The Problem

I’ve started seeing white dots and scratches on my scans that don’t resemble dust:

I included a speck of dust, at left, in this example to demonstrate that the specks are similar (i.e. white), but not quite the same

This image is cropped from an exposed part of a scan, in the sky portion of a landscape shot. Normally, I would examine the negative to determine what’s going on (and show you a picture), but unfortunately, I don’t have a loupe powerful enough to show you what this looks like on the lightbox. You’ll have to take my word for it

What’s going on?

There are a few clues here, both from the scan and from my processing technique:

  1. The scratches are parallel to the long axis of the negative, leading me to believe that these scratches were a result of of squeegeeing
  2. The spots are persistent. I always dust my negatives with compressed air and a microfiber cloth prior to scanning, which eliminates most normal dust. These stuck around regardless
  3. The spots are white, which means that they’re high-density on the negative

This led me to the theory that there’s excess silver floating around in my fixer, which is depositing itself onto the negative and creating these spots of high density, and then being smeared down the film when I squeegee it.

The Solution

I mixed a new batch of fixer (Kodafix), and the problem went away for a little while, but the new batch unfortunately became saturated quicker than normal as well. I believe this was due to me using a rather old (~1 year) bottle of concentrate, but I can’t be sure. I bought a new bottle (Ilford Rapid Fix) to take for a spin, and it seems to be working great thus far.

It should be mentioned that I also tried to just stop squeegeeing and hope that I could get away with just that. This solution led to this:

A starry night in the sunny sky

The spots are still visible, but look like tiny dust spots instead of scratches. I tried cleaning the negatives with alcohol and a microfiber wipe, but no dice. The moral of the story: change your fixer more often than you think you need to, and especially before you develop a roll you’re really psyched about.

I’ve heard some photographers run their fixer through a coffee filter every so often to cut down on particulate. I did not try that in this case, but depending on the size of these particles, that may have worked out as well.