Stop cross processing your slide film: #Saynotoxpro

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That’s right I said it, stop cross-processing lovely slide film. Slide film was designed to produce lovely true striking colours, with great contrast, sharpness and fine grain. It allowed photographers, artists and printers to see exactly what they were getting. Yet you want to xpro it to make it grainy, blurry and a complete smorgasbord of washed-out colours that you totally knew you were going to get. What is wrong with you?

I might be getting ahead of myself here. Let’s start at the beginning.


This is an article to put across my, ahem, subjective thoughts on the processing of slide film. My view if you haven’t guessed it already is it should be processed in E6 as designed, to bring out the rich tapestry of colour and feeling that makes it the soul-enriching colour goodness it was designed for. It should not be cross-processed in C-41 chemicals that were designed for negative film (see the word negative, NEGATIVE). Xpro is the equivalent of watching Toy Story 4 on one of those old Seiko TV watches in black and white. Also to be clear my thoughts on xpro only cover slide film, I have no thoughts on any other types of film you want to process in different to advised chemistry. Go nuts with those.

Now obviously, I need to try and evidence for you all why xpro is the work of the devil. So let’s start with some images of slide film correctly processed in E6 and bask in their glory, you might need to turn down the glare on you screen and wear sunglasses now.

Just look at new Kodak EKTACHROME E100.

Kodak E100 new

Some lovely Fujifilm Provia 100F.

Provia 100F E6 example

Fujifilm Velvia 50, one of the best and you get a real colour pop if you stick a circular polariser on the lens.

Velvia 50 example

See what I mean? If you project these as actual slides, the colours would be even better than on your screen. There is a reason our parents/grandparents have boxes of slides. It was not just to bore you with holiday snaps, it’s because they knew to #SayNoToXpro.


So in the interest of balance here is some cross processed slide film. The nasty all green one is Lomo xpro slide and the flat, boring building one is Provia 100F.

I know right, what an awful mess. Even Lomography in this guide to cross-processing say “Every roll of film you develop is like a box of rabid hamsters. You never know what you’re gonna get!“

I can already guess your next point *yawns* if it’s expired slide film it’s probably bad so you may as well xpro it. Nope, I’m still going to #SayNoToXpro. These are many years expired Kodak slide film, shot at box speed. E100GX for the beach and extremely expired Ektachrome 64 for the sunset.

I’m sensing you are not yet convinced and think I might be a tad bit biased and selective here with my choice of images. Tough crowd!

Alrighty then, do you know what I did in anticipation of this. I went and did an experiment. I purchased two rolls of expired Agfa Prescia CT E6 film. These had been well kept BUT advised by the store to be cross-processed. Well, I was not going to have any of that nonsense and I would prove that pesky Paul from Analogue Wonderland wrong…..again.

So this was the set-up. I knew I had two days of fantastic and consistent weather coming up. My only time out of the house due to Covid-19 lockdown was early morning 7:30/8:00am when I would walk the dog around the local park. Thus I would shoot one roll one day and the same scenes again the next day on the other roll. Thus I had consistent weather, light, time of day and a standard subject.

Next up I decided to load the film in my Nikon 35Ti on auto mode. That way I had no influence on the exposure settings. Finally when I sent the film to the lab I randomly picked one for E6 and one for the dirty xpro. So no influence on which I thought might be the better day. The scientific amongst you (or Just the Mr Pedantic folk, and it’s always a Mr) no this is not a controlled tightly run experiment, it’s just me doing my best with a camera.

So here are the results as a side by side comparison.

Park Entrance:


Already you can see the difference here. The beautiful lush green in the E6 compared to the horribly blown out mess that is the Xpro. Yes yes sometimes if you know you are going to sin and shoot for xpro you should maybe compensate your exposure in advance as this is a thing. So much more stress to shot xpro.

Pylon:

Lush green and lovely blue for E6 and what only a 12 year old would think is a cool poster by some one hit wonder college grunge band.

Goalpost:

Wow just look at the lovely E6 compared to the Xpro that has turned a Nikon 35Ti from a premium camera to a Holga and not even a good one. Just shoot a Holga if you want that look

Flowers:

Now c’mon are you really going to tell me you like zero detail in your shadow, really!

Playground:

Rich deep colours of E6 compared to washed out, too contrasty xpro. No no no xpro absolutely does not make it more of a cool sc-fi vibe with great shadows


Swing:

Well umm Iet us move on past that one , composition was better on the Xpro and that’s all and I’m sticking with that story

Park:

Lush greens and blues people, just focus on the lush E6 greens and blues.

Having now reviewed the images I have to state the following. Mr Pedantic was obviously right and this was not a tightly enough controlled experiment and combined with the limited choice of scenes may, just may, have given the appearance in one maybe even two photos that Xpro worked better in this limited poorly run small sample test. But I totally and utterly refute this proves anything other than #SayNoToXpro.

There is nothing like when you shoot your first roll of slide film and you see those slides in your hand for the first time, it is mind-blowing. Velvia 50, Kodak E100VS and the new Ektachrome are favourites of mine. So heed my many years of photography experience, a whole 5 years now, I’m practically Ansel Adams experience level and #SayNoToXpro except for Rollei VarioChrome you can Xpro the crap out of that pile of garbage.

~ Sandeep

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15 thoughts on “Stop cross processing your slide film: #Saynotoxpro”

  1. This article was so shallow and arbitrarily provocative that one wonders if it isn’t really some kind troll seeking to stir up the hornet’s nest just for the fun seeing the mayhem it causes. It is disappointing that the writer is implicitly endorsing a certain aesthetic ideology without explicitly acknowledging it. The ideology is that photos ought to be crisp, in focus, should objectively depict the external world. This is the ideology of the f/64 “straight photography” clique which has come to dominate photography. The f/64 school was a party to larger movement in art called Modernism which favors realism. But it is not the only ideology, there are other aesthetic schools where realism is less important where romanticism, impressionism, fantasy, are more important. Historic examples of this are the Pictorialist school and in modern era the marvelous, dream-like, images of Susan Burnstine. In all honesty the opening statement of the article should have been, “If one is card-carrying member of the f/64 ideology then one should never do xpro.” The same grounds by which author condemns Xpro could be applied pin hole photography, alternative printing, in-camera double exposures and many other approaches that do not fit with the f/64 party line. Perhaps the writer thinks all those efforts are an abomination as well. The author complained that Xpro images may be grainy. Hmmm, someone is afraid of grain, why is they doing analog photography? Diversity is good society and good in art. Let people try different approaches for themselves, but above all don’t try to covertly foist one’s ideology on others.

    Reply
  2. I don’t actually terribly like either example in most of the set; one is flat and boring and the other has tons of detail loss. I’d like a bit more contrast without losing _all_ the shadows.

    Lomochrome Metropolis seems to have a bit of that cross-processed feel without having to go through all that mess of actually cross-processing.

    Reply
  3. To be honest, I couldn’t care either way if you should or shouldn’t cross process. If you want to do it, that’s fine, if you don’t then that’s fine too. In my opinion it looks horrible and I don’t think I would ever do it.
    Good article tho, thanks for that!

    Reply
  4. Howcome no discussion about XPRO slide film in B&W chemicals? I have heard of people doing this with very expired slide film that was stored poorly, just to make something that looks interesting and just for the hell-of-it.

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  5. What would Elliott Erwitt* say about processing trickery? Here’s what he said way before xpro, way before digital:
    “As for extreme-wide angle lenses or telephoto lenses or pinkish graduated color filters and so forth. they’re to add interest where there is no interest. You may get a clever result that has nothing to do with observation. I’ve done lots of tricky, gimmicky stuff on commission, but that’s Work and it can be fun, but it is a totally different mind-set, little more than creative obedience.”

    How about Andre Kertesz?** “In 1923, I sent four pictures to another amateur photo exhibition in Budapest, and to my surprise the jury wanted to give me the silver medal. But they asked me to print in bromoil, a process in fashion that made photos look like drawings. Well, for me a photo is art just like any other form, and I refused…I have always known that photography can only be photography.”

    * Elliott Erwitt from the book “Personal Exposures” – W.W. Norton & Company
    ** Andre Kertesz, from the book “Kertesz on Kertesz” – Abbtville Press

    Both photographers are giants in the history of 20th century photography. Kertesz, at almost the beginning of 35mm photography, and Erwitt, a master of capturing unguarded moments and a member of Magnum Photo.

    Both were addressing manipulation of the image to suite fashion. Basically, don’t do it because it infringes upon personal and creative integrity.
    I want my work to fail or succeed based upon my ability to observe and to present my work honestly. I don’t compromise my integrity.

    Reply
  6. Others may x-pro if they wish. Personally, I’ve never been in the “embrace the imperfections” school of analog(ue) photography.

    Reply
  7. en todas las fotos comparativas que subiste, me gusta mas la foto xpro, deja que la gente haga lo que quiera, ?porque todos deberiamos hacer lo mismo que tu ?

    Reply
  8. More than 100 years of research to make photographs as close to reality as possible and what do some people do? Xpro. It’s a sacrilege.

    Reply
  9. lol. Sorry, but in almost every single pair of shots you used to make your point against cross-processing slide, the x-pro photo is by far the better one. Please people, keep cross-processing your slide film, it’s a a hard-core analogue thing in a boring world of digital photography.

    Reply
  10. Hear! Hear! Thank you for saying this. I’ll never understand the attraction of deliberately making poor quality images.

    Reply
    • If you want high quality go for digital. Let people just choose what they like! In the examples shown here the XPro photos show a different character, more unique. The E6 in this case look just boring. Some slides don’t need XPro, though, they already have a good character. And, by the way, the excessively green look of the Lomochrome Xpro shown here is because it has no color correction, otherwise it looks like a very saturated and contrasty slide!

      Reply
  11. Hear! Hear! Thank you for saying this. I’ll never understand the attraction of deliberately making poor quality images.

    Reply
    • Perhaps part of the reason people cross process is to add some interest to otherwise dull shots. Well done for inadvertently playing devil’s advocate and proving that point with the park shots, Sandeep. 😂🤣

      Reply

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