Is it worth developing long-forgotten films?
Generally speaking, it is possible to recover printable images from just
about all films, even if they are very old. They're well worth sending in for
processing — if they
yield no printable images, your processing payment is refunded.
to view and download our comprehensive 4-page Bluefire processing
brochure (requires Adobe
This is one frame from a seriously damaged roll of 127 black and
white film. This roll and four others had been stored for nearly fifty
years in a California basement, subjected to decades of heat and
high humidity. The film had stuck to its backing paper, which
required several days soaking in distilled water followed by a
delicate recovery effort in the pitch black of a darkroom. The
developed negatives were damaged along the edges, as you can see, where the paper was irrevocably
stuck, and they were so heavily fogged that to the
naked eye they appeared unprintable.
Were they worth printing? Ask the
person who sent them to us. She found these long-forgotten films after
her twin's death. These are irreplaceable images — a perfect
teen-age girl summer from a half-century ago. These are images
alone, unaided by photography, could never recreate.
- black and white films, no matter how old, that have been stored at more or
less room temperature for a long time, usually yield
recoverable images. Any degradation usually takes the form of increased background density ("fog"), and significant loss of contrast. All of these
can be compensated for to some degree with digital post-processing. You may get results that look fresh,
but most of the time some degradation will be obvious (see the extreme example above).
You are very likely to
get results that are well worth the small extra expense.
not much of a picture, is it? ...unless she happens to be
your mother, or sister, proud of her new fur coat, in the vanished
snows of a long-ago mountain springtime, when everyone was young.
This is a particularly interesting example. The
C-22 film was found in a Minox camera I bought on eBay. Minox
negatives are only 8x11mm, the size of the fingernail on a child's
little finger. I have no idea who the people in the pictures are
— I hope someone will recognize this lady and contact me. The
film was almost completely deteriorated from heat and humidity, streaked and almost opaque to the naked eye, but deep
down inside, irreplaceable images were waiting to be recovered.
- color films (including color slide films)
start life, underneath the hood, as black and white negatives associated with color
dyes which are formed during a subsequent color development step, after
which the black and white silver grains are bleached away, leaving an image
made up of colored dye "clouds".
We use a special
If the colors are recoverable but "iffy"
(as in the seriously degraded example above), we
finalize an "iffy" color film and use digital techniques to reduce
the effects of age, which are sometimes quite strange but sometimes quite
- If the film is unusual, extremely old, or damaged by
moisture, we clip-test it to establish processing time;
- then we develop the black and white image and the dye
- if the dye image appears salvageable, we continue
with color development;
- if the colors are not recoverable, we finalize a black
and white negative and make black and white prints.
If the colors are
more or less acceptable (especially considering the alternative), we finalize a color film
and print it as a modern film. The colors and
not look fresh, and in fact they will probably look somewhat strange — but they will be more or
It is useful to remember that not that many years ago, the
standard color films gave colors that seemed wonderful at the time, but would
not be acceptable today.
Films that have been stored for a long time in hot, humid environments
(for example, fifty years in an attic in Mayfield, Kentucky) are very
Films that have been continuously stored cool, or, better, cold, or even
better, frozen, and sealed against humidity, will probably yield excellent
image, no matter how old. This is a lot to hope for -- since the inception
of this business, we have never seen a frozen or cold-stored roll sent in
for processing. Maybe you could be the first (you'll be very pleased!).
Our warranty: if the film you send us is blank, or has no recoverable
images, we refund your development charge.
For complete information regarding this service here, click here to download
the four-page Bluefire processing brochure (requires Adobe