View Full Version : Is my lab a bunch of criminals?

27-Aug-2012, 15:19
I donīt know why, but my lab ruined my favorit captures.
I was dust spotting the scans and in the 200% mode I discovered that the most of the pictures looked like someone has scattered some grated parmesan cheese on them. Scrathes in every direction. The pictures are full of it in such a way that it is impossible to correct them properly.
Maybe I am wrong, but I think if I print them 20"x30" the damage would be seen very well. What to do? What failure in the whole process causes this? What kind of stain is there?


I looked at the negs with a 8x loupe, nothing to see on them. Only the flextight-eye discover the damage.

Best Regards

Frustrated George

27-Aug-2012, 19:22
That last one just looks like dust. The others, perhaps scratches but I would suspect dust instead. Scratches will appear black on a scan/print since they represent missing emulsion; dust/hair appears white since it blocks light.

Scans with collimated light show the dust much more dramatically than a print. Have you tried printing a little 8x10" crop from the 20x30" enlargement you wanted to use? You might find it's OK.

Frank Petronio
27-Aug-2012, 19:30
Why would you need to see them at more than 100%? If you zoom in far enough you will find all sorts of irregular imperfections in the film but they are impossible to see in your prints since the printer or monitors can not resolve them.

Unless this film is unusually dirtier than normal, I suspect it is just dust and scratches from normal handling... by the photographer.

Some labs are sloppier than others and it pays to try an alternative lab if you are unsure, but my bet is that you are looking too close and not being realistic about the amount of dirt that is on all of our films. Cleaning up a high-res scan can take 15 minutes to several hours, depending on how high the resolution is and how dirty the film was at the time of exposure.

If you are experienced and have clean working methods, and these dirt and scratches are significant, then try a different lab!

27-Aug-2012, 19:57
Last one is dust, but others looks like usual Arista & Efke artifacts, when processed in non-distilled water with developer that didn't "settle"..
And scratches..

28-Aug-2012, 11:01
Thank you all for answering!
I like your comment in your eastcoast manner Frank. You are right, why looking on f***ed up pictures at 200%? Its silly! To change the lab is equally difficult as at yours in the U.S. 10 years back, there where a lot today only 4 in Munich. And I have to pick one which is on the way to/off work. I told them to come back with my "lupara" if you know what it is. In the past their work was flawless, so I keep this lab.

@polyglot and SergeiR
There are some dust specs but the most of that is dirt or stain. Both do not come from me or my handling. All manipulation of the film is done by the lab, means loading and unloading the holders, developing and scanning.The dark spots are dust on the film during exposure, everything white or bright came on it later. Scratches from the darkslide (me) would be straight lines, these are from and in different directions (lab).

The problem I have is, to have a show and to have dirty and scratched pictures. The print of one in the size of 20"x25" would cost me about $90 each so the pics have to be absolutely clean or I burn money. And I can not re-shoot them in a week and with the same light situation (daylight).
Oh, I have to take some pills for my stomach and to chill down.


Frank Petronio
28-Aug-2012, 11:04
What film is it? Some brands come already scratched...

David de Gruyl
28-Aug-2012, 12:13
Optical print or digital print? If digital, you could clone them out. It would take forever, but you could do it. You'll note that you are only seeing them (the trails, not the dust) in areas of monotonous tonality.

You also didn't mention the size / magnification of the negative with respect to the print. If you are optically printing 4x5 it is less than 8x to get to 20x24.

29-Aug-2012, 01:32
It is TMax100

Digital print, David. Iīm working hybrid. Iīve tried to remove the spots and scratches, it is a real pain. You have to replace pixel by pixel.
The captures are made on 4x5 Film, btw.

The few crops I have posted are far too dark, you should see it on my screen. Scary!


Noah A
29-Aug-2012, 03:59
The Imacon/Hasselblad scanners are probably the best scanners around when it comes to capturing the dust and scratches on your film! Seriously, they're great scanners, but I always spend a lot of time spotting scans whenever I use one, and my film isn't particularly dirty and I try to handle it carefully.

Of course it's impossible to tell if your scratches came from the lab or not. Your film could have gotten scratched during handling, while loading your holders, sliding around in the film box (do you put it back in a plastic bag inside of the film box to prevent it from sliding around?)...etc.

If it's an important photo to you, try a drum scan. The wet-mounting will hide many scratches.

Jim Andrada
30-Aug-2012, 11:29
Spotting "blank" areas is always a nightmare because density always looks the same in a large area - until you clone a spot and realize that it really isn't all the same!

I would agree with Frank that spotting at 200% is probably overkill for a 4 X or 5 X enlargement. How bad do they look at 100%? or even a bit less? Have you run a print of a cropped area at the intended enlargement and looked at how bad/good it is? I often see things on screen at 100% that I don't see at all in the print. Hate to admit it but in the old days of grain focusing on the enlarger I used to focus on the micro spots and scratches rather than the grain.

Of course, if this batch of negatives look significantly worse than the last batch from the lab I would have a discussion with them about it.

31-Aug-2012, 00:09
Hallo Jim,

I have let them make a print of a crop that would be the same like I would print the image in 20"x25". The scatches and white spots are clearly visible. I have to get them out somehow.The lab guys told me, they have a new wetting agent that might be the reason for my problems and the scratches are no scrathces but stain from this new wetting-agent.

Generally I agree with Frank, 200 % is an overkill, but if you have a plain and uniform area of grey, every little bit of dust or stain becomes visible. Last night I have retouched one of the pictures for four hours and the result is not very good. I hope the lady (an art historian) who critisize my captures do not look on the prints very closely.

A tired George

Jim Andrada
31-Aug-2012, 17:20
WOW George - I feel bad for you. This does sound like an awful mess.

I have to admit that I always try to use backgrounds with a little out of focus texture to make it easier to hide the inevitable spots.

Lenny Eiger
4-Sep-2012, 10:19
I've seen a lot of this lately. I get a lot of scans in where there are an inordinate amount of scratches. In the past, I have tried to help people with better techniques to clean their holders. However, what I am seeing lately is that the labs, in an attempt to stay afloat are running their lines once a day instead of 2 or 3 times, and the local lab to me runs it only once or twice a week. Their quality has gone down considerably, the last set I got was substantially color shifted to the magenta. I am having to send my film away to get it processed. I do so little color that I don't use the whole box and its expensive if I do it here... unlike the black and white.

I haven't run one of the larger processors myself, but I think that the developer must get "settled" somehow, drop out of solution, or something. I have seen all kinds of development mistakes from respected labs, from streaking, liquid effects and excessive spots. I would encourage people to do their own processing if they can, if it makes sense... It's not as hard as it looks, the temperature does not need to be that exact, and it just isn't that difficult.