dust or hair on my films

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I'd like to ask somebody whom encountered this problem before the solution for it! I've had lots of trouble with hair or dust on my film "BEFORE" I shoot the photograph. This translates into nasty black marks on the prints which are ever so difficult to retouch. My first field camera(WOODMAN 45) was particularly prone to this feature, my actual camera a Wista VX is already an improvement. Any suggestion? Could my film holders be responsable for it? Thanks for answering me! Andrea Milano

-- andrea milano (milandro@multiweb.nl), October 21, 1998


It sounds as if your first camera had dust inside it, which was attracted to the film. You should clean the dust from your camera. An antistatic brush over the loaded film might also help.

Some people here use readyloads. I read and followed the advice on storing holders in plastic bags, brushing out before loading them, and brushing the film after loading.

However, I discovered how to really reduce the problem: don't lean over the holders when I load them! I suspect much of the dust came from clothes, beard and hair. I now load by holding the film and holder in front of me, and I also ensure the surfaces are also horizontal, encouraging any falling dust to fall off.

Another tip that also reduced problems for me: I used to extract film from the packet by sliding it out from the back of the polythene bag. This created static, attracting dust to the film. Now I remove all the film, in the cardboard folder, from the bag, and lift each single sheet off the pack.

-- Alan Gibson (gibson.al@mail.dec.com), October 21, 1998.

A few more tips.

Every few times I load holders, I vacuum them with darkslides in and out. I have a vacuum cleaner brush and pipe reserved just for this purpose.

Occasionally vacuum the camera well. Especially the bellows.

When I load film, I set the holders vertical. In theory, it's a little harder for dust to settle on them.

When I load film, I pull the entire stack of films out of the box and set it *emulsion side down* on one of the cardboard packing pieces in the box. Dust isn't going to settle on the emulsion this way.

I have a dedicated darkroom, not a closet, bathroom, or (shudder) laundry room. Its door is always shut, and I have an air cleaner that runs a few hours a day. It stays pretty dust free in there.

Which brings up... a laundry room is probably the worst place to load film holders! Getting a laundry room lint free is nearly impossible.

-- mike rosenlof (mike_rosenlof@yahoo.com), October 21, 1998.

I shoot only chromes, if that makes any difference, but I have very little trouble with dust spots, and I use a bedroom closet (only at night is it dark enough) to load and unload my holders. I do brush and blow out my holders before reloading. Get a good squeeze bulb (not the wimpy ones with brush attached) that puts out a good puff of air, and blow out the film guides, as well as both sides of the darkslide. After brushing and blowing out, reinsert the dark slide until reloading. I would think that the cleaner the environment, the better.

-- Ron Shaw (shaw9@llnl.gov), October 21, 1998.

Hi Andrea, For color I use Fuji Quickloads. They are more expensive, but I save time cleaning and loading and unloading holders. Also I have less "dead weight and bulk" to drag into the field. QuickLoads also let me easily make notes on each exposure on the sleeve of each image. In the US we can only get Fuji color transparency films in QuickLoad, but in Europe you can get B&W negative and color negative as well. In my experience the Fuji work much better than the similar Kodak product. As I am primarily a professional photographer i am able to charge off the difference to clients.

For hose times when I do shoot film in holders I throughly vacuum out the change box I use (a collapsable Photoflex, though i want theHarrison & Harrison film tent that was designed for motion picture work) and also the holders. To vacuum the holders I found a hose attachment at a vacuum cleaner shop that is ideal it is a adjustable low pressure nozzle kit made by Hoover that has all sorts of little brushes. It is also very good for computers and would probably work well for cameras and still life sets too. They cost about US$25.00. If you can't find one, e-mail me and we can make arrangements.

-- Ellis (evphoto@insync.net), October 21, 1998.

One further thought on reducing dust which originates in the environment in which you load your holders: I load mine in a blacked- out bathroom. Before loading, I vacuum the room, and then I run the shower on hot for a few minutes. This puts some humidity into the air, which helps the dust to settle. Then, I brush out each holder before I load it. (I keep the brush, a 1" paintbrush, sealed in a ziplock bag between loading sessions so it doesn't pick up extra dust).

-- Rob Rothman (robrothman@worldnet.att.net), October 21, 1998.

If I had that problem, I'd run the bellows out to full exstension, and shine a bright light in there and then look with a magnifying glass. I've found a lot of dust in bellows before, and I could see where heat could stir it up. I wonder what the elements are like were you photograph? I haven't had a lot of problems with dust, and I live in what is surely one of the exampler dust bowls of American high desert. I use the paint brush, the vacum cleaner, and I put the holders in those black plastic bags that photographic paper comes in. The plastic is pretty slick stuff and easy to see dust on and easy to wipe off. In the field I take the holder out of the black plastic bag; use it, and then return it to the plastic bag which often is covered with dirt and grass seed, but the film seems to stay clean. Good luck.

-- david clark (doc@ellensburg.com), October 22, 1998.

No matter how throughly you clean your holders, or what procedures you follow for not allowing dust into them, you will still get those pesky minus-density specks. Simply spot them out on the base side of the negative with Kodak Black Liquid Opaque using a 00000 brush. Then you can spot the print in the normal fashion.

-- Peter Hughes (leonine@redshift.com), October 22, 1998.

I know it may sound silly or mundane but a good way to cut down on dust spots is to throughly wash your hands with a mild or moisterizing soap and pat dry your hands your hands with a cotton towel (not paper) before loading holders. The extreme version of this would be to use surgical gloves.

-- Ellis (evphoto@insync.net), October 22, 1998.

Just a small addition to the above dialogue: It has been my experience that cut film comes with minute, dust-sized specks of film packed with it (despite the manufacturers efforts for cleanliness). I take each sheet of film and tap it two or three times on the counter top at a place arm's-length away from the loading area immediately before loading it into the film holder. Very often I have a little pile of black film crumbs on the counter when I turn on the light. This, coupled with about all of the procedures above, plus keeping every film holder in its own, new, quart-size ziploc bag just about keeps me free of dust spots. I'm still working on 100%!

Best regards


-- Doremus Scudder (ScudderLandreth@compuserve.com), October 23, 1998.

I have found a few things that help keep dust down for me. One is the Honeywell HEPA air filter I turn on in the darkroom for 30 minutes or so before I go in to do any work. Another is a damp rag to clean off the outside of the holders & the work surface. Then I wipe the inside of the holders before stacking them in wait to be loaded. The damp cloth also helps keep down static in our arid area. I wash my hands & arms & wear a worn cotton t-shirt. By doing these I have cut the dust & lint to a real minimum. One big advantage is the reduction of overall dust in the darkroom for printing as well with the air filter. Since getting it I have reduced spotting at least 80-90 percent. Combined with my change in never sweeping surfaces from desk to floor & instead using damp towels & cloths, dust has been reduces a lot. Then using ziplock bags in the field is one more added precaution that helps.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), October 24, 1998.

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