An alternative Colour Film Process

For many years a practiced a film processing technique called colour acceleration. It was something I came across at Brooks Institute of Photography while doing a colour theory degree.

It was presented to the students as a technical way to increase film speed, when 400 ISO speeds were still in the future. It worked, but had a side effect – massive colour shift.

The assignment we were given was to test some film in a studio environment. We were given a plastic bowl of fruit and some lights…boring!

Me being the curious type thought I would try something totally different and take this technique into the world. The reason this had not been done before was it was awfully hard to control the effects of the process. Exposure was critical and had to be based on specific dilutions of bleach and development times (all this I learned later!)

I was completely addicted after my first “successes”. And spent the next 10 years improving the process with different films and chemicals. All very stinky I assure you!

One thing I was really aiming for was capturing a good skin tone. But it was really quite difficult and had little success.

Once digital came around colour acceleration started to take a back seat to all the new fangled stuff I had to learn. And slowly the process became my history.

I still have all my labs sheets for every roll I processed. Maybe someday I will go back and try again but it seems to be something from the past now.

Anyway, here is a selection of images done with colour acceleration.

Below is a statement I hung at gallery shows so people didn’t think it was all Photoshop!

Colour Acceleration is a “dual film” process not a “cross process”, as most altered film is. In the first phase the film is processed in black and white chemistry, fixated, then bleached and re-exposed to light. The result is a negative that has been “solarized”, which I control in the bleach step. 

The majority of  images in Arboreal Dreams are printed on Fuji Supergloss polyester(plastic)based photographic paper.  In my experience it is the best photographic paper for my images.  It’s qualities are deep saturation and high contrast with an archival life of five hundred years(they say!).

The image colours are natural and are inherent qualities of its negative and are not manipulated digitally or enhanced.


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    1. Yes, that is the Gogo’s. I used to hand out with Kathy Valentine in my LA days. She had a group in the 90’s called The Delphines. They wrote some killer songs and were amazing live.

      1. Too cool… When my older brother had a band in the late 70’s and early 80’s playing gigs up in Hollywood at the Whiskey, Gazzari’s, Troubadoor, and such, I saw a number of bands that were really good live but never “made it”.

  1. These are so fascinating and I have a huge respect for your color knowledge and experience in color manipulation in the film days. I just had to pick my favorites!
    1. Woman in black outfit and hat in the long corridor
    2. *Panties on clothes line – the angle, the colors to die for!!
    3. Sun on purple sky with tilted horizon
    4. Two horses
    5. Vivid red tree on yellow/red background
    6. Birds on the railing – I already loved it when you used it in the Theory lesson
    7. Wedding couple – lovely skin tone, amazing colors

  2. This is a really cool collection. I started to pick a favorite but can’t! Really like them all and agree with Carol about your color knowledge. I really just have to say it ……”psychedelic…“ !

  3. The haiku tree blossoms is my favorite of these because it looks like it could be kind of a natural shot.

    1. Yes, it is the most natural one. At the time I thought it was a processing failure because of the very slight effect, but it grew on me and became on of my favorites for its Japanese influenced look.