Surprises of film photography

I don’t know how many of you have tried photography on film – we are living in a rather digital era and I can understand why film is slowly fading into oblivion. However, I would like to encourage you to give film a try, because the surprises of film photography can be boundless and extremely interesting.

For those of you wondering whether film for photography is still available, I can confirm that yes, indeed it is. You can find it in specialised stores, in the photographic equipment section. Moreover, there are still solutions available on the market for the manual processing of films, as well as photographic laboratories for processing.

I have always been fascinated by film photography and, despite the fact that lately I have come to practice it more and more infrequently, I have created a functional set-up for myself. I work on Elan 7 Canon for 35 mm films, to which I attach lenses from the DSLR  5d Mark II, so I somehow manage with the same set of lenses that I use on digital and on a medium-sized camera – Bronica 6/6 with 80 mm Zenza lens. I have always tried to buy manually processed films so that I could develop them myself (home, in the bathroom?)…  A spiral on which to turn the film, developer and fixing solutions, a bit of darkness, and let the fun begin!

When I started photography, it was quite difficult for me to have the films scanned somewhere, because it would take very long and the cost was above my budget… So, I decided to get a scanner – not too expensive, not too cheap, but good enough to do a decent job.

From that moment on, I’ve had a very beautiful relationship with photography, full of unexpected, but awesome moments. I was sort of wondering why I was photographing on film when the digital already provides images of very high quality. Yes, that’s true. Even the film patina can be very well replicated in post-processing. Then why? I realised that the element of unpredictability was what kept me hitched to this world. What film photography has to offer is so awesome! No frame turns out exactly as you would expect and more often than not I was surprised to find out that the result was much cooler and more interesting than I had anticipated.

© Tatiana Volontir, Zorki, 50mm, f/2.8, 1/800, ISO 800
© Tatiana Volontir, Zorki, 50mm, f/2.8, 1/800, ISO 800

The images above are some of my first experiences with film. I was photographing Alina, we had just finished a session at home, where she was wearing an airy traditional Romanian blouse, and we took a break so that I could take the finished film out and replace it with a new one. As I was talking to her, I didn’t realise that I had mistakenly put the same film in the camera. We went behind the house for another session by the railway near the village. I finished the film, I took it out of the camera and the next day I went to a photo processing lab. When I returned to pick up the films, I was told “Miss, you gave me an unused film and one with overlapping frames”. I was shocked… I realised what I had done and I was horrified, because that session had been only on film, no digital. My only thought was that I had lost all images and I had to reshoot the session. With this on my mind, I went home and, out of curiosity, I had the film scanned.

Frame after frame I was discovering something wonderful, each overlap was telling its own story. Out of 36 shots, 30 were simply much more than I would have expected when I pressed the trigger button.


After this incident, I started experimenting during the scanning process, by overlapping two films, frame on frame, to see what comes out. I had some good results and experiences that taught me something. I had another similar experience one day when, again by mistake, instead of opening the camera case in the bathroom, in the darkness, I opened it in the same room where I was taking pictures. Obviously, the last shots were ruined. But not all of them, I had a few shots that had only been exposed to little light and this yellow hue effect appeared, as if a ray of light was passing over the girl’s shoulders and face. This was another unexpected result and, in the context of film photography, I took it as a gift.


© Tatiana Volontir, Zenit, 50mm, f/4, 1/200, ISO 400


The story of the pictures below starts with a very old camera, a Zorki, with a shutter unit made of discs which, as I noticed at some point, were no longer overlapping completely. However, I put a film in, closed the camera and decided to give it a try, because it was the only camera at hand. I also had a digital camera so, if the pictures would not come out, then it would be no big deal.

© Tatiana Volontir, Zorki, 50mm, f/2.8, 1/800, ISO 800
© Tatiana Volontir, Zorki, 50mm, f/2.8, 1/60, ISO 800

I took the film to be processed and, when I scanned it, I noticed something very interesting – a sort of glitter appearing on the left side of the image. It was the light that had seeped through the small openings between the disks. I was so delighted that I shot another session with the same camera. Well, there was no glitter this time, but there was something else – a bit of mist, like a small cloud on the upper side of the frame. It also had to do with how I positioned the camera in relation to the subject and the source of light. This cloud also seemed to be coming out of a fairy tale, so I started to believe more and more in the miracle of film photography. I shot all 36 frames and, when I wanted to rewind the film to take it out, there was a strange noise, I opened the camera and saw that the curtain was broken… I was very sad, I felt that my fun with glitter and smoke was over.

Obviously, such effects can be obtained in post-processing, but would it ever cross your mind to do something like that? The fact that, during its last moments of life, the film camera offered me this miracle is a story that I need to retell all the time, with the same enthusiasm I felt in that moment…


© Tatiana Volontir, Zorki, 50mm, f/2.8, 1/60, ISO 800


Certainly, everyone who has made film photography has their own stories and I believe they share my emotions, and for those of you who haven’t had the chance to do it, I encourage you to give it a try. It is as if, alongside the photographer who is somewhat in control, there is another magical force at work, always adding that unpredictability which overturns the result and brings to light so much more than you, as a photographer, know to expect. It is as if that magical force knows a better way to highlight the message and it does this in its own awesome way.

And yes, unfortunate accidents can occur, but it is an accepted risk, because the lucky happenstances can make you feel incredible emotions.


Author: Tatiana Volontir 
Copyright: Tatiana Volontir 


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