Skip Bleach Processing

This week I’ve been teaching the students how to do skip bleach processing (of Bleach Bypass, as it can be known as) with C41 film and the merits of this techniques. Below are two nice examples from Chris Collins on Flickr,

Screen shot 2013-01-31 at 23.36.30    Screen shot 2013-01-31 at 23.37.49

As I’m sure you’re all aware by now, I love film photography, and I really enjoy trying out all different creative techniques. Skip bleach processing does exactly what it says on the tin, it’s when you process a C41 colour film, but miss out the bleach stage. Hand proceeding film is a three stage process, you start with the developer, then into the bleach, then finally the fix, before rising and drying. The bleach part of film processing usually removes the silver part of the emulsion, leaving only the colour dye on the film, however by skipping this stage you retain the silver resulting in different creative effects. The negatives will look very dense as they have the additional silver on them and the images should increase in contrast and decrease in saturation. The silver adds blacks and greys to the images creating almost the effect of a black and white negative with a colour negative. Also highlights maybe blown out and increased graininess. As with all experimental and creative techniques the effect can change massively from one film to the next and especially across types of film, so it’s great for adding another element to images.

This technique is also really popular with cinematography to create a very specific mood to a film, Saving Private Ryan (film still below) is a perfect example. That film used this techniques and it shows the desaturated , grainy effect you can produce.

Screen shot 2013-01-31 at 23.57.10     Screen shot 2013-01-31 at 23.58.54

(Images from Google Images )

Everyone may process slightly different depending on their set up and personal preference but below is the basics and how we process, step by step:

  1. Check the temperature of your developer – this is crucial, a degree out will make all the difference. 38C is ideal
  2. Get all your equipment lines up as once the lights go out and the films free you’re turing the light on till you’ve finished – you’ll need something to open your film canister, scissors, a film spiral, and either a developing take or (as I do it) a stick to place it on which then goes into the dev tank.
  3. Turn the lights off
  4. Open your films canister, and load the film onto the spiral
  5. Watching the clock (ideally with glow in the dark hands) and place the film (on the spiral on the stick) into the developer when the second hand is on a number with is easy to count 30sec from, so for me that’s either the 12 or the 6
  6. Agitate constantly for 30 sec’s, then once every 30 sec’s until the film has been in the developer for 3min 15 sec.
  7. Lift the film out, shake off any excess developer and place it in the fixer
  8. Agitate for 30 sec’s constantly then once every 30 sec’s until the film has been in for 3min 15 sec.
  9. Lift out the film and place it in running clean water to rinse.
  10. Turn the light on and check your results

As stated above every might do it slightly different but the basic principles are the same. I’ve shot and processed a film of my own like that this week so soon as I can get back into the darkroom, (when I’m not teaching), I’ll print mine up and post them to show you.

I hope you find this useful. I’ll try and post step by steps on various different techniques and post them in my technique category, so please let me know if you have any requests. Happy processing 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s