the discussions is a great way to get inspired and educated. Here are a few cross processing groups:

Cross Processing – XP – XPRO
Kodak Xpro
Cross Process Masterpieces
Cross Processing Anonymous

Other than that, all I can do is suggest that you get out there and try things out for yourself. Try different films, different cameras, different developers, etc. Cross processing can be quite interesting, as it adds to the “unknown” factor already inherent in film photography.

For you seasoned cross processing film photographers out there, what other advice would you give to photographers just getting into this stuff?

Photoshop Techniques: Cross Process and Redscale

I gotta hand it to the film guys, they sure know how to have a good time. I’m fascinated by the many methods and techniques they can use to produce some very interesting images, all of which are only possible with film. As digital photographers, we can only try to mimic what they can do in hopes that our work will turn out half as interesting. Here are a couple of my favorite film photography techniques that can be (sort of) reproduced with Photoshop.

Base ImageGreen ProcessedRed Processed

Cross processing is a film photography technique whereby the film is deliberately processed in a solution intended for a different type of film. The effect is usually heavy color shifts, increased contrast, over-saturation, and a funky greenish-yellow tint.

Base ImageGreen ProcessedRed Processed

Redscale is another film photography technique whereby the film is loaded into the camera facing the wrong direction. This causes the red layer of the film to be exposed first, thus absorbing more light than it would normally. Blue now becomes the last layer to absorb light, so it’s nearly non-existent. These images have a very distinct red color shift, but can range from yellow to maroon.

Here are some of my previous cross-processed photos.

PED XING Piña Refresco Benched Smoker The Dog in the Bike Reading Material

Keep in mind that these techniques are highly subjective, so many cross processed and redscale images will have similar traits while being drastically different. I’ve put together a couple of Photoshop actions that will help start the process for these techniques. These have been added to the previous actions for LAB Sharpening and LAB Saturation.


These actions will lay down three layers to get you in the right direction, but think of them as more of a starting point than an ending point. Dig into it and start tweaking the layers until you find something that works for that image. Since the layers are non-destructive adjustment layers, you can edit one at a time, little by little, until you get the photo where you want it.


Cross Processing Steps

This is a fairly simple process, it just takes a lot of time if you don’t use the Photoshop Action provided. I picked this up at PhotoshopSupport.com, made a few tweaks, and wrapped it up in a Photoshop Action.


Cross Process Color Curves

A curves adjustment layer (Layer >> New Adjustment Layer >> Curves…) is typically used on the composite channel to boost contrast. We’ll be ignoring the composite channel and working on each of the color channels. As you get into the setup dialog box for the curves, be sure to set the blend mode to “Color” and leave it at 100% opacity for now. So here are what my curves look like in the red, green, and blue channels. This isn’t an exact science, so don’t worry if it’s not perfect — you’ll want to tweak on things differently for each image anyways.


Cross Process Color Fill

Here, we’re just adding a fill layer at a low opacity (Layer >> New Fill Layer >> Solid Color…). Again, in the setup dialog box for the fill layer, be sure to set the blend mode to “Color” and bring the opacity down to about 10 or 15%. Start off using the color “#E1FF00″ and work from there — it’s kind of a lime green/yellow. This will give us that green tint.


Cross Process Contrast

At this point, the image is probably looking pretty close, but a little dull and flat. We’ll use another curves adjustment layer to boost the contrast. Be sure to set the blend mode to “Luminosity” and leave it at 100% — this will ensure that we keep our colors and our brightness separate. Throw in a nice “S” curve and adjust to your liking. Don’t be afraid to blow out some highlights, since that’s fairly common in cross processed photos.


This isn’t usually necessary, but if you want to give the color a little more punch, run my LAB Saturation action (included in the download set) and adjust the parameters until you’re happy with it.


Redscale Steps

I based this one off of the cross processing technique by altering the colors and curves. It may not be the best way to accomplish this, but it works fairly well and it gives you great control over your colors.


Redscale Color Curves

Again, we’ll be ignoring the composite channel and working on each of the color channels. As you get into the setup dialog box for the curves, be sure to set the blend mode to “Color” and leave it at 100% opacity for now. So here are what my curves look like in the red, green, and blue channels. The main thing you need to know here is that the blue channel will give you the most control over the final color of the image. Drag the point in the middle of the curve up and to the left, and you’ll get more of a magenta tone. Drag the point down and to the right, and you’ll get more of an orange or yellow tone. These are all feasible outcomes of redscale film photography.


Redscale Color Fill

Here, we’re just adding a fill layer at a low opacity (Layer >> New Fill Layer >> Solid Color…). Again, in the setup dialog box for the fill layer, be sure to set the blend mode to “Color” and bring the opacity down to about 15 or 25%. Start off using the color “#CC4400″ and work from there — it’s kind of a brick red/orange. Most of the red will come from the previous layer, but this will add some. Here, you can also adjust how yellow or magenta the layer is along with the opacity.


Redscale Contrast

Redscales are typically less contrasty than cross processed photos, but this step will give you control over that and let you play around a little. We’ll use another curves adjustment layer to boost the contrast, just like we did with cross processing — but this one I’ve set the shadows to be less dark. Be sure to set the blend mode to “Luminosity” and leave it at 100% — this will ensure that we keep our colors and our brightness separate. After you’re done with this, you can continue to boost the saturation, sharpen the photo, etc.

So there are two techniques to mess around with. Use them sparingly, otherwise it’ll start to lose it’s magic with your onlookers. I’ve found that street scenes tend to work well with these techniques, but you’d actually be surprised at how many different images could benefit from a little artistic flare such as this.

If you use one of these techniques on some photos in the near future, leave a link in the comments below — I’d like to check them out!