Cross-processing is one of the easiest film experiments you can try. What it involves is taking a film and getting it developed in the chemicals used for another photographic process.
The most common cross-processing technique is to take slide film (E6 process) and develop it in the chemicals used for colour negatives (C-41). Cross-processing creates warped colours, boosts contrast and adds grain. It’s a process that creates incredibly saturated, eye-catching pictures.
In the days long before Instagram, it was cross-processing that made such a star of the humble Lomo LC-A, and spawned the analogue movement Lomography. The Lomo’s saturated lens and tendency to vignette made it perfectly suited to the lurid colours and atmospheric, heightened grain.
Cross-processing – using more sophisticated cameras – was a hallmark of edgier fashion and music photography aswell, lending un-natural colour tones. Like the filters found on apps such as Instagram, it’s not a technique that works 100% of the time – shooting colour slide xpro in dull weather can be more miss-than-hit – but at its best it can breathe new life into your photography.
The only problem is – slide film is very much on the wane. Fuji is the only major film manufacturer still bothering to make new slide film, and that slide film is expensive – in the UK a roll of it is likely to cost you at least £10. And Fuji’s Provia and Velvia films, the last they are making, look much better shot normally than they do cross-processed; Provia picks up a nasty lurid green tone and Velvia tends to show up a strong magenta/purple cast.
They’re a long way from the results you can get with the two films that really came alive with cross-processing. One of these was the original Agfa CT100 Precisa, a consumer-grade slide film made by the German film manufacturer until around 2006 but was then later repackaged as Fuji Provia which is what you see on the market today, averaging at about £6/7 a roll, great if you want to shoot slide on a budget. When cross-processed Precisa looks amazing – blues become super-saturated, reds shine, grain is boosted and shadows become deep and rich. The next best is Kodak Elite Chrome 100, another film where colour and grain are boosted. Elite Chrome was discontinued in 2011. Apart from one brand of Lomography slide film – rebadged Agfa RSX200 – things have looked grim for those wanting to evoke that early 90s Lomo look.