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Fingerprints on Film


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Fingerprints on Film

29 Oct 2021 7:02PM   Views : 651 Unique : 324

As a title that's not as slick as the Duran Duran song (you'll be hearing that all day now!) but it does describe one of the pitfalls of the analogue medium.

In the early 1990s I had a transparency that I took in to a high street processing lab in order to get a print made. It was a branch of Max Spielmann (that particular branch has long since gone). The assistant was very clumsy and when picking up the transparency picked it up without paying attention with finger and thumb right across the image area. Horror! I guess in hindsight I should have at least complained and walked out of the shop.


That's when I decided not to use high street processing outlets. I'm not saying all their branches or indeed all high street outlets had the same laissez-faire approach, but situations like that certainly make you ask all sorts of questions about customer service and quality control.

My transparency film was mostly the process paid sort, that which wasn't was sent off in the post to trusted labs (found in those days in the advertisements at the back of the photographic magazines). Peak Imaging was one such place, and I also used a local branch of Colab (since taken over by One Vision Imaging and the local site abandoned, a casualty of the march of digital). Of course, there's always the risk of damage in transit but there's no need to get paranoid. Given the amount of photo material I sent and recived through the mail I can remember only one occasion when something went missing, though it was retrieved with no adverse effects.


Fortunately I can't see any damage to the image yet and it hasn't revealed itself in the scan. Acid from skin will in time eat away at photographic emulsions. That said, it's quite amazing how some film and prints survive poor storage.

These days if I want a print from a negative or transparency I create a high quality digital file and upload that unless I print it myself. Time constraints and large sizes as well as special surfaces like acrylic mean home printing is out, otherwise home printing it is. Either way, creating a digital file means I can get the image just as I want it, for example colour balance, colour correction, contrast, shadow detail and so on.

Oh, and removal of fingerprints.

All text and images © Keith Rowley 2021

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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
30 Oct 2021 10:09AM
Yes - I have similar feelings about both firms mentioned. Colour matching of copy prints severed my relationship with MS - never a problem with Colab, who were very quality and customer-orientated.

The one bright spot was that - once - the response to a complaint letter (yes, responses happened in those days - was from someone called Vida Garman. I never found out whether she was the same Vida Garman who used an employment initiative to set up a model agency with the aid of a Thatcherite grant, with herself as the only - but significant - asset).

I've almost always processed my own slides, Kodachrome apart. And the qualities of 3M emulsion (grain like basketballs, poor maximum black, washy and weak colour) are very familiar. It gave character!

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