FIXING PINHOLES ON NEGATIVES : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'd appreciate some tips on touching up pinholes on my negatives. I've followed the directions in Adams, Lootens and others w/ mixed results. I've got the teeniest brush imaginable and I use Spot-Tone. The typical goof-up is that I can't quite get the pinhole to suck in the ink; rather, I get a dark ring of ink around the pinhole, which remains empty! Any suggestions? There will be prizes for the most useful and wittiest responses.... -jeff buckels (albuquerque)

-- Jeff Buckels (, September 05, 2001


Don't use Spot-Tone for negatives. Use Opaque Black, Perfect Opaque Liquid, or Photo Maskoid. For some further hints on negative retouching, see my article, Tips on Printing, at I find retouching negatives a lot harder than retouching prints. After you retouch a negative you almost always have to retouch the print you make from it too.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, September 05, 2001.

I know it loses some of the romance of the traditional darkroom. But I have my neg scanned and fix the offending hole in Photoshop. It takes about 10 seconds to do. From the file you could have another piece of film or a print outputted.

-- Dominique Labrosse (, September 05, 2001.

Instead of using a small brush, try using a toothpick sharpened with fine grit sand paper.

-- Stephen Willard (, September 05, 2001.

In the old days they used pencils. Pat

-- pat krentz (, September 05, 2001.

Are you coating your own film? I've never seen pinholes in modern film. Knifing the prints is probably easier anyway.

-- Pete Andrews (, September 06, 2001.

You'd use a pencil for that most likely. It's been eons since I've done any neg retouching (and I was lousy at it too...), but you use a very fine pencil, usually a technical pencil with different weights of lead sharpened down to a very fine point. Kodak used to make this fluid called "retouching fluid" that would prime the neg & give it some tooth for the pencil. The problem with dyes is just as you described. Usually this means you're using too much dye, it will cluster around the edges of the spot and cause a doughnut like shape. The brush needs to be almost dry, and you need to sorta "pick" at it, not brush it on. Pencils were used because the dye often could not reach the density needed. Even dried spotone, which when dry is denser than the wet, can't match lead. The practice was to overshoot the density a bit, and if you had to, to spot the print afterwards. The opposite is true in print retouching, it's better to use less--than overdo it.

These are the basic rules for b&w: Dye is used on the base side. Pencil on the emulsion. For pencil, you use the retouching fluid. (lead: HB: speculars/2H: mid-tones/6H: details in shadow area). You can remove the lead with more fluid or Rosinol. You pick away at it with the tip of the lead, in such a way that you almost don't touch the neg...

Dyes: done on base (use a diffusion enlarger). Mostly use #3 spotone, maybe some #0. Dampen the neg first, then spot. Wipe with damp cotton swab after each application to smooth out the area.

There are some other methods like etching, that can add & subtract density from a negative as can use a blade like a scalpel almost, on the emulsion side to remove density. I halfway remember a techique of etching the base to cancel out a tone and then soptting the print back in...

All this is from painful recollections of a retouching class I had to can get similar information from Kodak's Photographic Retouching", if it's still in print...or probably some of those Veronica Cass books/videos. A retouching table will be a big help too for negs. Make a decent print before trying any of this just in case...

-- DK Thompson (, September 06, 2001.

Jeff, If it's 4x5 we're talking about here, just shoot anything with sky or fog on Ready Load...and if that is not available...a whole bunch of extra shots.

I've yet to find an easy solution to this problem. It's best to try to prevent those nasty pin holes in the first place.

For what it is worth, I seem to get a smaller size dot of pigment using an oil based medium and, as Stephen suggested, a fine sliver of wood for a "brush". You will just have let it dry for a few days before putting it back in the sleeve. And, of course, spot it back on the print.

-- Bruce Wehman (, September 06, 2001.

How about an ounce of prevention? How concentrated is your stop bath? Too high a pH will create the gas that causes the pinholes. Make sure that the concentration of the stop bath is not above the recommended dilution. You could also change to alternative chemistry to stop development.

-- Joe Lipka (, September 10, 2001.

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