Recently I’ve decided to take a little break from shooting 35mm and invest my time doing fun stuff such as taking shitload of polaroids using the Fuji FP-100C & FP-3000B peel-off films and experiment with doing emulsion lift/transfer (which I’m gonna cover in the future) and reclaiming negatives in a process I’m gonna discuss today.

After shooting a few packs on a Polaroid Land (super colour swinger III) and a Hasselblad 501CM with a polaroid 100 back, I’ve noticed that some of the prints are looking quite shabby, mostly under-exposed, and generally, aren’t as nice as i’d like them to be.

Many things can effect the final print as you’re dealing with chemicals which are VERY sensitive; temperature, wrong developing time, jammed rollers, and so on.
I was kind of frustrated with the results at first, thinking I would never get as nicer polaroids as I used to get back in 2004-2007, when the original polaroid 600 film still existed and I used to eat a pack a day and shoot obsessively, so I was looking around for a way to improve the outcome and the answer came quite instantly – I need to reclaim the fucking negatives!!

While getting your polaroid print ready in 2 minuets is still all kinds of fun – the details and contrast you get from the “rescued” negatives are often much greater and more precise. I said often because sometimes you can screw up the negatives pretty bad and end up with a shitty negative compare to the print. (examples down the post)

Now let’s dive into the fun & messy part – for obvious reasons, I was incapable of taking pictures of the whole process so I simply made a little video of it! (in the header of this post, in case you’re completely blind and missed it!)

What you’ll need:
  • Bleach
  • A Soft brush
  • A piece of glass to work on (you don’t want anything with texture because it will allow water to flow under the print)
  • Disposable Gloves (them chemicals ain’t kind to your skin kids)
  • A bunch of Negatives (which is the part you peel from the print and usually trash, what a waste!)

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Method:

1) First wet the glass – adding water to the glass creates a seal for when you bleach and rinse, preventing water from flowing under the print and washing away the emulsion.
2) Lay down your negative, emulsion side down (the not black side) on the wet glass. apply some bleach and start scrubbing (gently – we don’t want to scratch the precious negatives) the black surface.
3) You want to scrub a bit, then rinse, apply more bleach, then scrub a bit more, and rinse, etc. the black stuff will start to wash away. make sure you aren’t letting the running water hit along the top edge, lifting the print up – you want to keep the print sealed.
4) once you’ve gotten all the black off the negative (usually takes between 2-4 minuets), carefully lift the print off the glass and wash both sides under cold running water for 20 seconds.
5) put it aside and let it dry completely (emulsion side up) – I usually put it in front of a cold fan to make the drying process a bit quicker.
6) Tape the negs to the scanner bed and scan away! =D

THE RESULTS

Here are a few fine examples demonstrating the difference between the scanned negatives and scanned prints, including some mistakes I did while bleaching the negatives, you know, just so you can laugh at me and AVOID doing them!

 

Scans From Print

Scans From Negative

Roses Neg Scan

While the colours are more true to reality on the print scan, it’s noticeably unsharp and details are lost. The Neg scan, despite suffering a few errors such as not maintaining the seal between the negative and glass properly, which caused some bleach to enter and touch the very delicate emulsion side, is still much better in my opinion.

Bottles Print Scan Bottles Neg Scan

I intentionally shot this in a tricky light condition, just to show the difference it makes. slightly over exposed in the negative scan but oh so sharp! (well, sharp-er comparing to the print scan) there is also much more detail in the window.

Flowers print scan Flowers neg scan

This time, the shitty looking negative isn’t due to the bleaching process. unfortunately, after separating the print from the neg, I foolishly threw the print & negative slip in my bag before allowing it to dry properly, which caused it to stick onto the back of the print so all the chemicals got smeared up and resulted in an uneven texture.

Plates print scan Plates Neg scan

Not sure what happened here, but the print is actually looking nicer than the negative!

And lastly, a few OKAY looking polaroids taken with a Super colour swinger III :)