Meet the Medium: Film Photography

Hey hey, Alice here! Inspired by this week’s episode where we went along to Side Gallery in Newcastle to check out J A Mortram’s poignant and emotional photography exhibition, ‘Small Town Inertia’, I thought I’d introduce some of you to the world of film photography.

This is my main medium; a large part of my degree was photography, however it took me until my final year to delve into using film. This is probably for the best because given the nature of film: you’re not able to check your shot immediately, you’re restricted to a certain number of shots per roll of film, and you don’t necessarily have a lot of range when it comes to editing, so I’m glad I actually learned how to take and compose images first.

Here’s some stuff:

This is an example of a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera, and is one I’m currently trying out. IT’s a Zenit 11 which is one of the many Soviet-made cameras from the 60s which I managed to get on eBay in surprisingly good nick. This works pretty much the same as a DSLR today, but instead of having a screen to view your settings and images you need to load it with film, for which there is a tonne to choose from, and take generally no more than 36 with a single roll.

This is a roll of 35mm film which you could use in the above camera. In particular it’s a roll of Lomography 100 which is a colour negative film and currently my fave – it’s pretty cheap and the colours you get from it are just fab. Colour negative film means that when it’s developed (which you can still do at Max Spielmann’s for cheap-ish) the colours are inverted. If you were to to print them in a darkroom or scan them using dedicated software the colours will invert, giving you a positive image.

Here’s some pictures I’ve taken using this film:

This is an example of a medium format film, so named because it’s in between ‘small format’ (35mm cameras) and large format (4×5 and upwards – this is v expensive so I haven’t tried any of these one). For pretty much all medium format films you you 120 film, which is rolled onto a spool with a paper backing rather than into a light-tight canister. As such the frames can be a range of different sizes (not the uniform size of 35mm). The camera in this photo is an Agfa Isolette which I managed to get on eBay for a fiver, and it’s from all the way back in 1953  – it works amazingly despite its age! When using 120 film you get square photos (6×6), and take 12 shots per roll of film.

Sometimes these older cameras and more simple ones have no way of interpreting what the light is like, and therefore what the setting should be to get a correctly exposed image (this is obvi pretty simple to do on DSLRs and things like mobile phone cameras do it automatically). As such light meters exist, and far more modern, accurate and digital ones exist but this is my trusty Weston light meter (also from the 1950s I think?) You simply tell the light meter what the speed of your film is (like the ISO of digital cameras), point it at the thing you’re taking a photo of, and the meter will give you an indication of the apertures and shutter speeds you could use to make the photo.

Here’s a few photos I’ve taken with this camera:

There’s so much to say about photography and film general that this could turn into a small book real fast, so I might do another one of these sometime in the future. Thanks for having a read, and I’ll shamelessly plug my instagram (@alicethetriplet) so you can have a look and some of the things I’ve managed to make with film.

-Alice

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