Age Old Concern: Dust on the Negative : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm still looking for the best solution to this annoying problem. I've used the following methods with mixed results, and am looking for alternatives that could hopefully be better:

-scrape the black off the final print with an exacto blade, and spot tone the gouge. Unfortunately, this harms the finish of the paper, which is quite noticeable to the viewer in certain angles of light.

-spot-tone the negative,(Hahahaha...) and then spot-tone the resulting white spot on the print.

-Use a sharpie marker on the negative (!!!) and then spot-tone the resulting white spot on the print. This creates a GIANT spot on the print!

-Throw the negative away...sometimes this just can't be done, I tell you!

If any of you folks have any ideas, I'd love to hear about them. Thanks!


-- Chris (, June 05, 2001


Chris: This has come up several times before because it is so frustrating and the black spots have a knack of showing up just where you don't want them. I have lately tried the scraping technique, about half the time I can do it without leaving a gouge which needs to be spotted. When I blow it this is usually due to my impatience. Just keep scraping lightly even though you don't think you're removing emulsion. If I see the black spots when printing, I save a work print or two so I can practice before I get to the real prints. In terms of other techniques (which is what you asked about) some people use bleach (drugstore iodine, diluted, works, the traditional ferrocyanate orange powder [not sure that's the right chemical, but it's the same stuff as one of the packets in farmers' reducer] tends to leave yellow stains) with a tiny brush. If you apply it very carefully just like spotting toner, it will bleach out the spot and the white spot won't be huge unless you paint in on that way. You have to put fixer on the spot after you bleach it off. (Although the first print on which I did this, 12 years ago, has done just fine with only a normal wash...) That way you are starting without a hole in the emulsion when you spot it. I suppose one could experiment with the iodine to find solutions dilute enough to take the black down just enough to match the background but I haven't tried that yet. All of this shows you what a nice cost/benefit you get from preventing just one of these in your film loading. I did follow somebody's suggestion to put a HEPA filter in the darkroom and run it for a while before film loading and it does seem to help. The other suggestion which I think has helped cut down on this is to pull the slide slowly do you don't generate a big static charge. Good luck.

-- Kevin Crisp (, June 05, 2001.


I have a couple of suggestions for you. Spot Off is a two part bleach made by the folks who make Spotone. It's easy to work with, and by using differing dilutions, very controllable.

You can also bleach those black spot off the print using medicinal iodine. Just put a tiny, and I mean very tiny, amount on the spot and it will bleach instantly. Re-wash the print and Spotone the resulting white spot to match the surrounding area.I use a plastic toothpick as an applicator and pick up the smallest drop of iodine I can.

Either method works, but the Spot Off is much easier to control and it can be used on a cotton ball for larger areas that need reduction.

Have fun.

Joe D.

-- Joseph A. Dickerson (, June 05, 2001.

Chris, we all know how you feel! Those black spots on the prints are a real pain in the portfolio! Light impressions sells a set of pens for erase black spots from both rc and fibre-base prints they have them for$9.95. You may also want to try a red pen they have thats for marking film and prints,much better than a sharpy as it has a fine tip. Ideally though prevention is always better than a cure. Hoover out your bellows keep your darkslides spotless,clean the table your going to use for loading and blow out the holders with compressed air just before you load them(not in the dark though:) regards Andy Tymon

-- Andy Tymon (, June 05, 2001.

I have instructions for spotting negatives in my article "Tips on Printing" on my site at:

http:/ /

-- Ed Buffaloe (, June 05, 2001.

The previous postings are traditional photographic solutions to this problem. They will fix the problems you mention. Are you willing to consider the photoshop alternative? Scan the negative and remove spots, hairs, lint, tears in emulsion, adjust contrast, burn, dodge and generally make yourself a perfect negative. Send the file to an imagesetter or digital prepress and have them make a film negative for you. Then you can use your perfect film negative to make perfect Silver (or platinum, cyanotype, or bromoil or whatever) prints. If you get the negative the correct size, then you could make a contact print and avoid the burning, dodging or other manipulations required in enlarging.

Any of the suggestions made by the other posters will work. The joy of photography is that there are many ways to solve a problem. You are the final judge of what is to work best for you.

-- Joe Lipka (, June 05, 2001.

Thanks everyone for your responses. I'm going to try both the Iodine and Spot Off.

Of course, if there was no dust in the first place...the battle continues. Fortunately, I've been able to minimize this problem over the years, but there's always those few times with the best images (of course!).

Ed Buffaloe -- useful website! Joe Lipka -- Thanks for the suggestion. I recognize the benefits of Photoshop, and use it everyday as a design application. At some point I may make the switch, but I still really enjoy working in the darkroom, and the associated challenges. Just curious -- how much would a service bureau generally charge for a 16x20 negative. I'm assuming you just need a halftone negative for a contact print. Would they handle this size?

Thanks again,


-- Chris (, June 05, 2001.

Chris - Just because you use photoshop does not mean you have to give up chemicals! There's more magical alchemy in the darkroom than in photoshop. Digital negatives to make a real photograph is the best of all worlds (for me of course, results may vary in your local darkroom.)

Don't know where you live, but a "local" (Raleigh, NC) provider of such services is A nominal 16 x 20 negative would run between $25 and $35 dollars. I have not used them, my previous experience was with another supplier of such services. The prices were comparable. You supply a proper file format on CD or Zip disk, and you get back a film negative.

For me, the best reference is Dan Burkholder's book on Digital Negatives for Platinum Printing. Excellent source of information.

-- Joe Lipka (, June 05, 2001.

I am new to large format, and may be wrong on this, but here it goes...I make my living in electronics, and in that field, static is your biggest worry, I also live in an extreamly dry ,dusty area, which builds static. Even my 35mm equiptment would get a build up of dust after only one hour on the tripod outdoors. Now in electronics, the simple cure for static is a simple ground wire, knowing this, I ran a simple wire from the strap lug on my 35mm to a spike nail which I drove into the ground, and it works! Anyways, just something to think about, most dust is drawn by static.

-- Paul Moseley (, June 09, 2001.

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