A mannequin on a gloomy Ghent evening, shot on a Voigtlander Bessaflex and Kodak Tri-X rated at 3200
This is the sixth article in a series in collaboration with Film’s Not Dead.
Push processing is one of the film photographer’s secret weapons. It’s a useful trick when you suddenly find you need to use higher shutter speeds to capture action, or find yourself in lower light than expected. It allows you to use faster shutter speeds – meaning pictures won’t be blurred or underexposed – and increases grain, which can add bags of atmosphere.
As long as your camera allows you to manually change your film speed rating, push-processing is easy to do. It means changing the ISO rating on your camera so that the camera thinks it’s shooting a faster-speed film. So if you have a roll of 100-speed film, you set the camera’s meter to 200, or 400. Or if you have 400-speed film, uprating the meter to 800 or 1600 is also a tried-and-tested trick.
It’s one of the easiest film experiments to try out, though for best results there’s a few things to remember.
This is the fifth article in a series in collaboration with Film’s Not Dead.
There’s no getting away from it – shooting film can be frustrating. If you’ve come from digital, where a shot can be tweaked and upgraded at the touch of a few buttons, the gap between what you see in your viewfinder and what turns up on the negatives can be dispiriting.
Every film photographer has had that feeling; the expectation of an incredible shot that is punctured when the prints or scans come back from the lab – pics scratched, blurry, underexposed or poorly composed. Enough of those moments and it’s no wonder many think ‘what’s the point?’ and return to digital. You can’t blame them.
Most of those frustrations are easily solved however. There’s a few things worth bearing in mind until they become second nature – the kind of thing that those of us who’ve been shooting on film for years do without even thinking.
“Tough guy. Billy calling. I want you to come back from Romania. Come to Soho,” read the text. I wasn’t actually in Romania, but that didn’t seem important. “I want you to take a vintage camera photo for me (for money but very little money).” Billy Brentford is often this cryptic.
What for, I texted back? “My supergroup. Dean St Studios. B/W. Analogue photos. Wanna look like a band on Stiff in 1978.”
Soho. Stiff Records. Last gangs in town and black and white film. It was a deal. So I found myself in Soho on a cold grey October day, a pair of Pentaxes in my camera bag and a bunch of black and white film, off to meet a band who went by the name Thee Concerned Citizens.
A menacing shadow on London’s South Bank, taken on an old Zenit 3M and cross-processed and expired Agfa CT100 Precisa.
Photographic film is an odd beast; strips of plastic, layered with gelatine emulsions peppered with silver salts. Its sensitivity to light means accidental exposure can ruin it in a split second. It doesn’t like heat. Sitting on a shelf in a camera store or chemist, it is constantly slowly degrading, losing structure and quality. Like spoiling food, film erodes with every minute of every passing day.
The received wisdom is to pay attention to the use-by date on a roll of film, and shoot and develop it well within expiration; if you’re shooting on pro-level films, this ensures that a uniform look – and quality – is maintained.
But film doesn’t become useless as soon as the clock ticks past the expiry date. Some films can last years – even decades – past their intended use by date, as long as they’re carefully stored. The problem is heat and radiation; that tiny but constant dose will eventually turn film into a fogged mess.
And even with that degradation, that slow collapse, expired film can still take fantastic pictures. Colour shifts and lack of sharpness can elevate some shots from ordinary to surreal. Sometimes using film in perfect working order isn’t the best option at all. There is excellence in the expired.
This is the fourth article in a series in collaboration with Film’s Not Dead.
There’s two bits of kit that are vital when you’re starting out in film photography. It’s not something that you need to buy from a camera store, nor order over the internet. You’ll find them in every corner store, and they will cost you next to nothing.
A notebook and pen are invaluable for any photographer, but especially for those shooting film. I have one in all three of my camera bags, just in case I forget to take one before I head out for the day. I’ve got a soft spot for Moleskine notebooks, the re-released little black book used by travel writers, poets and artists through the 20th Century, but any reasonably robust little notebook will do.
Digital photographers have the benefit of EXIF data when it comes to editing their work – with a few clicks they can find out the shutter speed and aperture chosen, the ISO, even the time and the exact spot the picture was taken. Shooting film, you have to jot all this stuff down yourself. And you should – when it comes to looking through your pics, you’ll want to know why some shots worked – and why some were failures.