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Thread: Getting Dust free Negatives

  1. #1

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    Getting Dust free Negatives

    I don't know what your experience is with dust, but up until recently I considered dust my worst enemy. I did everything I could think of to keep dust off my negatives. I kept my film holders clean as a whistle, store them in plastic bags, blow off my film before development and dry as dust fre environment as I could find. In post process, I clean my scanner religiously, blow air over my flat bed and each negative every time. Still, nothing seemed to work. I was beginning to accept the fact that I had to spend a ton of time in photoshop spot retouching on each image.

    A few days ago I was finishing a set of negatives. Getting ready to hang a soaking wet one I accidentally dropped it right on my floor. Frustrated, I picked it up and sure enough it was caked with dust, dirt and hair. My only option was to run it under water. Under the stream of running water I saw most of the particles coming off; however a few stubbron bits remained. With a gentle sweeping motion of my tips fingers I rubbed the negative clean. I took utmost care to be as gentle as possible and removed everything I could see.

    After I scanned the negative I was amazed to find my cleanest negative ever! Hardly a speck of dust to worry about. I have been doing this ever since. After photoflo, I put the neg in running water and ever so gently wipe it with the tips of my fingers. It works like a charm. My negatives scan nearly dust free.

    I am not sure if most of you know this or have another strategy that gives you nearly dust free scans, but this was a revelation for me and I wanted to pass it along to anyone struggling with dust. If you have other ideas I'd love to hear them too.

  2. #2
    Scott Walker's Avatar
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    Re: Getting Dust free Negatives

    I do not scan my negatives but I have always wiped the negative (both sides) on my forearm, or between my fingers for smaller formats before inserting it in the enlarger. I know it's a very bad habit and certainly not what most people would recommend but it works for me.

  3. #3

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    Re: Getting Dust free Negatives

    I have no darkroom at present, so I have to scan all my negatives. Between the dust and the cat, it is a never ending battle to keep my negatives clean. I find that a Staticmaster brush helps to keep the dust under control. They aren't cheap, but have solved a lot of problems for me.
    Michael Cienfuegos

  4. #4

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    Re: Getting Dust free Negatives

    Cool to try it.

    It is important to distinguish two scenarios for possible dust problems: dust getting on the negative during or pre-exposure, versus dust that accumulates on the negative post-exposure (during development and subsequent drying & printing.) You can tell which scenario is a problem because GENERALLY, dust that is on on negs pre-exposure results in clear marks on the neg and dark lines on the print, while dust that accumulates on the neg post-exposure results in dark marks on the neg, which leads to light marks on the print.

    There are different tactics to deal with dust in these two circumstances. It appears to me that the solution you've discovered -- sweeping the neg with your fingers while washing and prior to drying -- doesn't address either situation so I'm curious why it works.

    Some of the things you've mentioned make the dust issue worse, potentially. A dry environment is probably not good for drying or even loading film. That's why it is recommended to run a hot shower in a bathroom darkroom before drying negatives, since the humidity removes the dust in the air. Also, the plastic bag you use for your holders probably merely increases the static electricity and accumulates dust in the holder. (I used to prefer wood holders for this very reason until I realized that the wood itself generates minute dust.)

    Personally, I think most pre-exposure dust problems arise from two sources: dusty environment whilst loading the film, and dust inside the camera (particularly the bellows) or the environment which gets on the neg once the dark slide is removed (the movement of the darkslide causes static charge to build up, attracting dust to the neg.)

    Post-exposure dust problems are mainly attributable to dusty environments in the drying area.

  5. #5

    Re: Getting Dust free Negatives

    I just had a bunch of negatives that I was trying to print that were very dusty even though I tried pretty hard to keep them clean. When I tried to print them, I couldn't blow them clean and I couldn't brush them clean. There were a lot of tiny, little particles stuck in the emulsion. Many of them were too small to see until you started enlarging.

    I soaked the negs in warm water and Photo-Flo for a few minutes. I took a Q-Tip, dipped it into the solution and very carefully, rubbed the negatives on both sides. Making sure the negative and the Q-Tip was submerged the whole time. I hung them up to dry and used a syringe to squirt Photo-Flo solution onto the negative as it hung. Like the OP said, I could see the dust particles falling off the film.

    After the film dried, there were virtually no dust particles. What dust was there was easily brushed away or blown off with canned air.
    Randy S.

    In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni.

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  6. #6
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: Getting Dust free Negatives

    I just don't think about it; that way it doesn't worry me.


  7. #7

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    Re: Getting Dust free Negatives

    Dry your negs while they're "face down" and this should not be a problem

  8. #8
    おせわに なります! Andrew O'Neill's Avatar
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    Re: Getting Dust free Negatives

    When the negative is in the photoflo (actually I use fuji's version as I've still got heaps of it), I always gently wipe my fingers over both surfaces.

  9. #9

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    Re: Getting Dust free Negatives

    Doesn't wiping the negatives after putting them in photoflo reduce the effect of the photoflo? I have always just pulled them out and hung them not touching them after they have been in the photoflo. If this isn't the case I might have to rethink my negative drying.

  10. #10

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    Re: Getting Dust free Negatives

    This is most likely a daft question, but can you not buy wipes to get the dust off / clean the negative? If so, how useful are they? I am only asking as I have recently picked up a drum scanner and the company I was buying the scanning fluid from suggested them. If they don't work or are of minimal use however I would sooner skip them.

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