spotting negatives : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Whats the best way to touch up black spots on the prints? Also B&H carries about 8 different lens cleaners is there any difference or is one just as good as the other? Oh and one more just out of curiousity does anyone know why the presoak turns kinda orangish with tmax film?I dont know if it happens with other films or not.thanks Josh

-- josh (, March 05, 2000


Josh, Touching up black spots on the print itself requires either of two techniques. 1. Removal (scratching) which I personally don't like, since it scrapes away the emulsion of the paper and is visible as a dull spot when viewing from an angle. 2. Retouching, which involves painting some kind of pigment onto the surface which can also be visible from an angle. I've tried coating such a touchup with picture varnish to bring it up to the gloss of the paper, but it's always visible. There is a third technique which involves bleaching out the area. This must be done before toning and the now bleached area will need to be retouched with dye to make it look like the surrounding tone. I've never been able to get the bleach to work effectively! What I recommend is to retouch the negative. You can do this under magnification with an etching stylus. If you gently scratch the BASE of the negative and I do mean GENTLY, you can block light to some degree, from passing though the clear dust speck and reduce it's visibility on the final print. Practice on some rummy negs to get the hang of it. Most lens cleaners are pretty much the same thing. None of them really clean the glass, by the way! Get yourself some spectrographic grade methanol from a place like Fisher Scientific. They call it "Optima". This should be carefully swabbed onto the glass surface only with a clean Q-tip. Don't slosh it on or let it leak down around the edges of the optic. It may take a few swabbings to get all the oil and film off the glass, but you will be amazed at how dirty your lens was! Finish the job by gently polishing with one of those microfiber lens cloths. Then, leave it alone except for an occassional dusting with canned air. It is better to keep lenses clean than to keep cleaning them! The pinkish-orangy stuff you see in the pre-soak bath is nothing to worry about. There are antihalation dyes built into the film that are supposed to rinse out in the end. Some of them get leached out in the presoak. Wait'll you pre-soak some TMY, you'll think you're in Jonestown!

-- Robert A. Zeichner (, March 05, 2000.

IMHO the best thing to do isn't to try touching up the print but rather is to fix the clear spot in the negative that caused the black spot in the print and then reprint. With a very steady hand and a very thin brush, you sometimes can spot the negative with Spottone (sp?). If the area surrounding the clear spot is dark (for example, a a clear spot in a dark [in the negative] sky)it's very easy to use a black felt tipped pen on the emulsion side of the negative to cover the clear spot. The one I use is called a "Sharpie" but I think any of the "Marksalot" type pens would do. If the surrounding area is dark, you don't have to worry about keeping the ink within just the clear area. The ink won't show up in the print anyhow so you can just daub it over the whole area in which the clear spot is located. This is, IMHO, much easier than trying to fix the black spot in the print.

-- Brian Ellis (, March 05, 2000.

The people who make Spottone also make a product called Spotoff. Essentially it's a bleaching agent. Haven't used it but am going to try it. Light Impressions ( sells bleaching agent that comes in a pen. Actually there are two pens. One is the bleach, the other is supposed to remove the yellowish color left by the bleach. I have used it, but it is a real bitch getting it to work right. Seems to work best on very small spots. The problem with bleaching agents is they leave a hole in emulsion of the paper. Even after you have toned spot you can see hole in emulsion. You can also use a product like Red Opaque on your negs, but it's a real pain too. You need a very fine brush, a maginfying glass or glasses, and a steady hand. The good thing about it is you can wash it off if you miss the spot or make a big blob. Don't know where you can get it anymore, but I think it was a Kodak product.

-- John Laragh (, March 11, 2000.

I tried that Spotoff stuff. That's the fluid I was referring to in my previous post. I couldn't get it to do anything. Kodak did make red opaquing fluid, also black. This was made for the graphic arts industry, you know that business that was virtually decimated by dektop publishing! I don't know if Kodak still makes it, but even if you find an old dried up bottle at a camera show, it will easily come to life with a couple drops of distilled water. A bottle should last for about 8 photographer's lifetimes! As far a suitable brush goes, you will find that the # 221 "Vermeer" Kolinsky red sable watercolor brushes from Utrecht ( will work about as well as the more expensive Winsor Newton series 7 at about 1/3 the price. A No. 00 or 0 should be about the right size. You should also try to get one of those General "Optivisor" contraptions to wear when you retouch. This will free both hands and give you a 3-D look at the operating field!

-- Robert A. Zeichner (, March 11, 2000.

Howdy, I believe the product spot off is designed to be used on papers and not negatives. If you have a very steady hand and a large lighted magnifying glass you can etch out the black spot on your print by lightly scraping the surface with an exacto knife and then rewet the area of your print you are etching. Let it absorbe a little of the water and dab it off with your finger to push the paper fibers around and back to where they belong. Then spot it. Being extemely careful not to go too dark too quickly. Build up your tones instead of trying to match them. When I have to etch and spot I use a #10 ought brush so I have very fine control. I do not however use spottone. I really prefer the Pebeo spotting solutions. The colors are easier for me to match and it doesn't dry immediately, so if I blow it I have a little time to correct my mistake. I have also used this method on color papers and it seems to work. The red opaque can be a Kodak product, but other manufacturers make it as well. I think the smoothest is the Veronica Cast negative retouch material. Working on the negative requires a steady hand and the ability to match tonal values. Pin holes on the negative can be especially bothersome because they are holes. Nothing short of gum seems to fill them. j

-- jacque staskon (, March 11, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ