Is there a way I can identify any fingerprints on a negative that do not involve damaging the negative itself?

Has anyone had any success in using an ultraviolet torch to identify fingerprints on their negatives?


  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this would appear to be more about forensics than photography. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 11, 2018 at 20:19
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Are you trying to identify if there are fingerprints on your negatives, and if so in what locations, or are you trying to identify whose fingerprints are on your negatives? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jan 12, 2018 at 5:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dear Mr. Clark. Thanks for your feedback. I am trying to identify if there are any fingerprints on my negatives (whether they are mine or someone else's), in any location, so no specific location. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 12, 2018 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Obviously, using superglue is out. But I don't think fingerprinting powder would damage a negative. Is the negative particularly fragile/old? You may want to avoid closure by rewording this question to place emphasis on the fact that you're working with a film negative. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Jan 12, 2018 at 21:40

2 Answers 2


Body oils are not in themselves fluorescing. No UV source will help you in this regard.

Notwithstanding the value of the film itself, you can use an indirect method of 'lifting' contaminants from the surface with a suitable adhesive material if done carefully. In fact, I have used 3M brand Magic Tape™ for this and similar things.

Here's the official Dick Tracey's Crime-Stoppers fingerprint lifting technique:

You will use a soft high-quality brush like ones used to apply facial make-up.
You will use super-fine powdered charcoal.

• Lightly "Dust" the surface of the negative with the powdered charcoal using the brush.
• Blow the powder from the surface. Some will adhere to the oily print on the surface of the film.
• Use a strip of the adhesive tape to cover the surface with the charcoal-coated print taking care to avoid folds, creases, and bubbles.
• Remove the tape from the film and the material will remain on the sticky tape surface.
• Put the tape on a clean filing card for examination and convenient storage of the evidence.
• Repeat for the more sensitive emulsion side of the negative.

The recommended tape will not leave residue. In fact, I have used the technique to remove problems rather than rewash and dry the negatives. I have worked with 35mm transparencies and saw no ill effects from this at high magnifications.

Good luck.


Is there a way I can identify any fingerprints on a negative that do not involve damaging the negative itself?

If the goal is to eliminate any fingerprints, I'd start with close inspection with a loupe, and setting the light at a shallow angle so that you can see where the reflectivity of the surface is different.

Consider gently cleaning any suspect negatives whether you see the prints or not. You don't have to see fingerprints to eliminate them.

Has anyone had any success in using an ultraviolet torch to identify fingerprints on their negatives?

I just shined a ultraviolet LED flashlight at a number of fingerprint-y surfaces (the glass screen of my smartphone, some metal surfaces, some plastic surfaces, a laptop keyboard, a piano keyboard) and the fingerprints don't show up any better under UV than they do under the white light from a nearby window. Based on that, I don't think a UV light will help you find fingerprints on film.

Here's an article that talks about revealing fingerprints with black light. Unfortunately, the article recommends briefly immersing the object in question in a fluorescent solution in order to make them glow under the black light. I don't think you'd want to do that with your negatives, since the solution might also dye the emulsion, but if you have some bits of developed film that are expendable it might be worth trying. In general, I think the need for the solution supports my contention that a UV light by itself won't help you find fingerprints.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Appreciate your feedback Caleb. Thanks for experimenting with a UV light and getting in touch. I think you've just saved me £5.99p plus postage. I would never dip the negatives in any kind of solution so I think I'll forget about this idea. At least until technology advances to the point where I can identify any prints without putting the negatives in a solution. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 12, 2018 at 18:15

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