Photo lab film processing error? Explain this visual effect.

I dropped off two rolls of Kodak Ektar 100 film that I had shot, at a photo lab today. I got them back an hour later, and to my extreme dismay, there were two major problems with them.

One, they had a severe greenish-blue tint. The negatives themselves were actually tinted dark purple. The images all had a very deep blue-green cast. I have read that Ektar can take on a greenish tint when overexposed. But - first of all - this is more than just a greenish tint. Second of all, every single shot I took was exposed perfectly by the reading of my Nikon N90’s light meter.

Second: there is some very strange and ugly artifacting around areas of the images. These ugly looking horizontal streaks. I took two crops from different images to show exactly what I mean:

Example 1. Look at the left edges of the baseball cap and the guy’s right (viewer’s left) shoulder.

Example 2. Evident all over, but especially the leaves of the plant.

I don’t understand what happened here. There is no way this is the fault of the camera, which gave me beautiful shots on Fuji Velvia a few weeks ago. It has got to be either a problem with the Ektar film I bought (expired? Stored improperly?) or the error of the photo lab that processed it.

What do you say?

I’ve never seen anything like that before, but I presume the images linked are scans the photo lab did? Looks like a scanning problem to me. I mean, look at the neg through a loupe (if you have one.) What do you see? Those artifacts look digital to me.

Many photo labs now use equipment which scans the negatives and digitally prints the images. The streaking looks like scanner artifacts to me. If you can look at the negatives with a magnifying glass, I bet you won’t see the artifacts.

Bring the prints back to the store and ask them to check their scanner. You may need to speak with the manager.

I don’t have a loupe. But, yes, those are the scans I got back from the photo lab. Are you implying that if the negatives were scanned properly, I would be good? Because I have the negatives right here and I’d be happy to have them scanned by someone else to correct the other studio’s fuck-up.

Fresh, non heat-damaged roll? Get a new lab. Their chemistry is bad. The base color of negative film is orange. If you’re not getting that, not even close to that, there’s something very wrong. Unfortunately, this could be hard. Photographic chemistry degrades over time, and relatively quickly. Keeping a film processor “fresh” generally requires 20-30 rolls a day. With the rapid drop in film customers, a lot of labs will limp their film chemistry along and correct when printing.

The streaking is a scanning artifact. It looks like overly aggressive infrared dust/scratch reduction. See if there are scratches on the negative that correspond to the areas of streaking.

Their scanner certainly has a problem. I don’t like scanning of negatives. Never like true developing.

I went back to the lab and asked the woman there to scan them again. After re-calibrating the scanner, the artifacting was vastly lessened, but still faintly visible, especially in areas of high detail like small leaves and branches. Still unsatisfied, I got a refund and then took the negatives to a different lab (a Cord Camera franchise, frequented by pros, and staffed by a friend of mine.) I expect they will do a much better job. I will pick up the new scans tomorrow.

The woman who developed the film insisted that they had just recently replaced the chemicals in the mini-lab processing machine and that she’d done several other rolls today that all turned out fine. Maybe their machine just has a big problem with Ektar 100. I don’t know. But I will send future Ektar films to a different place.

Shouldn’t really make a difference. It’s all the same chemistry. You can ask the folks at Cord or your friend to have a look at the film and see what he thinks.

When you say the negs are tinted purple, do you mean the film base? That’s … odd. I’ve seen BW negs take on purple tints, but never color.

Ask the lab to see their control strips.

I got the scans back from the other lab (Cord Camera) today. Not a happy camper. Whereas the first lab’s scans were ridiculously green-blue tinted and full of digital distortion, the second set of scans has ridiculously jacked up brightness.

Here’s a side by side comparison. Top image is from the first scanning, bottom is from the second.

This is ridiculous. I am going back to the lab tomorrow and requesting that they do it again with the scanner adjusted to be darker. I spoke to my friend who works there and he said they would work with me to get it how I want it.

I was able to correct the first image (the blue-green one) to a much more natural color: here. It was much harder to do the same for the ridiculously bright image.

Whoa. You don’t need me to tell you this but, yeah, that scan is way off.

I think sooner or later I am just going to have to bite the bullet and shell out for a good film scanner like a Nikon Coolscan. I really prefer shooting film because I can get sharper and more colorful pictures with my old 40 dollar Nikon N90 (which has a full size viewfinder, not cropped) than with digital SLRs costing hundreds of dollars. I also learned on film so I enjoy the ritual of loading the film and of trying new kinds of film. But this is the downside of it: the variable quality of lab scanning. I’d rather be able to control the end result myself.

It’s not the scanning; it’s the developing. I doubt that anyone is able to keep their chemicals fresh. Again, ask to see their control strips. These a re pre-exposed strips from Kodak, Fuji or whatever. They are run through the lab’s chemis to make sure that everything is in order. Technically, the results should be checked and plotted on a graph, over time. I’d be astonished if any lab has sufficient throughput to keep their chemicals fresh. Once they dick your negatives, no amount of scanning wizardry will bring them back. Without actually seeing your negs, I’m guessing their Bleach/Fix is bad. Negs can be re-bleached, however.

Bite the bullet and get a digital camera; not a scanner.

Maybe I should start a: “Ask the guy that’s thrown away $300,000 in film lab equipment” thread.

Already have one (D70S). I still prefer film, but the DSLR gets plenty of use.

I was able to correct the set of scans from the first image fairly easily. This shot was originally a hellish blue-green and way underexposed. It took only a few minutes to fix that in Photoshop. Despite the developing error, I still got good color and clarity from those images. The real problem was the digital artifacting.

I would have preferred, of course, that they developed the film properly. But the scanning is the larger problem. One lab’s scanner has bad digital distortion and the other must have had the brightness settings cranked up.

Those colors are still whack, though. Skin tones are fairly reasonable, but everything else is way too cyan. It almost has a cross-processed kind of look to it. Without seeing the neg, it’s hard to tell what’s up, but it may very well be bad chemistry.