Please can someone advise me what might have caused this & what I should do to ensure it doesn't happen again?

The lines start up higher near the start of the film and are quiet low by the end of the film - and the lines do appear on the negative when held up to light.

poor loading of film? winding of the film? (after each picture or at very end rewind?) dust/dirt in side camera? person developing film?

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  • 1
    Has this occurred with only one roll of film? Or multiple times?
    – Michael C
    Jun 29 '16 at 23:38
  • In what type of camera was the film shot.
    – Michael C
    Jun 29 '16 at 23:38
  • Just the one film i have just got developed - used a local "Max Spielmann" shop. I used a Pentax MX to take them, thanks.
    – hdb23
    Jun 30 '16 at 0:24

Typically this C-41 35mm film is developed in an automatic film processing machine. Likely your film was developed in in a "roller transport" type machine. These machines transport the film from chemical tank to chemical tank. The film path is over and under a series of plastic rollers. These machines are highly dependent on volume and daily maintenance. If not inspected and cleaned each day, the transport rollers can become encrusted with dried chemicals and they freeze. Should this happen the film is likely damaged. The images you posted likely are the result of poor machine maintenance.

  • 5
    do you think it is worth me complaining to the company?
    – hdb23
    Jun 30 '16 at 0:39
  • 5
    @hdb23 I would want to make sure that I won't have any scratches on film ever again, so I think it is worth getting their feedback (provided I don't have to drive to the lab 4 hours each way...).
    – MirekE
    Jun 30 '16 at 1:48
  • 3
    @hdb23 It's definitely worth shooting a test roll in the same camera, and getting it developed by a different different shop. That way, you can pretty much eliminate the possibility of it being something in the camera, and can prove to them that it is their processing machine and not your camera Jun 30 '16 at 10:00
  • 2
    @laurencemadill You don't have to prove anything to the lab. The marks were diagonal according to the OP. That eliminates a machine of any kind including a camera. It's a handling problem. That puts it in the lap of someone at the lab.
    – Stan
    Jun 30 '16 at 13:58
  • 4
    Having worked in a photo lab for about three years, this is exactly what i thought as soon as I saw this. They are not actual scratches. Not only does the processor not have a good cleaning and maintenance regimen, they also have zero quality control, because you can't fan through prints without noticing that right away, and if you're a decent human, then panicking over the fact that you've ruined someone's negatives - and maybe even other negatives processed between this roll and when QC caught it. The asker should get a refund and never send their film to this place again. Jun 30 '16 at 14:07

If the scratches are perfectly parallel with edges of the film, they may be caused by a grain of dirt in the camera or in the film cassette.

If the scratches are not perfectly parallel with the film edges, they were most likely made during the processing or after. Scratches in wet emulsion look differently than scratches in dry emulsion. You could try to recreate the scratches with dry and wet film and compare to the original.


I think your film was processed by hand or semi-automated equipment in a small lab. These appear to be squeegee marks from your description of them.

Automated equipment produces consistent and parallel results. You describe inconsistent and irregular results. Inconsistencies usually happen as the result of irregular, unusual, or careless manual processing.

At the end of the processing, film is usually hung up to dry in a drying cabinet if not by forced air in a fully automated film processor.

These marks are consistent with a manual means of removing extra water from the strip of film after the final rinse to shorten drying time.

Various means are used to do this. The two most popular ways are with a very soft chamois "cloth" (It's really leather) or a hand-held windshield wiper like device. If either thing is contaminated, it will scratch the film.

Now, the question remains as to what you can do to remedy the problem, if anything.

If the marks are on the very shiny side, they may be either scratches or water marks that have dried on the base of the film. If they are water marks, the film can be re-washed and re-dried or cleaned carefully with film cleaner on a wad of cotton. If they are scratches, they can be minimized with anti-scratch solution next time you get prints. Ask for custom printing.

If the marks are on the dull side, there's little you can do to save the pictures short of having them retouched to remove the imperfections if they're important enough.

  • Looks like hours of retouching with the clone tool on photoshop I'm afraid!
    – hdb23
    Jun 30 '16 at 2:38
  • I don't recall using any kind of squeegee back in the day. Just rinse with surfactant and hang in a drying cabinet. If you need to hang up anyway, what's the point in wiping too?
    – JDługosz
    Jun 30 '16 at 12:29
  • 1
    @JDługosz using a squeegee, or even just your fingers, is standard practice at an undergraduate art studio I went to. Getting the bulk of the water off reduces drying time in a drying cabinet. Jun 30 '16 at 13:29
  • 1
    I was taught, in contrast, that wet film is very delicate and should not be touched at all. Drying was left overnight. The water mostly slides off and the real drying time is letting the geliton layer dry out, not the remaining beaded water.
    – JDługosz
    Jun 30 '16 at 13:34
  • @JDługosz You were taught well. The final rinse often contained a wetting agent to prevent beading. This didn't prevent impatient people from trying to hack the system. I worked for a news agency and we used the film AS it was being fixed, still wet and without even a rinse. Our developer and solutions were overheated to do things FAST. Our film had labels "URGENT - Newsfilm - USELESS if delayed. We did things to get results that you wouldn't believe today.
    – Stan
    Jun 30 '16 at 15:02

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