What Happens When You Cross Process Color Negative Film?

Cross Processing Color Negative Film - FilterGrade

As a film enthusiast, I’m always looking to find new ways to create photos – whether it be through a new photographic process, a new developing technique, a unique scanning method, etc… Over the past month I decided that I would try out developing some Kodak Portra 400 film with Kodak’s d76 developing solution. Going into this experiment, I knew that Kodak Portra 400 was normally a C-41 processed, color negative film stock so I was curious to know if the d76 developing solution would give me black and white negatives on Portra 400 film stock, or would it give me something different than anything I could expect? Today I’m going to tell you what happens when you cross-process your color negative film (develop color negative film with black and white developing chemicals).

What Happens When You Develop Color Negative Film with Black and White Developer - FilterGrade

Here’s What Happens When You Cross Process Color Negative Film

First off, let me start by saying that this was my first ever experiment with developing color film with d76 black and white developing solution. I have tried out cross-processing Ektachrome in C-41 color negative chemicals before, but this was new to me and I had no clue what to expect (the best, and also at times, the worst feeling to have).

My normal process while using Kodak’s d76 developing process is as follows:

  • Develop for 9 min.
    • Agitate first 30 seconds
    • Rest
    • Agitate every 30-45 sec. thereafter
  • Stop Bath for 1 min.
    • Continuous agitation
  • Fixer for 9 min.
    • Agitate first 30 seconds
    • Rest
    • Agitate every 30-45 sec. thereafter
    • Check film after 9 min. mark and decide whether to leave it for longer or take it out for drying
  • Wash for as long as needed
  • Squeegee & Hang Dry

I decided that since this was my first experiment I should just try out the same process, but now with C-41 film. In the future, I will try out different time lengths and processes, but I figured that this would be a good base to start with.

1 What Happens When You Develop Color Negative Film with Black and White Developer - FilterGrade

I went ahead and started by heading into my darkroom (my bathroom with an old black backdrop over the door cracks) to put my film into my Paterson tank. Once I was ready to start developing I dumped my developer in and processed for the first 9 min. When I dumped the film out, I saw the first major difference – the color of the developer. After using the d76 developer on black and white negative film, I normally would dump it out into a storage container so that I can dispose of it properly. When I dump it into the storage container, the developer usually remains the same, clear, water-like color that it started as. However, when processing color negative film with this developer, it seemed to have stripped the brown/red from the film. I dumped the used developer into the storage container and it was a red/brown color.

I proceeded to use the stop bath and agitate for a minute to stay on track with the base process.

I then used my fixer for about 10 minutes before I took the film out for drying. When I took the negatives out of my Paterson tank, I noticed they looked quite interesting; not like B&W film strips, they kind of looked like color negatives but something was different about them , specifically the shadows – I was antsy to see them scanned out.

2 What Happens When You Develop Color Negative Film with Black and White Developer - FilterGrade

I cleaned up and made lunch while my film hang dried in my professional drying unit (again, my bathroom because it’s clean and there’s not as much dust in there) and then once it was all dried off I brought the film over to my desk to see what I was working with.

Let’s take a look at some of the results:

5 What Happens When You Develop Color Negative Film with Black and White Developer - FilterGrade4 What Happens When You Develop Color Negative Film with Black and White Developer - FilterGrade

 

3 What Happens When You Develop Color Negative Film with Black and White Developer - FilterGrade

 

8 What Happens When You Develop Color Negative Film with Black and White Developer - FilterGrade

My first reaction was joy because it was something new. I’ve only been shooting for 4-5 years now, but I’m still at a point where doing the same thing too many times gets boring. Seeing something different, and cool – it always makes me proud to be doing what I’m doing. It makes me feel like I’m doing something right when I’m doing something that isn’t normal.

The next thing I paid attention to was the blue tone that I was getting from the film. You can see it heavily in the first two photos, and I was also noticing that the blue was dominating the color tones so much so that you actually couldn’t really see any other color tones.

Another that I began taking into account was the light. All of these photos above were shot in natural light, so maybe this was affecting the color?

I also tested a few other indoor shoots with a little window light and mostly normal house lights and decided I would use these to compare the scans and their color tones. Here are the indoor shots:

6 What Happens When You Develop Color Negative Film with Black and White Developer - FilterGrade 7 What Happens When You Develop Color Negative Film with Black and White Developer - FilterGrade

You can see a huge difference between the two just based off of color alone and this to me was incredible. The natural light provided something that indoor lighting couldn’t, and that was even through the black and white developer. Another thing that I should mention is my scanning settings – I scanned all of these negatives with 48-bit, color negative scanning settings and I was shocked when I saw slightly colorful photos outdoors and then found mostly black and white photos when I shot indoors.

One thing that seemed to remain consistent however, was the loss of shadows and highlights. For the outdoor shots it looks like I lost a lot of detail in the sky and certain brighter areas, and inside I lost a lot of the shadow details.

At the end of the day, I’m no expert so I’m not exactly sure what’s causing all of this, but that’s why I experiment. Without making these curious mistakes, I would never know the true outcome of what could happen. To sum up this whole experiment, would I cross process my film in this way again? Yes. Would I do it often? Probably not, but when I want to create photos with this certain look, I now know how to manipulate my chemicals in a way that will re-create this effect, and for that, I’m proud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey! Thanks for keeping up with my experiment, for more of my photos be sure to check out my Instagram here and send me a DM – I always love to hear from other film photographers even if you’re just reaching out to say hi! :)

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