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Photography Question 
Debi Beard

Can Fingerprints Be Removed from a Negative?

I just dropped off a 35mm negative (at a very reputable lab) to have re-prints made (a 5x7 and 8x10). The lab tech told me that there were fingerprints on the negative and they would probably show up on the photo. She said they cannot be removed from the negative. Is this true?

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6/3/2004 12:47:58 PM

Tom Walker   It would depend on how long the prints were there. Treat the negative as if it were a plastic eye-glass lens: Breathe on it and wipe with a very - repeat - very soft cloth. If the prints have been there for a while, the acids in skin oil may have eaten into the film, and then there is no way I know of to get them out. Maybe some of our restoration experts may have a suggestion.

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6/4/2004 4:07:41 PM

Vince Broesch   If the fingerprints are on the base side (shiny), it could be cleaned. But it sounds like it's on the emulsion side(dull). Some people might say "soak it", but I don't recommend that. So the best thing is to scan it, retouch the damage, and print it digitally. That is really all you can do now.


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6/5/2004 2:25:58 PM

RoxAnne E. Franklin   Ah yes, the unforgivable fingerprint problem. I do alot of restoration work to remove fingerprints. I honestly am not aware of another way, other than restoration. If you have photoshop or a good scanner, you can PATIENTLY, notice I said patiently, remove the prints. A good scanner sometimes has a software program with it that removes dirt, dust and fingerprints. Mine does a somewhat ok job, but most of the time, you end up removing them by cloning in photoshop or any program that gives you the ability to fix problems. Keep in mind that some programs will fix scratches and print marks, but remove clarity all at once. if in photoshop, there are tons of ways of fixing this.
I would be glad to help you in any way I can if you want.
It's not that hard to remove them, you could give it a whirl, just requires lots and lots of patience and good eyes.

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6/9/2004 8:39:18 AM

Sreedevi  Kashi   I'm used to the darkroom, so I know that negatives were washed before you got them anyway. The best way to remove any dirt from negatives is to wash them in warm water. Do this at home by laying them out in a tray, and running water through it continuously for five minutes. I like to use a second pan, like one of those grilling pans on top of it so the negatives don't fall out into the sink, but the water is able to continuously run through it.

At the end, you can take a pure cotton ball- not synthetic- and very gently wipe off both sides of the negative. Then get Photo Flo- you can get it at any photo store and it's cheap- and just put a few drops in the water and swish it around before hanging it to dry. This keeps water spots off. When hanging, make sure there are no fans or blowers running and that the room is fairly clean- not dusty. Just using clips on a clothes line is fine. Make sure the clips only touch the edges of the strip- not where there's an image.

The whole process takes five minutes, and then you just have to wait for them to dry. I usually find they're completely dry after an hour. I'd much rather do this and work with a clean neg. than have to retouch in any way. It's so much easier. I get finger oils on my negs all the time. If you have little scratches on your negs, often you can fill them in with the oil from your skin. And of course, they attract more dirt this way. There are also film cleaners on the market that will definitely get out all the fingerprints in a flash, but they all cause streaking, and then I find I end up washing them anyway, so I go straight for the washing. Just remember, when your negs are wet, they're softer, and the emulsion is softer, so it can scratch easier. You want to be really gentle with them. And if you're doing a few strips of negs at a time, just make sure you don't have them touching each other at any point that they're not in water, even if it's for a second, or they'll stick together.

If you have any questions, let me know, but I think this will end up being so much simpler for you than spending all that time trying to digitally remove it while keeping the original quality.

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6/14/2004 6:16:48 AM

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