How not to handle negatives

Since I started playing with 35mm photography a few weeks ago, I’ve been using Snappy Snaps near Clifton Down shopping centre. It came with the recommendation of a friend.

I’ve simply been asking them to develop the film into negatives and then I’ve been scanning the negatives myself. But I noticed that the first few rolls had scratches and dirt on them. Today when I went to pick up the latest roll, they were still finishing with it when I turned up, so I was able to watch.

The film came snaking out of the machine, and the guy working there yanked it out, treating it with all the care you’d think more appropriate for a roll of toilet paper. He put his fingers all over the film, making no attempt to handle it by the edges.

When he came to cut the film into strips, again he handled the film by touching it all over and cut it roughly. I noticed that one of his cuts went diagonally and took thin strips off the edges of two frames.

I’m no expert on film, but it seems pretty common sense to me that you should handle something as delicate as film with care, and not put fingerprints all over it. It’s not like it’s difficult to hold it by the edges, either.

Accredited professional photographer Glen Smith recommends treating negatives in the following way:

Negatives are particularly subject to damage. The smallest spot of dust, scratch or finger print will be enlarged many times when the negative is printed. Always handle negatives by the edges. A finger print on a negative can ruin a print. Negatives can be gently wiped to remove fingerprints but then there is the risk of scratches. Clean white cotton gloves are ideal if not always practical.

This is exactly what anyone with common sense would suggest as a sensible way of caring for negatives, too.

So now I know how my films get damaged during processing, and I think it’s safe to say I won’t be going to Snappy Snaps at Clifton Down again.

Update: There is an example of a scratched negative here on my photo blog.

2 thoughts on “How not to handle negatives

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