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Thread: Spotting pinholes out of 4x5 negatives

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Pacifica, CA

    Spotting pinholes out of 4x5 negatives

    I want to spot out pinholes on my 4x5 TMax-400 negatives, and I don't mind if the result is an opaque spot that I later have to re-spot on the print. I've got a full kit of stuff to do the job with but haven't yet hit on the magic combination.

    I've got an Adams Retoucher and 30x microscope. I've tried using the pinpoint steel etching tools to rough up the back and I can make it visually blend with background but the result on the print is invisible. I assume this is because I am using an Omegalite diffusion head.

    I prefer to do the work on the back because I don't think I will ever be good enough to do it on the emulsion.

    I just picked up a bottle of gum arabic and am going to try mixing it with New Coccine.

    Any other suggestions or tips?

    Thanks in advance,

  2. #2
    ic-racer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007

    Re: Spotting pinholes out of 4x5 negatives

    Good luck (kind of sarcastic...)

    I have been watching the Adams Retouchers on e-bay just for the purpose of dealing with dust. I have tried some of the other mentioned techniques but still believe that a good vacuume of the filmholders is the only way. Once the dust (shadow) is on the image, it is permanent. After all these years of LF photography, if there was an easy [analog] fix, it would be common knowledge.

    (Please show me wrong! )

  3. #3
    jp's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Re: Spotting pinholes out of 4x5 negatives

    I just fixed a pinhole in an 8x10 negative last week with a sharpie. Dabbed it a couple times on the margin to verify the spot size. It was a woods scene, not a sky, so it didn't show at all. Another photographer preferred a staedler pigment pen.

    As for dust, I've had good luck recently storing my film holders in antistatic bags when they are out of my darkroom.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    Re: Spotting pinholes out of 4x5 negatives

    Depends on the size of the dust. When I used to do printing from negs commercially, I always worked on the base, so that if it had to be changed, or removed, I could do so without risking damage to the emulsion.
    That said, this is a tricky business, as a previous poster already said, if there was an easy way everyone would know. Also, I've used a sharpie, an it can work very well, too.
    Maybe, try putting a slightly larger spot on it, that overlaps the dust a little bit.
    The real secret though is the proper spotting on the print afterwards. A retoucher that I worked with, "back in the film days" was amazing. He usually liked to do the film himself, if he was going to spot the print.
    Just like everything else we try to do, it takes lots of practice to do well, but if the dust, or other offending piece is too big, there's no way to do it perfectly (at least not that I ever saw), in the analog system.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Atlanta, GA

    Re: Spotting pinholes out of 4x5 negatives

    I used white guache, e.g. titanium white straight out of the tube. The best brush is a Windsor & Newton No. 7, probably a 00 or 000 tip. Have fun.

  6. #6
    westernlens al olson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Southwest Mountains of Colorado

    Re: Spotting pinholes out of 4x5 negatives

    According to Kodak the sheet films have tooth, both on the base side and the emulsion side. The medium format and 35mm films have it only on the base.

    As I recall, it was probably from the same source, a number two pencil is supposed to work for retouching. I believe portrait studios used to use this to lighten the wrinkles around the eyes. A sharp point may work to fill the pinhole.

  7. #7
    Nicholas O. Lindan
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Cleveland, Ohio

    Re: Spotting pinholes out of 4x5 negatives

    If you use a sharpie then you can use PEC-12 or 98% Methanol to remove the marks if you make a mistake. PecPads are very nice to have - a very soft non-woven 'fabric' that won't scratch emulsion.

  8. #8
    Stephen Willard's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Fort Collins, Colorado

    Re: Spotting pinholes out of 4x5 negatives

    I can only talk about spotting color negative film because that is the only thing I do. Whether my approach is applicable to b&w remains to be seen.

    I do big optical enlargements and filling a dust hole on the negative must be done with minimal amounts of ink, otherwise, you can end up with a big white spot the size of quarter to fill on a big print. Furthermore, the biggest problem I have is ink on film can make very sharp edges. This can make it almost impossible to feather the dye into the surround areas on the print when filling the white spot. So my approach is very different then the traditional methods.

    I use a mask registration system in my negative drawer and place a piece of 0.05 double sided clear mylar (frosted on both sides) on top of the negative. The mylar has registration holes punched into it and allows the mylar to be placed over the negative with very precise alignment. I then place my negative drawer with the negative and mylar on a light table. Using a Micron 0.005 #1 archival ink pen (this is an EXTREMELY fine point pen with completely light proof ink) and a 10x magnifying glasses headset, I spot the dust hole in the negative directly onto the mylar. The mylar does two things. First the frosted surface will slightly soften the edge of the ink. And second and most importantly, the mylar film acts as an unsharp mask and further softens the edges of the very tiny ink spot.

    The net effect of this is a minimal white spot on the print that just barely covers the dust hole on the negative and has very soft edges. This type of spot is very easy for me to fill in the with color dye so that it is almost impossible to detect. The soft edges allow me to feather out the dye into the surround paper emulsion and easily blend the colors.

    Hope this helps...

  9. #9

    Re: Spotting pinholes out of 4x5 negatives

    I used to use Kodak Red Opaque, a heavy pigment with a poster paint consistency that came in a tiny jar. I learned the technique from Jim Hill, who was printing assistant to Wynn Bullock. Using the smallest brush you can find, dab a very small amount the red opaque into the pinhole on the emulsion side. It has 100 percent opacity so you don't need to build it uo- jut a single, swift application. After it dries, you will be able to make a print with a small white blob that you will then have to spot with Spot Tone. If your spotting skills are good enough, no one will see the blemish.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Kalamazoo, MI

    Re: Spotting pinholes out of 4x5 negatives

    As with the above post, except I use Kodak Opaque (black). Not sure on availability since I got it at a camera store clearance sale.

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