I'm digitizing old family slides done by my father in the late 50s/early 60s. In the collection there are a bunch of pictures with a strong red cast:

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Here after digitization:

enter image description here

I am wondering where the cast comes from... All these pictures have something in common:

  • They are manually dated by my father as being taken in 1959
  • They aren't in the usual Ektachrome/Kodachrome frames
  • At least one of the pictures has the edges not cut square

So the framing is probably an amateur job by my father. On several of the slides I can see "safety film" near the sprocket holes, and on one I can see "chrome" but the beginning is cut off and I cannot tell if that was "Koda", "Ekta" or something else. But it were standard slide film, if would have been cut/processed by Kodak and my father would never have to do this by himself?

As far as my research goes, unlike Kodachrome, Ektachrome could be developed by local labs (or even by amateurs, though this is certainly not the case here), so could this be a development botched by a local lab? But other Ektachrome pictures have an official Ektachrome frame... So it was botched, returned for free but without frames, and my father framed the slides?

The plot thickens... further in the collection I stumble upon another pinkish slide dated from 1956 but in an official Ektachrome frame. So this would be a problem with any old Ektachrome? But in 1961 everything seems fine...

Any ideas or clues?


1 Answer 1


Kodachrome slide film of that era was initially only processed by Kodak. You purchased the film, and included in the price was a mailing bag. You filled in the address which was Rochester NY or one of about a dozen Kodak Lab located in principal cities. Ektachrome, on the other hand could be processed by the photographer or at numerous phofinishing shops all over the world. There were several Ektachrome knock-off brands available.

The Kodachrome process was very complex. That and trade secrets kept the process at Kodak until Kodak lost a Monopoly Suit. Both films, after processing gained their colors via three dyes, magenta (red-blue), cyan (green-blue) and yellow. The Kodachrome dyes were more robust. All were organic and thus fugitive. Organic material change their characteristics with heat, pH changes, chemical changes, and age. The cyan dye is the least stable.

Should the cyan dye fade, the other two which are magenta and yellow prevail. Magenta + yellow = red. In other words, your slides have a reddish hue because the cyan dye has paled.

None of the dyes can be chemically restored, however you can make digital copies and use software to restore the colors. Such software is available for download on the web.

P.S. After Kodak lost the suit, I was schooled by Kodak to process Kodachrome. I was Quality Control Manager Dynacolor Cop. A 3M subsidiary. We made a Kodachrome knock-off and Scoth Brand color and black & white films.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Got me thinking, if the cyan dye is fading, I can compensate by lighting the slide with a cyan light source; Since my lightsource is an Aputure MC, I tried this and it works... \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Mar 18 at 8:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xenoid then post the results to show us, it's interesting. \$\endgroup\$
    – FarO
    Mar 18 at 8:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @FarO: Hue; 180°, Sat 18%: i.imgur.com/8kzc7tG.jpeg \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Mar 18 at 8:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xenoid Even if it looks better, you still have a significant red colour cast in the shadows and due to the cyan light source, you now in addition have a cyan colour cast in the highlights. Modifying the colour of the light source won't repair the faded cyan dyes in the film. You will achieve much better results if you use dedicated software for restoring colour in old, faded colour photos. \$\endgroup\$
    – jarnbjo
    Mar 18 at 12:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ xenoid - A tip of the hat from Alan Marcus! \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18 at 14:04

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