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This photo was taken over at Salton Sea on the way to the Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge at the south end of the lake. The three dead oak trees in the photo are somewhat of an icon for the area, and I’ve seen many photos of them before. I just so happened to arrive at this location a few minutes prior to sunset and the clouds on display were quite amazing. Shooting with my wide angle lens gave me the opportunity to catch the great textures in the ground along with the clouds in the sky.
I took several shots from this location and perspective, but I liked this one the best. I think that the strong symmetry right at center frame works well for this photo, and the difference in scenery between top and bottom frame helps to break things up. Looking back now, I probably would have shot at f/8 rather than f/5.6 to get a little better DOF and sharpness. And a graduated ND filter would have produced a much more balanced exposure, resulting in higher quality shadows and highlights. But… too late now! Maybe next time.
This image did fairly well on Flickr recently, probably because of the extreme colors presented. Above, you can see my workflow from start to finish. And below, you can read how I processed the image using Adobe Camera Raw (all of which can also be done with Lightroom). The reason for the crazy colors is because I was trying to reproduce a cross processed effect similar to that of Velvia 100 slide film. I don’t know that I made my goal, but I’m not too disappointed with the results of this one.
- UNPROCESSED RAW
A bit underexposed in the foreground, but I wanted to keep the highlights from completely blowing out. This is where a graduated ND filter would have helped out.
- BASIC ADJUSTMENTS
Temperature = 6750; Tint = 0; Exposure = +.35; Recovery = 18; Fill Light = 48; Blacks = 12; Brightness = +65; Contrast = +80; Clarity = 0; Vibrance = 0; Saturation = 0; I warmed the photo up a little bit while also pulling out some of the shadows and pushing down the highlights. Basically, I tried to get the foreground in good shape without worrying about the sky (which is where this next step comes in).
- GRADUATED FILTER
Since the sky was totally blown out from the previous settings, I needed to get things back to normal. I used a horizontal graduated filter with a -1 exposure just above the horizon. I also used a vertical graduated filter with a -.5 exposure to take the left side down a bit more. These filters allowed me to keep the foreground where I set it while pulling the sky back to a usable state.
- TONE CURVE
Highlights = -32; Lights = +40; Darks = -8; Shadows = 0; This was just a quick adjustment to the tones in order to get a bit more contrast out of the image while holding back those bright highlights.
- SPLIT TONING
Highlight Saturation = 0; Shadow Hue = 30; Shadow Saturation = 80; Balance = -59; This is where most of the crazy colors come from. I pushed all of the shadows and midtones into a very red hue, which is what usually happens with the Velvia 100 when cross processed.
- HUE, SATURATION, LUMINANCE
HUE: Orange = +100; Yellow = +25; Green = -70; Blue = +30; SATURATION: Red = +100; Orange = -100; Blue = +50; Purple = +50; LUMINANCE: Orange = +15; Green = +40; Aqua = +20; EVERYTHING ELSE = 0; In this step, I toyed around with the colors a bit more to give me something other than pure red tones. Mostly, I wanted to get the portions of the sky to turn purple since that’s an effect I’ve seen with the xpro’d Velvia film. I also tamed down some of the orange and red in the water areas.
So there you go! If you have ACR or Lightroom, try out some of these settings and see what you can come up with. It’s always fun to experiment with these things.
In addition to the settings above, I applied sharpening and noise reduction as needed.
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!
WHAT THE HECK IS 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.
DIFFERENT FILMS = DIFFERENT RESULTS
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:
And here are some others that I have yet to try:
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.
UNDER-EXPOSE BY ONE STOP
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.
FIND A GOOD PHOTO LAB
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.
CORRECT THE COLORS WITH WHITE BALANCE
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.
JOIN AN XPRO FLICKR GROUP
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:
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?
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This photo was taken while I was hanging out with a few friends one afternoon at Huntington Beach. It was kind of a last minute “whatcha doin this weekend” sort of thing. Bryan Villarin (F/B/T), Arnold (F/T), Jason Stone (F/B/T), John Watson (F/B/T), my son Rex (F), and I (F/B/T) were all there to grab some shots of the beach and pier while we waited for the sunset to see if anything exciting would happen (you can see them all in this Polaroid I took).
Just as we were finishing up dinner, the sunset was approaching so we zoomed back over to the beach to grab some shots. I only had film cameras with me that day (4 of them), and I had been shooting black and white with my SLR and TLR. I still had about 10 shots on the roll in the SLR, so I finished that one off and quickly loaded a roll of Velvia 50 with the intent of cross processing. I got about half way through the roll before the sun was gone. If I had decided to swap out the roll in my TLR, I probably would have missed it altogether.
I took the Velvia with me solely for the purpose of shooting the sunset and cross processing it. I assumed that the Velvia 50 would turn out the same as the Velvia 100 when cross processed, so I was expecting to get some serious red/magenta shifts on the already red/orange sunset. Instead, I got a blue/green shift similar to what I’ve seen with Ektachrome. I’m not at all disappointed with the results… it’s just not what I had expected.
And on top of all that, I got this really neat photo that ended up with a heavy vignette/underexposure on the right side of the frame. Very cool results all around. This is one of the reasons I’m attracted to film — sometimes the results are completely unpredictable, but better than you had expected.
- Take exposed film out of camera
- Give film to camera store and say “Cross process, please. No prints and no cuts.”
- Go outside and take photos for 15 minutes
- Go back to the store and pick up film
- Take film home and scan
- Post photo on the Internet
Yup, seriously… no digital post processing other than maybe some dust removal. Sometimes I also adjust the white balance on my cross processed stuff to remove most of the color cast, but I left this one alone.
First of all, film is great. You guys are probably going to get sick of hearing about film from me over the next couple of months — I just bought two more film cameras (yes, both are Minoltas) and a gob of film to run through them.
I’m fairly new to film, but I’m already starting to set a few personal preferences. I’ve shot two rolls of color film: one roll of Ektachrome cross processed and one roll of Velvia not cross processed. I should’ve cross processed the Velvia too.
Don’t get me wrong, standard color film photos have their place and I’m not knocking them. But for my own artistic preferences, I find the cross processed photos to be more interesting and captivating. Here are some reasons why I love cross processed film — and I’m not talking about the Photoshop Cross Processing Technique — this is the real deal!
1: CLASSIC STYLE
Combine cross processing with the quirks and character of an old camera and glass, and you’ve got a winning combination. These photos can have such a classic look to them, often appearing as if they came from a different era altogether.
2: DEEP AND DARK
Cross processing tends to darken the shadows of some photos while really pushing the saturation up. This results in a very rich image with deep shadows approaching pure black. A great way to add a dark mood to your photo.
3: BRIGHT AND COLORFUL
Colors become brighter and bolder than usual when cross processed. Blues, greens, and yellows tend to stand out the most. Additional color casts can also produce wild and unnatural results.
Not all cross processed photos have massive color shifts, huge amounts of contrast, or extreme colors. Sometimes they turn out very subtle. That’s the fun of cross processing — you never know exactly what you’re going to get.
On the other hand, some cross processed photos turn out with extremely heavy color shifts and very obvious tints. Some even appear to be duotone in nature.
The green shift is very common, and it’s a classic cross processed look.
Blues are also pretty typical, giving a slightly different feel to the photo. Blues and greens can often be found together.
Reds are less typical, but can be produced by using the right films and chemicals. Magentas also usually tag along with the reds.
I see even fewer yellows than reds, but the effect can be brilliant.
The coolest thing about cross processed film is that you can take a photo of something fairly ordinary and turn it into something extraordinary. The new textures, colors, and contrasts bring a whole different view to the image.
So seriously, if you’re like me and you start shooting film after digital, grab a few rolls of different color films and have them cross processed. You’re not likely to be let down by the results!