Ever wonder how those wonderful, abstract photographs in the museums came to be? How the photographer organized and developed the image hanging in front you? Most people don’t realize or understand the process of developing a photograph and turning it into a museum print beyond just taking the picture; like composing the image, developing the film, printing the image, and framing it. If you’re interested, I’ll show you just about everything I do as a photographer to get complete, framed print ready for the gallery.
First and foremost, I have to buy my film of course. Choosing what film to shoot with involves deciding what film speed, or ISO, I want my film to be depending on if I’m shooting during the day, at night, portraits, color film or black and white, etc. The higher the film speed, the more sensitive it is to light. So if I’m shooting during the day I’d use an ISO of 400 that is less sensitive to light or if shooting dark, night photography, I’d use an ISO of 800 or higher depending how long I need the exposures to be.
Film slower than 400 works good for portraits because then I can use bigger apertures to blur out the background behind the subject in the middle of the day, as it is very insensitive to light. Then, I would load up my camera with the film, pick a subject, configure my camera settings (aperture and shutter speed), and take my pictures. Once I’ve shot a whole roll, I then would rewind my film back into the cartridge and it’s off to the photo lab to develop it!
Now that I’ve got my roll of film exposed and ready to develop, I have to transfer the film from the cartridge into a tank and reel IN 100% COMPLETE DARKNESS. Let me elaborate on that a bit. The film, since not yet developed, is still sensitive to light. So, if exposed to light, it would turn completely BLACK. So to develop the film, first, I have to transfer the film into this small, sealed tank that keeps out light. I have to do that in 100% complete darkness because absolutely no light can touch the film until its developed, or else, its ruined.
Basically, I have to load my film in the tank completely blind. After that, it’s a somewhat simple step by step process. The tank has hole where the chemicals go through and wash the film without letting light in. First the film is washed in developer for about 5-6 minutes and then developer is poured out. Next, it is 30 seconds to a minute in stop bath to stop the excess developer still on the film. You normally pour the stop bath back into the container you got it from because it can be re used a few dozen times until it grows xhausted. Now, the film is washed in a diluted fixer chemical that stabilizes the film by removing the excess silver from it for about 3-5 minutes. Now this fixer cannot be poured out because it carries the silver metal left from the film, so if poured down the drain, it would mix into the town’s water supply and that’s a whole different sad story. It can be re used until exhausted, like the stop bath, but it has to be taken to a sewage treatment facility to safely be disposed.
After that, I’d was it in some hypo eliminator for about 2 minutes to clean out the fix, which can be safely poured down the drain. And finally, the film is washes in running water for 5 minutes. Then I can take the film out into the light, dry it, and save it in an archival sleeve. Now I can use my film negatives from the photo shoot to create an image. To do this, photographers use light sensitive paper in a dark room with enlargers, which I would describe to be, giant microscope that uses a large lens to “enlarge” the image on your negative to fit the size paper you use (5”x7”, 8”x10”, 11”x14”, etc. with light. So first, I’d choose what negative I want to work with and fit into the enlarger. Then, I have to choose what settings I want to use to correctly expose the light-sensitive fiber-based paper into an enlarged image. These settings are similar to aperture and shutter speed settings on a camera, basically allowing however much light to expose the paper. If you underexpose the paper, it’ll come out light or even blank.
If you overexpose the paper, it’ll come out too dark or even just completely black. So once I’ve figured out what settings are right, I expose the paper to the light with the enlarger, and develop the paper through a similar process as the film development. But now it’s 2 minutes in the developer for the paper, 1 minute in stop bath, 8 minutes divided into two separate fixer baths, and 30 minutes to completely wash all those chemicals off the print. After all that, the paper can sit to dry.
Once dry, I mount it on mount board by gluing tissue paper to the back of the image onto the board and pressed all together in a heat compressor to stick everything together. Then, once it’s framed, it’s good to go into a gallery! And just finding a gallery to accept your image is a whole ‘nother endeavor. Maybe now you get an idea of what happens beyond the camera and just taking the picture. So next time you’re at a photographic museum, you can appreciate the hard work and determination that went to creating the images surrounding you and why they cost so much!
Cite this Film Photography Process Analysis
Film Photography Process Analysis. (2016, Dec 02). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/film-photography-process-analysis/