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Showing 21 posts tagged help

How To Make A Homemade Image Slicer (Splitzer) : Photo Tutorial

Guest Post by Jill Auville. Jill is a Swedish-born experimental photographer, wife, cat-dog-bird trio mediator and lover of the rain. Follow her work on DeviantArt or Flickr.

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{Holga CFN, Kodak Portra 160NC, homemade image-slicer}

An image-slicer (often referred to using Lomography’s product name “Splitzer”) is a multiple exposure masking filter, that allows you to shoot multiple exposures within one frame, only exposing some part of the frame each time. A clear soft-surround filter causes a soft blur vignette to your images.

Items You’ll Need:

  • A pair of scissors
  • Tape measure
  • Black mat board paper or soft cardboard paper 
  • Clear plastic, like a sheet protector (for the clear soft-surround filter)
  • Black electrical tape
  • Clear tape (for the clear soft surround filter)
  • Pen

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(Note: For the examples below I used a lighter colored cardboard paper for easier viewing)

STEP 1: Measure the length around your lens, and the width of it. For this example I’m using my Holga, but you can do these filters on any cameras with a similar lens:

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Read more

Alternative Process: Intro to Lith Printing

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Guest post written by Dave Kirby. A 28-year-old photographer from Preston, England, Dave has been photographing for two years using only film. His favorite things are developing and printing in the darkroom, and he loves shooting 6x6. Check out more of his work on his blog and Flickr stream, or follow him on Twitter.

*Disclaimer: This tutorial on lith printing covers the basics, but also assumes the reader has a minimum knowledge of darkroom printing. For some background info and help getting started in the darkroom, check out the Beginner’s Guide to Film Photography.

The Basics: What Is Lith Printing?

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Lith printing is a process using traditional black and white photo paper combined with “lithographic” developer. This process results in very high contrast, black shadows, delicate highlights and coloured mid-tones. Lith prints tend to have a very gritty/grainy look in the lower mid-tones and shadows. 

Lith printing can breathe a whole new life into an everyday image; I have a few shots which looked dull and boring with traditional printing, but that I really love when lithed.  Colour is a natural by-product of the lith process.  Different papers combined with different ratios of developer at different temperatures yield different colours.  There is an almost endless combination of variables in the lith process that can produce different colours and textures.  (This can be extended even further by toning the prints.)

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When I first started looking into making lith prints I did a lot of research online, and noticed the two same names popping up over and over again - Wolfgang Moersch and Tim Rudman.  Both of these men are (current) pioneers of lith printing - trying out every kind of paper and developer at every temperature and dilution to see how each print reacts to different toners. Tim Rudman’s book, ‘The Master Photographer’s Lith Printing Course’ provides a vast wealth of information and is a great place to get started if you are serious about lith printing.  Wolfgang Moersch also provides some extensive articles about various lith procedures, including an area to purchase his own personal blends of lith chemicals and toners. 

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Equipment Needed:

Besides standard darkroom materials,  you’ll need lith developer and compatible paper. There are a variety of developers available; as already mentioned, Wolfgang Moersch makes and sells his own, but Rollei and Fotospeed also make them.  Personally I use Fotospeed LD-20.


Papers are a bit trickier, as some papers work well with the lith process and others don’t.  Foma is the primary brand still producing “lithable” photo papers which are available today. As a general rule of thumb, grade 3 papers and papers with a higher-than-average silver content work well with the lith process.


Some example brands of papers that work well:

  • Fomatone (particularly 131)
  • Fomabrom (gives a “grittier” feel to the print)
  • Adox MMC
  • Ilford Art 300
  • Agfa MCC 118
  • Fomaspeed N 313

The Process: Exposure & Development

Keep in mind: the two “Golden Rules” of lith printing (as stated by Tim Rudman) are as follows:

First, highlights are controlled by exposure, shadows are controlled by development.
Second,  colour, texture and contrast are related to grain size in the emulsion - which is related to development.

On to the process:
 

  1. Mix your developer.  Everyone has a different ratio they like to use, but your best bet is to start at 1:9.  Developer comes in two parts: A and B. Mix a ratio of 1:9 of A and 1:9 of B with water. You can vary the ratio to make the solution stronger or weaker, which will affect print colour.
  2. Pour the mixed solution into the developing tray. Keep the temperature at 20 degrees Celcius. (Higher temperatures speed up the developing process, but this requires a bit of experience.)
  3. Set up the rest of your paper chemistry as usual.
  4. Expose your paper in the enlarger. Test strips are a good idea, as lith print exposures can require up to several minutes. Pick the exposure from the test strip that has the highlight detail desired. Exposure note:the more you overexpose a lith print, the lesser the contrast and the higher the highlight detail. Most lithable papers allow up to 5 stops of overexposure.
  5. Place your paper in the developer. Lith printing differs from standard printing in that your image appears over a very slow period of time through a process called ”infectious development.”  The blackest points of the print appear first and will gradually get darker and darker. Second, the midtones will start to appear and get darker, followed finally by the highlights. Once the shadows hit black, development increases rapidly.
  6.  Pull your paper out of the developer when the shadows reach your desired black and put in the stop bath. Note: There is no set amount of time for this - it depends on your developer strength, developer exhaustion and the paper.  For example, my Fomaspeed N 313 takes about 8 minutes of developing before I get the print I want whereas my Agfa MCC 118 takes over an hour.
  7. Continue the fix and washing process as usual.

Let’s take a look at a print example to explain.  This was made using Fomaspeed N 313:

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The shadow on the left arm of the chair is totally blacked out with not much highlight detail in the snow at the bottom.  Before the arm of the chair got this dark, there was lovely detail there but I delayed - clearly I kept the print too long in the developer.  In order to get more detail in the highlights and midtones while retaining detail in the arm of the chair I would have to overexpose the paper more, such as 4 or 5 stops as opposed to the 2.5 stops used here.  (Note: When over-exposing your paper it is best to extend your exposure time rather than alter the f-stop on your lens to maintain image sharpness.)  Tim Rudman’s book is invaluable for this as he provides examples of how one print looks as exposure and development time are increased.


As mentioned earlier, different papers yield different colours - yellows, golds, browns, purples, blues etc (remember golden rule 2 - colour, texture and contrast are related to development). 

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Lith prints react very well to toners.  For example, Selenium toner can give everything from golds and browns to blues and purples (depending on paper.)  Gold toner turns prints a very soft blue. As a test, select a print you don’t love, drop it into the toner and leave it there for an hour or so. Watch how the print changes colour over time and  make a note for future reference. 

Hopefully this article has inspired you to makeyour own lith prints.  Looking around on sites like Flickr really helps you find new things to try with lith.  I haven’t looked back since starting - I absolutely love it and I’m sure you will too.

Zenit-E: Camera Review

Guest post written by Stephen Dowling. A New Zealander based in London, he is devoted to film photography. He also writes about music, current affairs and anything else that takes his fancy, and he’s never happer than when he has a film camera in his hands. See more of his work on his website, Flickr stream and Facebook Page.

History

One advantage for film photographers since the majority of the photo-taking world has gone digital is that there are some unbelievable film camera bargains to be had - with one of the biggest bargains being the Zenit E.

The Zenit E is a no-frills SLR, manufactured in the Soviet Union from 1965 to 1982. Millions of models were made and widely exported, giving the USSR much-needed hard cash while at the same time giving a new generation of photographers a cost-effective way to get into 35mm SLR photography.

In Europe, you’d be hard pressed to find a flea market or second-hand camera store that doesn’t have one of these on its shelves. Many photographers ditched their dirt-cheap Zenits as soon as they could afford something more sophisticated, making them surprisingly easy to find. When you bear in mind up to eight million of these sturdy beasts were made, that’s a lot of spare Zenits to go around.

Using the Zenit-E
 
Bells and whistles won’t be found on this heavy, roughly-finished camera. With a body made from a one-piece block of aluminium, the Zenit is much heaver than its contemporary counterparts. At the front is the meter window - the Zenit E doesn’t need batteries, instead taking its light readings using a selenium cell. Selenium cells die over time, and are very difficult to replace once they do. The shutter and advance are all mechanical, which means you’ll never have to worry about running out of batteries with one of these.

So how easy is it to use? Pretty easy, though to someone raised in a digital world, a few of the features might appear a little mysterious.

Opening the back is simple; pull up a latch on the back-left of the camera (from behind), and it swings open. Put the film into the left hand side chamber and pull the film leader out until the film sprocket holes catch on the teeth of the film transport on the right hand side (one on top, and one on the bottom), and tuck the end of the film leader under the metal strip which wraps around the take-up spool. Wind on, and if the film is loaded properly you’ll see the film start wrapping around the take up spool. Don’t worry if it takes a few goes. Practice is practice.

Once the film is loaded and wound (don’t forget to close the back!), you’re ready to shoot. Looking at the top plate from above, the meter readout is on the left hand side . Point the Zenit towards a light source and a needle will move in a little readout window - if your selenium cell is working. Next to it is a dial which allows you to set the film speed and turn the dial – this moves another needle with a circular head. When the two needles meet, they will then match a range of shutter/aperture combinations. There’s no exposure info in the viewfinder, which has the feel of an old TV screen – if the light changes drastically you have to recheck the meter and change the lens/shutter settings if need be. If your selenium meter is dead, consider purchasing an external light meter (always a good investment) or trying out the Sunny 16 Rule.

The shutter speeds on the right hand side of the top plate are pretty basic – 1/30th to 1/500th of a second, plus B – and you have to pull the speed selector up before you can select a different speed. The shutter button sits on the right hand side, inside the frame counter/wind on dial. When you’ve finished the film the camera won’t advance anymore. Pop the rewind knob up (it’s inside the exposure calculating dial) and press the button in between the shutter speed selector and frame counter. Turn the rewind knob in the direction of the helpful black arrow, and you should feel the film being returned to the cassette. There’s a definite “bite” when you reach the end.

Lenses

Most Zenit Es came with a version of the Helio-44 58/2 lens – which is capable of truly excellent results. (link to this pic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephendowling/5289827285/). The earliest version are preset – meaning you have to open the aperture up to the maximum to focus, then stop down to expose correctly. This can take a lot of getting used to, so it’s best to go with a later version, which doesn’t close the aperture down until you take the pic. Most Zenit E’s take the M42 mount, which means other excellent lenses for the likes of Pentax, Praktica, Fujica and Chinon cameras can also be used.

When I mentioned at the start of the post that the Zenit was a bargain, I wasn’t joking. My model – inscribed with the logo of the 1980 Moscow Olympics – was picked up at London’s Greenwich Market nearly a decade ago, for only £4. Simply putting a roll of slide film in it doubled its value. The camera’s is great nick – no dents, dings or bits missing. Paired up with a lens like a Pentax Takumar 55/1.8, this is an inexpensive intro into film photography which can still deliver decent results. Even the selenium meter is working perfectly – check out the shot of the scooter, taken in Amalfi last year on Fuji Velvia. That’s four pounds well spent.

Check out Stephen’s blog, Zorki Photo!

Tips for Shooting in Black and White

LEARN TO THINK IN BLACK AND WHITE

If you’re shooting in black and white, your biggest handicap is that your own eyes see in color. Color is vibrant and therefore dominating. Being able to perfectly visualize what you are looking at in black and white can massively improve your black and white photography. This is even more true if you are working in film, as you don’t have a screen which you can set to black and white.

Learning to turn off your “color vision” is neither easy nor difficult - it just takes some practice. If you make the effort, it will happen. Look at black and white images as much as possible, and then try to imagine them in color. Observe how the light looks indoors and outdoors at different times of day, intensity of shadows, shapes, forms and textures - they all look different in black and white versus color.


For example, if you are photographing a woman wearing red lipstick, it will be gray or black in black and white (depending on the shade of red and intensity of color.) Green leaves look gray. Navy blue turns black. Over time, you will be able to look at any scene around you and be able to imagine it perfectly in black and white, with different degrees of contrast.

PAY ATTENTION TO LIGHT

Paying attention to light is a basic tip for improving photography all together, considering photography is based on light. The way light falls on objects, landscapes and people is even more important in black and white, as there is no color information. The intensity of the light and how it interacts with the surroundings are key factors in black and white photography. If you’re using artificial light, you can control these factors. If you’re using natural light, you’ll need to learn to work them to your best advantage to achieve the style you want.

The time of year, time of day and position in regards to the sun are factors to take into consideration when shooting with natural light. Sunlight at noon in June does not look the same as at noon in January. Considering you won’t be able to alter the color balance to fit the mood you want, these factors become even more important.

PAY EQUAL ATTENTION TO SHADOW

Great shadow detail can truly make a black and white photograph look amazing. When shooting film, this works to your advantage as you’ll have more detail in the shadow areas than if shooting digital. Look for interesting patterns and textures when working in shadows, and to obtain maximum detail, meter the darkest area of what you are photographing and bracket based on that reading.

KNOW YOUR FILM

When shooting black and white film, your choice of film brand plays as significant a role as your lighting and camera settings. Grain size, contrast, sharpness, tonal range and push/pull factor will all vary with different types of black and white film. For example, many people rave about Ilford HP5 400 but personally I find it has too much contrast and grain for the type of black and white work I like to do. On the same note, Ilford FP4 tends to be my go-to black and white film because it’s extremely sharp, fine-grained and   looks fantastic when pushed a stop or two. Everyone has their own specific taste and style when it comes to black and white photography and playing around with different types of film can help you find what works for you.

PUSH AND PULL

As I just mentioned, I like to push FP4 a stop. A lot. Why? Because it gives that extra little pop of contrast, for black blacks and white whites. If you were going for a more faded, vintage, washed-out look, pulling your film a stop or two would help you achieve this effect. Pushing and pulling can also save you in difficult lighting situations when you don’t have another ISO available.

WHEN SHOOTING PEOPLE, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE EYES

Have you ever noticed how Richard Avedon’s black and white portraits always have these ridiculously intense, piercing eyes? That’s because he bleached the eyes in his prints to lighten them. If you don’t want to mess with chemicals, you can also get this effect by dodging (both in the darkroom and/or in photo editing software.) If you’re an absolute purist, you can use a reflector but prepared for the model to squint.


For more help with film photography, check out:

Depth of Field for Beginners

Ahh depth of field… aka DOF. This term strikes fear into the hearts of young aspiring photographers everywhere, both film and digital. They know it deals with optics and math - two things that most creative people are not really into. My first instinct is to say that depth of field is not that complicated… but then again I had to take an optics class in college which made me want to stab my eyes out with metal darkroom tongs… and then pour stop bath in them. I believe this class had a very deceptive name, along the lines of “Principles of Photography” or something like that. It was, in fact, all math. Ewww.


But as usual I digress, so let us get back to the task at hand - which is understanding the glorious principles of depth of field and how they apply to your film photography. Let me just say right now that I am about to do a basic overview “for dummies” style, so please do not write to me claiming that I did not explain such and such complicated principle. You can grab a copy of Ansel Adams’ “The Camera” for that. Here we go:


In über-simple laymen’s terms, depth of field refers to the part of your photograph that is in focus. If all or most of your photograph is in focus, you have a deep depth of field (also called deep focus.) If only a part of your photograph is in focus, you have a shallow depth of field (also called shallow focus and selective focus.) And that’s what depth of field is. Seriously.


The tricky part is figuring out how your aperture relates to your depth of field, and your beloved (or hated) exposure triangle. What is an exposure triangle, you say? You best be reading my Exposure 101, I answer. Several factors affect depth of field, including your distance to your subject, the focal length of your lens, your selected aperture (f-stop) and the format you are shooting. This means that a photo taken with a 50mm lens at f/1.8 from the same distance will not have the same depth of field when taken with a 35mm camera and 4x5 field camera.


A general rule to guide you: the smaller the f/stop number (so the larger the opening), the shallower the depth of field. F/1.2 has a shallower depth of field than f/1.8, which has a shallower depth of field than f/2.8 and so on. F/5.6 and F/8 tend to give medium focus, depending on your distance from the subject (and the format you shoot, of course.) If this confuses you, have a look at What is aperture/f-stop?.

Side-by-side examples:

{Selective Focus: F/2.8 - This is pretty shallow, but not to the point where it creates a complete bokeh effect and the background is indistinguishable. Both of these were shot at F/2.8 with a 50mm lens in 35mm.}

{Deep Focus: F/16. -These two, on the other hand, have deep focus - meaning that the foreground and background are in focus. Both were shot at F/16, but the left image is medium format and the right is 35mm.}

{Shallow and medium side-by-side: The background in the left shot is completely blurry with zero detail. It was shot at f/1.8, approximately 12 feet from the subject with an 80mm portrait lens on 35mm film. The right shot has a blurry background, but you can still tell what it is. It was shot at f/8, approximately three feet from the subject with a 50mm lens on medium format film.}

F/32 is most commonly the highest number on lenses that don’t cost a bajillion dollars, but you can definitely come across field cameras with an f/64. In fact, in the early 1930s, a bunch of photographers (including Ansel Adams) got together to form Group F/64. Their principal belief was that photographs should be  perfectly exposed, profoundly sharp and completely in focus (in contrast to the Pictorialist era, for the History of Photo buffs.) An aperture of f/64 was the best way to achieve this, as far as they were concerned.


Some of you may be saying, “Hey, but f/32 really doesn’t let a lot of light in….” No, it doesn’t. This is where mastering your exposure knowledge truly helps you create the photograph you want. If you absolutely have to shoot 100 ISO and need a very deep DOF, you’ll have to lower your shutter speed. If you want to use a specific shutter speed at f/32, you’ll have to pick a film with a high enough ISO.  For those who shoot digital, this doesn’t prove as much of a constraint, considering you can change the ISO. For my beloved kittens who shoot film, your ISO is your ISO and you can’t change it. Even if you decide to push or pull to fit the situation, you still have to shoot at that ISO for the entire roll. For more on that, please check out  What is ISO? in the Beginner’s Guide to Film Photography.

All of this information can seem confusing, but your lens actually tells you the depth of field if you really look at it:

See how it’s on F/2.8? And there’s a little white diamond on the middle ring? And more numbers on the third ring? Voila your DOF indicators. We can understand that the manufacturer says that this lens at F/2.8 has a DOF range of 1.5 to 2 meters, or 5 to 7 feet. Meaning that anything in between that range will be in focus. The manufacterer is most often, but not always, right. (Side Note: Mastery of using these numbers to focus without looking is known as “Zone Focusing” in fancy photographer talk.)

Many SLR film cameras have a depth of field preview button; it’s usually located on the front near the button to release the lens or the self-timer. When you hold the depth of field preview button and look through the viewfinder, you’ll notice it is significantly darker but accurately displays your complete depth of field. For a great explanation of this button, check out Ken Rockwell’s The Depth of Field Preview Button.

Let’s sum up the major points:

  • Depth of field refers to the areas of the photograph in focus.
  • Small f-stop numbers produce shallow depth of field, or selective focus. This is when the background is blurry. Great for portraits.
  • Medium f-stop numbers produce a medium depth of field, still with selective focus, but with significantly more definition in the out-of-focus areas. Good for portraits and specific landscapes. 
  • Large f-stop numbers produce a deep depth of field, meaning the foreground and background are in focus. Ideal for landscapes.

If you want to get more in depth on depth of field (sorry, couldn’t resist), I highly recommend Understanding Depth of Field in Photography from Cambridge in Color. They’ve got loads of fancy diagrams to confuse you ;)

Photographic Film Profile: Fujichrome Provia

  • What it’s for: landscapes, portraits, products, fashion… and just about anything
  • Type: slide film (E-6)
  • Available ISO: 100, 400
  • Available Formats: 35mm (135), 120, 4x5, 8x10
  • Notable characteristics: vivid colors, rich tones, medium contrast, fine grain
  • Web: Fuji Provia 100F, Fuji Provia 400X


Fujichrome Provia is a daylight-type color reversal (slide) film, and happens to be one of my primary go-to films for many different shooting situations. It boasts fine grain, poppy color, great contrast and - most importantly - high versatility, meaning you can use it to shoot people, picturesque moments or whatever strikes your mood. Colors are pretty true to life, but definitely more saturated in bright light situations. Meaning, if you shoot on a sunny day you’ll get insanely blue skies.

The 100F has an RMS of 8, while the 400X has an RMS of 11. What is this, you say? Film grain is made up of tiny, light-sensitive silver halide crystals (for more on this, see How Photographic Film Works) and the level of grain has a number value. RMS (which stands for “root-means-square) is the numerical quantification of film granularity. The lower the number, the finer the grain.

Both the Fuji Provia 100F and 400X cross-process well, tending to go on the greenish side (depending on your lighting conditions and camera, of course.) Personally, cross-processed Provia is my absolute favorite with plastic cameras like the Holga and Woca, as it creates bright and vibrant colors. They both work well with the push/pull process, but the 400X beats out the 100F on reciprocity failure if you like to shoot extended exposures.

This film has only 2 negative points: first is that if you do not live in a major city, processing slide film can be an issue… but that applies to all slide film, not just the FujiChrome Provia. The second is that the 100F really does not work well in low-light situations. If you’re not sure about the lighting, go with the 400X.

Here are some sample images:

Fujichrome Provia 100F (medium format, Kiev 88, normal process)

FujiChrome Provia 100F (medium format, plastic camera, regular process)

FujiChrome Provia 100F (35mm, Nikon FM2, cross-processed)

FujiChrome Provia 100F (medium format, Moskva 5, cross-processed)

FujiChrome Provia 100F ( (medium format, plastic camera, cross-processed)

FujiChrome Provia 400X (medium format, Moskva 5, cross-processed)


{This is a general overview for anyone who wants a little more information when choosing a film brand. For a hardcore profile, check out the tech specs directly at Fujifilm.com}

How to Choose a 35mm Film Camera (for beginners)

One of the questions I get the most on this blog is related to choosing a very first 35mm film camera. In fact, someone just asked me again the other day…. which is why I’ve decided to put together a mini-guide for choosing a 35mm film camera for anyone who is interested in film photography.


You may be saying to yourself, “Why on earth would I buy a film camera now?” While we may be in the heart of the digital age, there are actually many reasons to shoot film - far beyond the nostalgic appeal and low-fi effects. For a solid list, check out 11 Reasons to Shoot Film. For the purpose of this post, the most appealing aspect of shooting film is that you can purchase incredible high-quality, professional-level cameras at insanely low (and sometimes depressing) prices.


If you’re a newbie to the film world, trying to distinguish between a Nikon FM, Canon AE-1 or Pentax K1000 may seem scary, but in reality they all use the same basic functions. So, without further ado, here are 4 basic things to look for when choosing your very first 35mm film camera:


1. 
Make sure the camera has a fully manual function.



If you have decided to learn film photography, you might as well really go all the way and learn to shoot fully manual for total control. Shooting fully manual means that no automatic settings are used, and you will need to correctly balance your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO to achieve a proper exposure. If you need help in that area, have a look at Exposure 101 in my Beginner’s Guide to Film Photography.  Some cameras will have an “M” on the dial to use the manual function, other cameras may feature an “A” for automatic and then display shutter speeds. Most cameras manufactured before the 1980’s are manual and have few (if any) automatic settings.


I cannot stress the importance of shooting fully manual, even when it comes to digital photography. Learning this process will fine tune your photography skills all around and you will probably notice an improvement in your digital photos as well. After years and years of light metering and Sunny 16-ing, I’ve gotten to a point where I can look at a situation and guestimate the correct exposure pretty accurately. No joke, someone just tested me on an airplane and I gave the exact exposure as his light meter. Acquiring this type of skill is an incredible advantage when shooting in “real world conditions” and the easiest way to do it is to force yourself to shoot manual.


2. 
Choose a common model which will be easy to repair

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When investing in your first 35mm film camera, try to choose a relatively common make and model that should be easy to maintain and repair. As much as obscure cameras are beautiful pieces sought after by collectors, the upkeep and repair can get quite pricey as most will require a specialist if they break. The following brands are guaranteed safe bets:

  • Nikon
  • Canon
  • Pentax
  • Olympus
  • Minolta
  • Vivitar
  • Leica (rangefinder)


These large, well-known brands produced many models and can be found (and repaired) all over the world. It is also easier to find an instruction manual for more common camera models. Choosing a common camera model also makes it easier to find extra lenses and accessories such as motorized bottoms (imperative for those who shoot fast.)


3. Opt for a built-in light meter.



Learning correct exposure will be difficult at first when learning to shoot film, and you will not have that handy digital display screen to check your work. Opting for a camera with a built in light meter will save you a lot of money on wasted film as well as facilitate the process of learning exposure. Most film cameras manufactured after the 1950’s come with some form of light meter, but it is best to avoid cameras with Selenium light meters when starting out. Selenium light meters are small strips that look similar to a blank solar calculator screen running across the top of the camera, or around the exterior of the lens. Once the selenium light meter dies, it is difficult and expensive to have replaced. Choose a camera which has a battery operated light meter so that when it dies you can easily replace the battery. 



4. Look for models that use a “standard” 35mm system.



This tip relates to the “choosing a common model” tip, but even big brands have manufactured camera anomalies. Occasionally, but not often, cameras were made that differed quite noticeably from the average 35mm camera - for example requiring the photographer to stop down the aperture before being able to set the shutter speed. Another example - my Fed 5 requires cocking the shutter before changing the shutter speed. These types of cameras were not very successful due to their complicated usage, but collectors snap them up so you may stumble upon one unknowingly. A quick internet search will tell you if the camera you are interested in has any strange instructions or complicated features.


*If you’re not purchasing from a store or authorized dealer, be sure to review this list of things to check when purchasing a vintage camera.

Where To Buy Photographic Film Online (as of 2012)

Voila: a (relatively) comprehensive list of websites which sell photographic film (35mm, 120, medium and large format.) It pains me that this list is so short… but at least we’ve still got options. Many of these websites also sell darkroom equipment, photographic paper and bulk loading supplies. If you’ve got one that’s not on the list, please feel free to add in the comments.

Looking for more info on film photography? Check out I Still Shoot Film’s Links & Resources, Photography Help & How-To’s or the Beginner’s Guide to Film Photography!

How To Take Good Care of Your Film

It suddenly occurred to me that I’ve never done a post on one of the most essential elements of film photography, which is: how to treat your film right. Imagine you’re dating your film, and you must therefore succumb to all of its whims and desires regardless of what you really want. Treating your film properly can significantly extend its life and helps you get the best results possible. So, without further ado, the most important steps to taking good care of your film:

1. KEEP YOUR FILM IN THE FRIDGE. I cannot stress this enough. In fact, it’s so very, very important that I’m going to repeat it 10 times:

  1. KEEP YOUR FILM IN THE FRIDGE
  2. KEEP YOUR FILM IN THE FRIDGE
  3. KEEP YOUR FILM IN THE FRIDGE
  4. KEEP YOUR FILM IN THE FRIDGE
  5. KEEP YOUR FILM IN THE FRIDGE
  6. KEEP YOUR FILM IN THE FRIDGE
  7. KEEP YOUR FILM IN THE FRIDGE
  8. KEEP YOUR FILM IN THE FRIDGE
  9. KEEP YOUR FILM IN THE FRIDGE
  10. KEEP YOUR FILM IN THE FRIDGE

Good. Now get up off your ass and put your film in your fridge RIGHT NOW. Have you ever noticed that professional shops keep the film in big refrigerators like soda vending machines? Yeah, there’s a reason why they do that. It keeps film fresh. Personally, I have an entire shelf and crisper drawer dedicated to film. My husband knows better than to argue with me about this. But that’s nothing. Check this guy out:

This was apparently in preparation for a trip… but I know many photographers who, like this guy,  do not have actual food in their refrigerators.

Now, sadly, the fridge does not fix all film woes when it comes to the cruel hand of time. Here’s an excerpt from Kodak’s official page on Storage and Handling of Unprocessed Film:

Refrigerating camera films reduces the photographic effects of long-term storage, but refrigeration cannot reduce the effects of ambient gamma radiation. Naturally occurring gamma radiation increases the D-min and toe densities and also increases grain. Higher speed films are affected more by gamma radiation than lower speed films. A camera film with an EI (Exposure Index) of 800 has a much greater change than an EI 200 film. Exposed and unprocessed film that has been properly refrigerated retains the speed and contrast of the exposure conditions, but the overall D-min, toe and grain will continue to increase.

For those of you who don’t speak fancy photography, it means your Ilford Delta 3200 won’t keep as long as your Ilford Pan F 50.

2. DO NOT EXPOSE YOUR FILM TO HEAT

Considering #1, this is not that surprising. Film doesn’t like heat. Or too much humidity. Obviously sometimes this is unavoidable, for example if you’re shooting in the middle of July and have film on you for the day. That’s okay. However, if you’re traveling to a tropical climate and have a mini-fridge in your room… you know where this is going. Like people, film does need some humidity and complete dryness isn’t a good thing either (hence the fridge.)

In general you should not leave your film in the car when it’s hot, laying in the sun even if it’s inside your home, or out in places that regularly get warm and humid. Heat and humidity promote mold growth and ferrotyping, which is a fancy way of saying it makes the gelatin base of the film swell, changing the overall surface structure. Basically, it’s not good.

A ferrotyped negative looks like this:

EWWWW.

3. FREEZE FOR LONG-TERM STORAGE

If you stockpile film (I do and if you don’t you should think about it) and intend on storing it for a period of 6 months or longer, the ideal temperature is freezing - actually below freezing, at 0 degrees Fahrenheit and -18 degrees Celsius.

When freezing film, it is essential to let it warm up by 25 degrees (F). That’s approximately three hours for 35mm. If you don’t let it warm up, it will crack and break - because frozen film is brittle film.

4. ACTUALLY LOAD YOUR 120 FILM IN SUBDUED LIGHT

Anyone who has shot 120 film has noticed the “Load in Subdued Light” message printed on the backing paper. Anyone who has shot 120 film will also admit that at some point they have completely and blatantly ignored this instruction. Why? So many reasons, but primarily laziness… which I myself have also been guilty of on occasion.

Sure, there’s a good chance your photos will turn out okay even if you reload in broad daylight, but do you really want to risk it? Fogging sucks, so find a shady corner or shut yourself in a bathroom.

5. WHEN YOU LOAD A ROLL, FINISH IT

Lots of people want to get the most out of a roll of film… in fact, one time my grandfather accidentally wound a roll of film after shooting only 7 frames and asked me to pull it out and reload it in a darkbag so he could finish the roll. But I digress…

Leaving a roll of partially-exposed film in your camera for weeks or months pretty much guarantees your film will be partially degraded. For those of you looking for a quicker solution than waiting for a decade to get “expired film effects,” may like the results. But if you have a variety of cherish photos, some of them will be blown out, faded, have light leaks or have color changes. I’ll quote Kodak again:

Do not keep film in the camera or magazine longer than necessary.

Simple. Besides, if you shoot film, at some point or another you’ll open up a camera back thinking it’s empty only to have your eyes fall upon the silver glossy surface of exposed, undeveloped film, at which point you will probably shriek to yourself and try to close the back as quickly as possible. This doesn’t happen when you finish rolls you start on the same day.

By following these simple steps, you can often extend the life of your film by years without seeing any difference in image quality.

ILFORD FILM PROCESSING CHART
For those of you developing at home (or those of you wanting to) here is a full chart for film processing times with every type of Ilford film and chemicals. I have always said that if you follow directions, you can develop and print your own photographs. This just makes it easier than looking on the tiny box.
Grab the PDF from Ilford’s website for a larger version!

ILFORD FILM PROCESSING CHART

For those of you developing at home (or those of you wanting to) here is a full chart for film processing times with every type of Ilford film and chemicals. I have always said that if you follow directions, you can develop and print your own photographs. This just makes it easier than looking on the tiny box.

Grab the PDF from Ilford’s website for a larger version!

Hello, I'm traveling to Germany soon, should I worry about carrying any film with me while traveling and going through air ports?

Asked by facemafia

For film with an ISO of 800 or higher, you should ask for a hand check. I also ask for them with 120 film, although allegedly they say it’s safe to put through. I usually throw in a roll or two of Ilford Delta 3200, that way they won’t tell you it’s okay to put it through anyway.

Here’s the TSA’s official recommendations for traveling with film (from http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/assistant/editorial_1035.shtm)

TRAVELING WITH FILM

Never place undeveloped film in your checked baggage, our security equipment used for screening checked baggage will damage your undeveloped film.  Place your film in your carry-on baggage or request a hand inspection.  Please note that our carry-on security equipment might also damage certain film if the film passes through more than five times.

If your film cannot be cleared by X-ray inspection, or you desire to have it inspected by hand, you may be required to open the box, canister, or wrapper so our Security Officer can inspect it. We recommend leaving your film in the unopened manufacturer’s packaging.

Our security equipment used for screening checked baggage will damage your undeveloped film. Carry undeveloped film with you to the security checkpoint.

None of the security equipment - neither the machines used for checked baggage nor those used for carry-on baggage - will affect digital camera images or film that has already been processed - slides, videos, photo compact discs or picture memory cards.

General Use Film

You should remove all film from your checked baggage and place it in your carry-on baggage.  The X-ray machine that screens your carry-on baggage at the passenger security checkpoint will not affect undeveloped film under ASA/ISO 800.

If the same roll of film is exposed to X-ray inspections more than 5 times before it is developed, it is possible that damage may occur.  Protect your film by requesting a hand-inspection for your film if it has already passed through the carry-on baggage X-ray screening equipment more than five times.

Specialty Film

At the passenger security checkpoint, you should remove the following types of film from your carry-on baggage and ask for a hand inspection:

  • Film with an ASA/ISO 800 or higher
  • Highly sensitive X-ray, medical or scientific films
  • Film of any speed which is subjected to X-ray surveillance more than 5 times (the effect of X-ray screening is cumulative)
  • Film that is or will be underexposed
  • Film that you intend to ‘push process’
  • Sheet, large format and motion picture film

Tips and Precautions:

To expedite the security process of a hand inspection, you should consider carrying your film in clear canisters, or taking the film out of solid colored canisters and putting it into clear plastic bags.

Consider having your exposed film processed locally before passing through airport security on your return trip.

We recommend that you do not place your film in lead-lined bags since the lead bag will have to be hand-inspected.

You may still consider bringing a lead-lined bag if you are traveling through airports in other countries as their policies may vary. Check with your airline or travel agent for more information on foreign airports.

How To Take Natural-Looking (Posed) Portraits

As a professional photographer, people will ask you to shoot all sorts of things… and it won’t always be gorgeous models or extremely interesting street scenes. One of the biggest sources of revenue for me personally is in shooting portraits of regular people who need photos for all sorts of things. I also get asked by magazines to shoot regular people for lifestyle stories, so it’s important to get a final image that looks natural and not contrived. The problem is that most people are not very comfortable being photographed, which makes getting a natural looking portrait somewhat of a challenge.

Personally, I am not a big fan of portraits that look stiff or posed. Sometimes it can work in the right context, but more often than not it looks awkward. There are several things that I do to avoid this while keeping my subject feeling comfortable:

1. Get to know your subject.

image


(Emeline Piot, Fashion Stylist) 

I always, always, always talk to the person I’m photographing. About life. About music. About the weather. Whatever. I like to get a conversation going because it gets a rapport going - and a photographer must have a rapport with the subject. Talking helps people relax and frequently helps you learn something about them which can in turn  help you make a stronger portrait. I would say I chat with subjects for at least 15 minutes before I even take out my camera. That way the ice is broken before we start shooting.

The above image is of Emeline Piot, a very talented (and adorable) fashion stylist based here in Paris, who I was photographing for Marie Claire. It turns out that Emeline hates to have her picture taken, so I wanted to make her as comfortable as possible. We joked and talked about life while I photographed her for a couple of hours, and at the end of the shoot I had her sit down at a cafe and that’s how I got this shot. After she felt comfortable.

2. Allow some prep and warm-up time.

image

(Alexandra Guerre-Joly, Photo Editor, BE Magazine)

The worst thing you can possibly do on a portrait shoot is to show up and whip out your camera. One key to shooting a “natural” looking portrait is evaluating the space you are shooting in, whether it be outside, at the subject’s home, or at the subject’s office. If you don’t take the time to choose a good setting for your subject and analyze available light in relation to that setting, your portraits will look rushed and awkward. It may actually even take you longer to shoot rather than if you had just spent 20 minutes looking around in the first place. 

For the above shot, the story was on successful women who are addicted to shoes. After touring Alexandra’s gorgeous Parisian apartment, I decided that in front of her shoes was quite fitting.

3. Movement is a good thing.

image

(Isabel Marant, Fashion Designer)

As photographers, we often want our images to be as crisp and sharp as possible. But alas, straying from the scholarly path can actually make for a great portrait. I had the pleasure of shooting Isabel Marant a few years back and, while I have many other shots of her, this one is my favorite. For me, the movement and motion blur are what makes it a “real moment.”Try walking around with your subject and photographing them at the same time. Sometimes, mid-action makes a far better portrait than if the subject were still.

4. It’s OK to smile.

Many portrait photographers have a profound belief that asking your subject to smile makes for a cheeeeeeeezy portrait - which is not technically untrue. Except for the fact that 9 times out of 10, if you send a client a smiley photo within the selection they take it. Take the previous photo of Isabel Marant for example: the fact that she’s laughing makes it happy. And fun.

Instead of going for dead-on cheese, ask your subject to fake laugh. It sounds stupid, but it really works. You can also tell jokes if you think you’re funny enough to make the subject laugh naturally. Not all photographers are funny. Keep this in mind.

5. Provide direction.

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(Valerie Laderriere, Creative Director, L’Oreal China)

Most people don’t know which is their good side, bad side or best angle. They also don’t know if they have a weird mouth or eye twitch every time you press the shutter. Providing your subject with ample direction helps you get the shot while helping your subject feel reassured. I usually tell my subjects to follow my finger with their nose, chin or eyes to get the exact position I want. For portraits, it’s important to pay attention to details such as hand position (claw hands are the worst), slouchy shoulders or bulging fabric. It’s the type of thing that can ruin your portrait when you think it’s great, and you only realize when it’s too late.

For more photography help and how-to’s, check out I Still Shoot Film’s Help & How-To page.