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I've noticed that developed colour negatives usually have an orange layer.

Is this an artifact of an old printing process, required by the chemistry, or is there some other benefit to it?

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1 – whuber Jan 25 '11 at 23:19
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Looks like has a really complete answer:

Why do negatives need an orange mask? The simple answer is "impure dyes." This is generally true of all chromogenic photographic materials, where the dye molecules are made of a color coupler that is built into the emulsion, combined with the by-product of the development of silver by a color developing agent. With this kind of thing going on, the choice of dyes is a bit limited, and we end with dyes that are not as good as some others... (more)

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I did come accross the linked article, but I don't really understand how it interacts with slide film. - scanned slides appear to have correct colour, which would seem to imply that the dies that the mask purports to correct are correctly there? – Jon.Griffen Jan 25 '11 at 23:32
Ah, yea, good question. – Shizam Jan 25 '11 at 23:56
That's (part of) why slide film is more expensive -- they go to quite a bit of extra work to ensure that each dye layer is much "purer" (e.g., adding extra "sealing" layers between the dye layers). E.g., page 6 of:… – Jerry Coffin Jan 26 '11 at 0:00
Instead of just linking to an answer, why not create an answer here. Almost 60% of this site's traffic comes from search engines. A link does nothing to bring more members to this site. – Robert Cartaino Jan 26 '11 at 16:38
@Shizam: You can still link the other site, but our answer guidelines state that any key information from that site should be quoted and/or summarized here. – jrista Jan 26 '11 at 19:31

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