This may be a naive question, as I am not familiar with photography using negatives storing the photo images.

So in the film of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", Walter Mitty examines the negatives of photos in the bright sunny day.

How can Walter Mitty examine the negatives of photos in the bright sunny day without destroying the negatives? Is that due to some protection covering the negatives? Or particular materials or chemicals of the negatives? Or other reasons?

p.s. it will be the best that the answer can be more chemistry-oriented, explaining the chemical process.

(photo resources by googling -beware a spoiler for the film):

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1 Answer 1


Film negatives are only light-sensitive while in the camera, until they are removed and processed. The processing includes a step to "fix" the image so that the negatives will not be further exposed by light. So once processed, film negatives (and slides) can be handled in daylight.

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    \$\begingroup\$ To create a print, a negative is placed in an Enlarger, which shines a focused, bright light through it, onto a piece of photo paper. The photo paper is developed, and a print emerges. In other words, the negative is designed specifically for light to shine through it. \$\endgroup\$
    – cmason
    Jul 26, 2014 at 22:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ MikeW: Thanks so much MikeW, +1. Are you familiar with the chemical compounds or the chemical procedure that you just describe? :) \$\endgroup\$
    – wonderich
    Jul 26, 2014 at 23:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I used to have a B&W darkroom, so familiar with that process. You would use three chemical baths: developer to bring out the image, a "stop batch" to halt the process, then a "fixer" to make the image permanent. Similar steps in doing the negative, then the print. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Jul 27, 2014 at 3:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @cmason good point. And similarly a positive (slide) is designed to be loaded into a projector and having a bright light shone through it. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Jul 27, 2014 at 3:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Start here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photographic_processing \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Jul 28, 2014 at 1:32

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