dust on 5x4 B/W neg / printing

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I am shooting 5x4 B/W negs.

If you get lets say a hair or piece of dust on the film when shooting, as we know it prints black on the print. I have tried using a 0.10mm "Rotring" pen to "pen in" the dust on the neg so that it prints white rather than black so that I can retouch the final print.

Given that even though this is the finest pen available, the cure is often worse than the illness, in that the pen is still enormous compared to the dust "thickness", esp when enlarged.

I really would be greatful for any ideas as to how you deal with this problem of a piece of dust on the neg printing black on the print; given that we aim for it not to be there in the first place!!

Best regards David J Osborn.

-- David J Osborn (djosborn@magna.com.au), June 14, 1998


I've had some luck, depending on the size of the object to be removed, with a medium to soft lead pencil. I learned this technique from a lady that was in a portrait studio with her husband. The pencil is a drafting pencil that you insert a large diameter piece of lead in. You then pull the lead out about an inch and a half. Using a very fine (1200 grit) sand paper, you twirl the lead between a folded over piece of sand paper, until you have a point about the size of a small needle. You can then retouch the negative, on the backing side, not the emulsion side. At least I have had the best luck on the back.

The nice thing about the lead, and working on the back of the negative, is the ability to easily remove what you have done. Unlike spot tone or an ink, you can erase the lead and start over. This works especially well on spots, and with a little practice, works on lint and hairs also.

She uses an Adams Retouching machine, basically a very small light box, in a big cabinet, that holds the negative, and that vibrates, to help blend the edges of the spotting. I had a friend give me the same machine to get it out of his way, and it came with the leads and pencils, The name on the pencils and lead is, Koh-I-Noor. I have seen them in an Office Max, but I don't know if they were the same brand, but they definately were the same style of pencil.

-- Marv Thompson (mthompson@clinton.net), June 14, 1998.

I made the mistake of loading sheet film in a cloth changing bag, and got blizzards of dust. While 'spotting' all this I learned that you can use very soft B-type lead, which is available at art supply stores. I spot on the emulsion side. I know it's taboo and I don't recommend it. Always experiment on non-precious film first.. Be VERY gentle; think (it's a mental process too) of depositing rather than inscribing the graphite), and remove excess graphite with an ear syringe or canned air before printing. Good luck.

-- Rod Lamkey (rod@LMI.net), July 12, 1998.

I use Kodak Black Opaque applied to the base with a #00000 (that's 5 zeros) spotting brush. It's quite removable should you mess up.

-- Peter Hughes (leonine@redshift.com), August 16, 1998.

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