Alright, as I promised Thursday, I’m beginning a series of photography tutorials about film and cameras. Photography 101 if you will. No tuition, early morning classes, or tests required. Man, if only college had been more like this!
So I was thinking that we’d start with film. I mean, I can’t explain how to load film in a camera if you don’t know what film is! I’m going to take a guess that 95% of the people reading this know what film is, and probably even had or still have a film camera. But again, its good to start with basics.
There are a variety of shapes and sizes for film.The most common type of film, and the one I’m going to write about today, is 35mm. It looks like this:
Many cameras use 35mm, including disposables and SLRs (which are the Canon, Nikon, Minolta, etc). The film comes in either a 24 or 36 exposure roll, meaning you can either take 24 or 36 photos. Its called 35mm because those are the dimensions of the film when you measure it, including the sprocket holes.
**Anytime anyone says “sprockets” this always goes through my head
Okay, so thats what 35mm looks like. And it either comes in black and white or color. There is also slide film, which only comes in color. (It used to come in black and white as well, but that has since been discontinued)
Because slide film is a positive and not a negative, after it is processed you can see the image and all the colors correctly. With regular negatives the colors are reversed after being processed. You have to print it in darkroom, or scan the negative into the computer.
Confused? Don’t worry, I have pictures. The image on the left is a slide, the one on the right is a regular color negative
Positive and Negative. And the world is balanced again
See? Pictures make everything better.
Pretty cool huh? I bet you are just itching to pull out your old camera. But hold on, I still have some more good stuff.
Color or B&W
It’s pretty straightforward. You can have black and white or color film. (Or colour for our friends across the pond) But other than that, there isn’t anything in between. This is the type of 35mm film I used on the trip.
Pretty sweet huh? And no, there are not normally Chinese symbols on film boxes, but I bought that shit on Ebay. Kodak Gold is color film, and the T-Max is black and white. The color is a 24 exposure, and the T-Max is 36. They are both pretty standard for film, and you’ll get great results.
This is a photo taken using the Kodak Gold
This is a photo of an abandoned motel on the original Route 66 in Tucumcari, NM. If you’ve never been to Tucumcari, go. Now. Just pack up and go.
And this is one taken using the T-Max
This photo was taken just outside of Conway, Texas. On a hot, hot, hot day.
I realize I’m only talking about Kodak, but there are a lot of other great options for film. Well, there used to be a lot of great options. Now the numbers are dwindling down 😦
But other than T-Max, I LOVE film made by the company Ilford. They only make black and white film, but it’s awesome film with great tones and versatility. You can’t go wrong.
I’ve never used Foma but many of my friends have and rave about it. Foma provides sharpness and works well if you’ve over/under exposed your subject.
Fuji is good for color film as well, and you can purchase it almost anywhere.
I prefer Kodak for color, but honestly as long as you’re shooting with film you’ll get my stamp of approval.
If you looked closely on the image of film I put up above, you’ll see that there are numbers under the name. It says Kodak Gold 100 and Kodak T-Max 400. Those aren’t the prices (yet). Those are the speeds of film.
What? Film has speeds? What the hell is that? Do I need to take faster film with faster subjects? Does it develop faster? The higher the number the better the photo??
Calm down. I’m about to explain it.
Film speed is the measure of a photographic film’s sensitivity to light. The higher the number, the more sensitive. That’s called fast film. The slower the number, the less sensitive. That’s called slow film. Creative huh?
The film speed is measured using ISO (International Organization for Standardization – I know, the S and O are backward. Thats they way it is, I promise)
A film that has 100 ISO is slow and because of that its not as sensitive to light. So its great for sunny days outside. If you’re with the kids at the soccer game, or at the zoo watching monkeys give you the finger, then use that film. But it will not work well indoors, or on cloudy days.
On the flip side, the 400 speed is good for sunny days, but also works better on cloudy days and in low lighting. 400 speed is kind of the standard speed. If you’re not sure what to use or where you’ll be, 400 is what I recommend. Film speed can go up to 10,000 ISO. But the highest I’ve used is 1600 ISO, which I’ll use at night or if I’m indoors and there is really low light.
Thus concludes the end of Photography 101. Thanks for sticking with me through this long, rambling post. If you abandoned me after the second paragraph, shame on you. You missed all the pretty pictures and a chance to broaden your horizons.
There are a million things I didn’t cover, and even more I didn’t elaborate on. This was just to get you started, so that when I’m discussing using 1600 speed film vs 3200, you have a vague idea of what I’m talking about.
Tune in next time where we’ll discuss medium format film and cameras.