Cross Processing

Cross processing refers to the technique of intentionally processing film in the wrong chemicals, creating colour shifts and increased contrast. For example, shooting a roll of colour slide film and developing it as if it were colour negative film, or visa versa. The results of this are unpredictable, but always fun and interesting. If you’re sending your film off to a lab to be developed, check with them beforehand that they offer cross processing as a development option - bear in mind that you will also have to pay slightly more for this. You also want to make clear on your order form how you want the film to be processed.


Photo by Wendy Laurel

The largest differences in the outcome of your cross processed photos have to do with the film you’re using. Each film has its own unique look and characteristics and so produces different results. The most obvious difference is the colour cast. Some examples might come across a bit intense at first, but with the right styling and direction, can look really cool.


Photo from Shootitwithfilm


How to Shoot for Cross-Processing

In general, people recommend shooting at box speed and metering for midtones and shadows, as overexposure can lead to blown out highlights. It might be worth doing some research into the film and the cross processing process you are planning on using to see what has worked best for other people - but, as always, this isn’t an easily predictable technique and it’s a bit of a mixed bag.


Photo by Richard Hunter from My Square World 


Different types of cross processing

Color slide film cross processing

Color slide film uses E6 chemicals for processing. Cross processing involves taking E6 slide film and processing it in colour negative (C41) chemicals. The most common type of cross processing, it creates strong colour casts and increased contrast.

If you want to turn all the characteristics of slide film on their head, cross processing is the technique you’re after with unpredictable results, surreal, wonky colours, chunky grain and a gritty character.

Developing slide film in C41 will give you a negative you can scan, rather than a slide.


Photo by @keithleung.hoikei


Color negative film cross processing

This is the opposite, less common option - shooting colour negative (C41) film, and cross processing in E6 slide film. This will produce more muted, pastel colours with little contrast. If you’re after more contrast, you can ask the lab to push your roll by 2 or 3 stops.

It’s not recommended to develop black and white film in C41 as it produces really varied results, stripping away some or even all of your image.


Photo by @everydaylanre

Cover photo by @keithleung.hoikei

Author : Becca Knight 

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