How Do You Do That? I Can Only Guess …

I had a nice message in my Flickr inbox this afternoon from juanchi003 (who has some great portrait work on his stream BTW, check-it-out) politely asking about how I have achieved a “film burn effect” in my recent uploads.

The short answer is “I guess I burned the film” but with a writer’s instinct for recycling, I thought I’d share part of my longer answer and a couple of examples on this blog for wider consumption. So here goes:

I shoot only with film and do not do any digital or other post processing, I just have the negatives scanned when they are developed at the lab so the effect that you notice is directly on the original exposure. I think that there are three contributing factors to this effect:

Hazy

Hazy on Flickr by Seymikins

Firstly, I use expired photographic film. This last batch was shot on Fujifilm that expired in 2003. Depending on how it has been stored, some of the chemicals in expired film have sometimes started to atrophy so the colour and sharpness can be slightly unpredictable – you never know exactly what you are going to get with expired fim and can’t really plan for it.

Secondly some of these shots were actually overexposed. I was using iSO 400 film in very bright daylight – it is quite sensitive and really for lower light conditions so even with my lense on the smallest aperture available, it was still overexposing it so effectively burning out a lot of the colour. Also iSO 400 film has a noticeably coarser grain which I think contributes to the effect.

Finally the lense you use can make a difference under different conditions. Some lenses seem to be sharper or softer, especially when there is a lot of contrast in the image. This is really a subtlety that you notice with use as you get to know different lenses. I am quite sure that the Takumar lenses I was using on this Pentax had some part to play in the final effect but I have a lot still to learn about this.

Absolute Summer

Absolute Summer by Seymikins on Flickr

I have heard that there are “photoshop recipes” that you can use to achieve these sort of effects post processing but of course I would heartily recommend playing around with expired film and analogue equipment if you get the opportunity. I think you have less control and I wish I could say that I was deliberately aiming for certain effects at the time but it is more often a case of learning by looking back at what you did and trying to replicate it as well as getting used to the quirks and capabilities of your equipment.

These pictures were taken with an Asahi Pentax S3 which is about ten years older than me and about ten times more good looking. So there it is. Go burn some film, readers!

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