Becoming "Oh, Dahlem." A Look into How to Transform Film Negatives into Digital Photos

Photography in many ways is a pause button on life and with film photography, ya better hope it paused at the right moment!

Modern Photography has some perks; 1. review screens (HUGE BONUS) giving you the option to see what you just captured. Is the focus how you would like it? No. Well then take it again, and again and again....You get the point. Another perk would be all the great options for metering! You have the standard meter that all camera (including film) has when you look through the eye piece. A option like having your screen adjust to photo realistic exposure on Olympus cameras is one of my favorite things about Olympus. It truly is a blessing when learning the exposure triangle and when moving quickly to capture the best photo possible. Lastly, you can take all your images, place your card in the computer and adjust from there through whatever platform of editing that you desire (Lightroom is our jam). All of this makes modern photography so enjoyable and a bit more user friendly then that of film BUT we like to challenge ourselves!

Though we have both been photographers for some time now, we have never ventured much into film. Mainly, its a process. A process to turn film into negatives (which we are still wanting to learn) and a process for turning negatives into prints. Once rolls were filled we headed out to the local printing shop. Anxiously dropping off film and hoping for the best, now thats patience. A week later, they were ready and I honestly could wait to see. Guys seriously, I dragged our toddler into a camera store, thats how desperate I was to see the photos!

As artists, we want to have our hands in everything. Choices on exposure and temperature, how its cropped and not have limitations on the size of my prints. All things that can be avoided as long as you're willing to process your negatives yourself, but how?

How are we going to get these inverted beauties into pieces of art. Scanners are a great option, but you need a good one. Much better then what our 600 dpi scanner allowed and professional scanners with film strip holders? pretty pricey and bulky. We've got a lot of equipment around our studio, last thing we need is another scanner.

Instead of purchasing something, we put our creative heads together and made this! I like to call it my Film Tube. Using a light table, mailing tube, black spray paint, electrical tape, black heavy duty paper and an xacto knife, my husband (the engineer behind all our mad scientist project) built this creation.

Through trial and error, we realized we were getting a lot of light leaks from the table making the images appear dull (not what we wanted at all, ugh). Back to the drawing board or ah... google, to research and figure out where to go from there. Taking on many different ideas along the way but a tube was the direction we wanted to go next. As traveling artist, we have a few (or a lot) of mail tubes laying around, though a PVC tube would have definitely prevent more leaks, we worked with what we had. A cardboard mail tube with the inside painted black blocking out all surrounding light did the job right.

Using the black paper, he constructed a template to fit our 35mm film making sure our negatives were flat from the next step.

At this point, the negatives are in the template and the light table is on. The magic is about to begin. Once you hone into the settings you prefer, capture each image and import into Lightroom.

Right click “Edit in” photoshop.

Starting to look like a usable image!

Save and close image then reopen new edit in Lightroom.

Within Lightroom in Develop mode, use the RGB graph to transform the aquamarine image into your finish product.

Look at each graph individually (starting like this)

Adjust each line graph to fit the colored histograph inside. This will give you the best image to start with

At this point, you can let your artistic flag fly and get going on whatever you want your film photos to become.


Meet Chunk E., our 6 year old “puppy”

This is my post RGB graph image. Now to touch it up a bit more and finish it out!

The Final Image.

Now all you film junkies get out there, take some awesome photos and try out our technique! Take your film into your own hands and let us know how it went or if you have an even better idea that you use! Also don’t forget to check out my latest collection of film photos (that inspired this whole thing!) from The Grainy Girls Gala that was held at Ogma Brewery in downtown Jackson, MI.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend. —Aynee

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