David Krooshof

Direct Color Positives

I learned to do this process from Joe van Cleave and Ethan Moses' videos about it. In the spring of 2020 I had some extra time on my hands and experimented with colorfilters in my lens for color correction. Then I went into forest, where it was more busy than usual, and shot pictures of people at a distance larger than a meter and a half.

Then I took the papers to the darkroom. Seeing the image appear is just magic.

Shooting direct color positive portraits

There is a grainyness to these images that I want to overcome by shooting much bigger papers, so I need a much bigger camera.

Standing in the heather, being early spring, it’s brown. The dark cloth is blown up by the wind. My hands above my head as if cheering. The camera is a ply wood 4x5 on a classic wooden tripod. My dog is sniffing near my feet.

Diving under the dark cloth

  • A view through the viewfinder of my 4x5. You can see the plywood filmholder clamp, with the ground glass in it. There is a fresnel lens over the ground glass, but still is strong vignetting. There is an orange cast over the image: that is my color correction that I mounted into the lens.
  • Three trays in different colors, two small, the third one big and red. They will hold the chemicals for the first step: black and white developer, stopbath and rinse with water.
  • Three images of a statue of Jesus and the Holy Heart. There is only white, green and blue in the image. RA4 paper takes heavy color corrections, this is why C41 negatives have an orange base.
  • The church I live in, seen from the garden. It’s been converted to an apartment building. You see the balconies that have been scooped out of the original roof. There are only shades of orange and red in this image, because I over-compensated the green cast of the first attempts.
  • Selfie. Short hair and a beard, myspace angle. The image is both too bright and to dark. Where the background is not washed out, there is a blue color cast.
  • Photo hanging to dry, on it’s side. Two guys in their thirties playing with a ball in a children’s playground. Bright green and red playing attributes and a church  behind them.
  • My hand holding a 4x5 inch photo by the edges, of a guy in his forties in front of his house, leaning into a lamp post, holding a beer. The colors seem off and correct at the same time.
  • Five images floating in my bath. RA4 paper development needs to be warm, or there will be color casts.

Examples of the photos I took, mostly shot in my deluxe darkroom. It even has a bath!

The challenge with direct color positives is getting the colors correct. RA4 type paper needs a heavy color correction. Normally the negatives correct for this; this is why color negatives are on an orange film.

You can see such an orange cast in the view through my wooden camera for this very reason.

I used lee filters for theater lamps. To keep the dust off, and to safe them from cleaning marks, I put them inside the lens, between the elements.

Temperature matters too. I was developing in may bath tub at first, keeping everything warm, au bain marie.

The bath tub got really smelly, to the point I felt like bathing in blix when taking a bath myself.

When I developed so much that the bath cooled down anyway, I realized that since I was color correcting in the lens filter anyway, I can correct for cold dev too, and just put the trays on my desk.

Shooting is tricky too. There really is no room for under or over exposure. It's iso 3 by the way, filters included.

I think I need to add an UV/IR cut filter over the lens too.

This is Ans. She is in here nineties, standing next to her bike, in the forest. "Are you really going to take my picture with that camera?", she asked, pointing at it. And that is when I tripped the shutter.

"Are you really going to take my picture with that camera?", Ans asked, pointing at it.


This project brought the need for a bigger camera to shoot bigger sheets, and the wish for a built in darkroom, so I can do this on the spot. Do check out the Street Camera project.