Thinking I do with words - Taking a look at some experimental film

I tend to go to the well of film a lot, but I think it’s interesting and exciting because it’s strange and different to use it now. People are genuinely curious in a way they aren’t if you just have a digital camera. Everyone has a digital camera now, not everyone has a film camera.

But let’s spend today talking about experimental film.

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The company Lomography loves their experimental films, going off in exciting different directions with the films they sell. Want to shoot films meant for cinema? They’ll sell you that. Want to try something where the colors turn out all strange? They’ve got plenty of options. The silliest has to be something they call Redscale XR, a film I’ve been playing with recently.

It is, in effect, a way to sell a mistake. Most 35mm film is semi-transparent, and if you mount it one way you get nice lovely pictures that look pretty much like what you see in front of you. Mount it backwards and you get something entirely different, and in this case a lot more red. It’s effectively 200 speed film mounted in the cartridge the wrong way, and the result is very different than just shooting normal film.

On the box, they say to shoot it at multiple speeds, see what you get, have fun and experiment. What a fun and novel premise! I’ve shot a roll, and have my own advice - overexpose it, overexpose like you’ve never overexposed before.

While it’s 200 speed film, it’s actually not, because it’s essentially shooting through a filter. That filter is mounted to the film itself, and the result you get is inevitably really red. That backing for whatever reason is just very orange on most color film, so it’s inevitably going to give a red look. That’s expected, and right in the name of the film. Instead, you have to give it a lot more light to make it look like anything but a whole bunch of red. The more light it gets, the more that filter is overpowered, and you get some really cool shots.

So, for me, doing anything but overexposing it as much as possible is a waste, because the shots I like are all with as much light as the film can handle.

But as I typed the above, I realized something, you’re not me. I know what I like, and what I like is definitely the look you get when you push through the red. When you attack it and get something else entirely at the other end. That’s the image that makes me happy and makes me want to pick up another roll.

I think one of the worst things photographers do when giving advice is tell people how to shoot like them. I understand it, because you know how to get results you like, but I also realize that everyone has their own style, their own preferences, their own point of view. Maybe you don’t want to shoot like me. Maybe you really like the darker, red-focused images that the film can give you. In that case, listening to me would be bad advice, because I like it best when you just push right through the red.

I know that I personally like the film a lot more when overexposing it a great deal, but I understand if you don’t, and if you decide to get some and try it out, you’re probably going to have to find your own approach. That I do recommend, without reservation, because it’s a lot more fun to discover what you like and work that way.

If you decide to shoot film, and it’s a fun hobby, make sure you shoot how you want to, don’t be held back by what someone else says is the ‘correct’ way.

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