Inspired by Lisa Marie’s wonderful cyanotypes, I’ve been looking back over some of the film photography experiments and alternative treatments I’ve tried and enjoyed.
Here are a few, a brief description of my approach, and a sample image or two for each.
Put simply, the film is reversed so light hits the back of the film first. I understand that this is the red layer, hence why images appear in red monochrome. The longer you expose, the less red the effect.
At one end of the spectrum, I’ve enjoyed some very red apocalyptic looking redscale, like this –
More often I explored far more subtle tones, this one achieved by shooting ISO200 redscale film at ISO25, ie three stops over exposed.
You can buy ready made redscale but I preferred the much cheaper approach of taking AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 from Poundland (£1 a roll!) and making my own DIY redscale film.
One Film Two Cameras
This is as straightforward as it sounds. Shoot a roll of film in one camera, then at the end, rewind as usual, but leave the leader sticking out, so you can load it into a second camera and shoot another layer of images over the top of the first.
I’ve had best results here where I’ve chosen a theme for each layer, say landscapes, then people, or close ups, then streets. Otherwise the overlaid images can be overly messy.
A great extension of this idea is a film swap, where you shoot the first layer, then rewind the film and send to someone else to photograph the second layer.
The two images below were both from film swaps.
Expose Both Sides
This is really a natural extension (or perhaps the wild lovechild) of the two previous experiments – redscale and one film two cameras.
You shoot the film straight, then respool it as redscale film, to then shoot the second layer.
Again a theme for each layer works well, and of course you don’t have to use two different cameras.
This is as it says too, simply over exposing the film deliberately to wash out the colours and add a different feeling.
Whereas over exposed digital photographs generally look ghastly, with film you can achieve some very pleasing effects, without ruining the image.
I usually combined this with shooting a lens wide open – ie at its fastest aperture – which seemed to fit well for the dreamy, hazy look.
This shot was with a Pentax-M 50/1.7 lens and AfgaPhoto Vista Plus 200 film, and over exposed by three stops, so shot at ISO25.
Here the film is soaked in a soup of some kind. No, not tomato or minestrone, but any mixture of liquids and powders.
Those I tried most were usually based in lemonade or Lucozade, as these drinks altered the colours of the film, as well as providing artefacts on the final image due to the bubbles.
Washing up liquid, rum, and baking powder also featured in some of my film soup experiments.
The one golden rule here is to make sure the film is dried out completely before running it through your camera. Especially if your cameras are expensive and/or you’re precious about them!
I would usually submerge the film canister in the soup for anything from 10 minutes to a few hours, then shake off the surface liquid, before leaving the canister in a warm place like an airing cupboard or on a sunny window sill for at least a week, sometimes a month or two.
Depending on the combination, and how long you soak the film, the impact can be subtle or fairly radical, like the first photograph below, where the film was soaked in lemonade for an hour.
The intense purple shifts this next film exhibited came from an extended soak in dark rum.
This means developing the film in chemicals intended for a different kind of film. The most common variation here is shooting E6 slide film and processing with regular C41 colour negative chemicals.
I had some very interesting results with films like Kodak EliteChrome EBX, Fuji Velvia 50 and Agfa CT Precisa.
For me one of the joys of the physicality of film was that you could experiment with it literally with your bare hands, whereas with digital, virtually all experimentation of this kind is done in the brain of a computer (whether in the camera itself, or in post processing afterwards).
Redscale, Expose Both Sides and Film Soups especially felt a natural extension of the magical chemistry already inherent in film.
I’ve tried a few similar attempts digitally, but it just leaves me cold. It’s a bit like typing a letter to a loved one in Times New Roman on a computer, rather than writing by hand in your own handwriting, with all of its quirks and smudges.
With digital I’d rather shoot in a cleaner, more unaltered way, with the minimum of digital trickery and finnickery.
How about you? Which kinds of film treatments and experiments have you tried and enjoyed?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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