What Is Slide Film?

A newcomer to film messaged me on Instagram to ask me a few questions about film, and they asked about expired film. I of course let them know that 99% of film in my store is fresh, and sourced from official film company distributors, but from time to time I do carry some expired film, which I mark extremely clearly as being expired.

I mentioned that I currently have some (barely) expired slide film in the store, and the person asked me what slide film was, since they hadn’t heard of it. This makes sense, because it’s not the most common thing these days, so I ran it down for them.

I’m basically going to paste what I told them, so I don’t cover the entire history of slide film, or the different sorts of slide film that have existed over the years, etc. I was just concerned with explaining what is relevant about E-6 slide film today, in 2019.

Here’s what I said:

So for slide film: You know how there is Black and White film, and then also Colour film? Well there’s also a third kind, called Slide film.

The difference is that NORMAL colour film, the stuff everyone just calls “colour film”, is technically called colour negative film.

When you get colour negative film developed, the colours are inverted – dark things are light, light things are dark, and there’s an overall orange colour cast to it.

With slide film, once you get it developed, it looks correct – there’s no orange cast to it, and everything is the correct colour. In the old days, people would get all their slide film put into little cardboard mounts and show it on their wall using a slide projector.

These days though, slide film is much less popular, and because of that, it costs more per roll. It’s also a lot harder to find somewhere to develop it. Developing it yourself is possible, but the chemicals are more toxic than C-41 chemicals (which are used to develop colour negative film) and also E-6 slide film development kits are harder to get in Canada.

The other thing about slide film is that you have to be a lot more careful about your exposure. When you’re using colour negative film, you have a fair bit of exposure latitude. If you under-or-overexpose your shots taken with normal colour film, they’re going to be a lot more usable than if you do the same thing with slide film.

The other downside to slide film is that it has a significantly narrower dynamic range than colour negative film. This means that if you’re photographing a scene with some very dark areas, and also some very bright areas, the slide film will have a tougher time capturing the extremes, and you might even get very blown out bright areas, or the dark areas might lack detail.

An example of this might be if you were photographing a landscape with a bunch of dark pine trees, and a bright blue sky with nice white clouds. With slide film, you would probably try to meter for the sky and the clouds, so that they didn’t blow out (turn completely white).

By doing this though, the trees would probably turn out to be sort of dark and harder to make out, just because slide film doesn’t have the range to expose scenes with different extremes of brightness. Colour negative film, however, is great at this, and it would be a better choice if you wanted to capture the nice bright sky and clouds, as well as the detail of the darker areas.

This example also highlights a difference between slide film and colour negative film: Shooting slide film is sort of like shooting digital photos: The big danger is overexposing your photos, and winding up with blown-out highlights.

Conversely, when shooting colour negative film, it’s a lot harder to blow out the highlights, even if you overexpose the film a fair bit (here’s a great article talking about this).

And worth noting: Whether you’re using slide or colour negative, underexposure is always bad, and is generally worse on slide film too. Even underexposing slide film by 2/3 of a stop can make the photos muddy.

Okay, I hope that helps! I actually just added a lot of information to what I told the person who messaged me, so don’t worry if you pictured them reading all my messages and glazing over!

What’s a Good Alternative to Kodak Ektar?

This never really happens, but we recently ran out of Kodak Ektar 100 for a short time, and someone emailed for some advice:

I am new to film, and am looking for a fine grain, color negative film for landscapes. Are there any you would recommend instead?

Happily, I was able to reply that we did indeed have Ektar back in stock (I had just received some, but hadn’t re-listed it), but I thought this was a great question.

So first off, I want to make a note that this person didn’t want an Ektar alternative specifically for the ISO. Ektar has an ISO rating of 100, which is as low as it goes for regular colour negative film these days. In fact, the only other current colour film that’s ISO 100 is Fuji Industrial 100 (which also may be sold under slightly different names by Fuji in different markets), but that’s becoming hard to come by, because Fuji has recently discontinued it.

So as far as fine-grained colour films, the only alternatives I can think of are Kodak Portra 160, and Kodak Portra 400.

These films have higher ISOs than Ektar, so you might guess that they won’t have quite as fine a grain, and you’d be right, however there isn’t a huge difference, and most people are not going to notice the grain in Portra 160 or 400 unless they’re really blowing up the shots and looking very closely. I actually just had a discussion on Instagram with a regular customer this weekend about how amazing Portra 400 is when it comes to grain size.

Portra 160 and 400 both use the same KODAK VISION technology and are much more advanced than most other colour negative films. Portra 160 has slightly finer grain, so if you’re not worried about light-gathering abilities, that’s probably the best choice for fine grain. (As a side note, it’s worth noting that Kodak Portra 800 is still, as far as I know, an older formulation that isn’t using the KODAK VISION technology, so it’s not as grain-free, although it’s still a really great film).

Now, it’s worth noting here that this customer was specifically asking about colour negative film, and not slide film. Slide film is harder to get processed, but if you’re open to that, then there are a few other good choices, with Fuji Velvia 50 being the most obvious.

Velvia has been the traditional landscape slide film for eons, and may have a slightly finer grain than Ektar (I’m not positive to be honest). Again though, Ektar is insanely fine-grained, and if you don’t have a reliable source for E-6 slide film developing, I’d stick with it. Velvia’s ISO rating of 50 is very low, and it’s fantastic film, with some really cool colour properties, but it does cost more to buy and get developed, and if grain is your priority, you’ll be more than happy with using something like Portra 160 as your alternative (or 400).

Is Developing C-41 (Colour) Film Really Harder than Black and White?

A prospective customer emailed me today about the C-41 kits in the store. They asked about the shelf life of the chemicals involved, and also wanted to know whether developing colour film was really tough and unforgiving, as some people say. I wrote up this reply, and wanted to post it here as well, hopefully it helps out other folks in the same boat:

Great questions!

So first off, about the expiry dates: The C-41 kits contain powdered chemicals, which are sealed extremely tightly in metallic bags, and my understanding is that these will last a very, very long time in that form. Once you expose them to water, then it’s a different story, but I know people who take months to use a mixed kit, and swear there are no bad effects.

The way you store your mixed C-41 chemicals is very important to how long they last, and there are 3 things you can do to make sure they last as long as possible:

1. Keep oxygen out of the bottles. I understand that this is the most important thing you can do. Whatever bottle you use to hold your chemicals, you want to squeeze the bottle before you put the lid on, so the liquid goes right up to the top, then put on the lid tightly. Some people use empty pop bottles, some use special bottles meant for film that let you do this too.

2. Keep the bottles in a dark place. Or just have an opaque bottle.

3. Keep the bottles somewhere cool. My understanding is that you don’t have to go crazy on this and refrigerate them, just try to put them somewhere that doesn’t get too warm/hot.

So for the next question, is it hard/unforgiving to develop colour film:

I know that when I started developing film, I read this all the time – everyone said that Colour was much tougher than B&W. Because of this, I put off doing C-41 for quite a while. However, as time went on, I started hearing more and more people saying it wasn’t really that hard, so I started researching it, and realized it didn’t sound much different. Finally, I gave it a go, and my conclusion was that wow, it was just as easy as doing B&W, and in some ways easier.

In most ways, the home developing process for C-41 (colour) film is just like B&W: You load your film into a tank, and you have 3 liquid chemicals that you pour in, leave a while and then pour out, one by one. The main difference between B&W and C-41 is just that B&W chemicals are kept very close to room temperature, but C-41 developer needs to be heated up, to about 39°C, or thereabouts.

So this sounds pretty daunting at first, but when I actually tried doing it with a thermometer, it was really not that tough. You heat some water in a small tub to about 40°C or 41°C, you put your developer bottles to stand in this water, and you wait for it to reach the right temperature. You might have to fiddle with the bath a bit and add a little more hot or cold water now and then, but it’s really not tough.

If you think you’re going to be doing it a lot, you can get a Sous Vide heater, which have become extremely popular for this use in the last year or so. This is a cooking tool you can clip to your water bath container, and it’ll regulate that water and keep it at the right temperature while your bottles of chemicals heat up in it (you don’t put the sous vide heater directly in the chemicals).

But I want to stress, you absolutely do not need a Sous Vide, or any other fancy heater. You can do everything yourself with just a thermometer. A Sous Vide (or other heater) just lets you set it up, go do something else, and come back to perfectly heated chemicals a while later.

So this brings us to the part about developing being unforgiving. This is the thing that kept me from developing colour film for the longest time: I kept hearing that you had to keep the water temperature within 1 degree in either direction, or your photos would turn out badly. I even read some people saying you had to keep withing 0.5 degrees.

After talking to a number of people, and my own experience, I think this is one of the biggest misconceptions there is. You can be off by at least a few degrees with no bad effects. I actually had a badly calibrated thermometer to start, and developed numerous rolls at 3 degrees off, and I didn’t notice at all, the photos all looked great. Recently, one of the hosts of the Film Photography Podcast mentioned that he had done experiments with developing at 10, and I think 20, degrees Fahrenheit off the correct temperature. He said he went above, and below the recommended temperature, and still wound up with fine photos. (He may have mentioned some extra grain at the extreme temperatures, and I definitely wouldn’t do this on PURPOSE and expect perfect results, but this is extremely interesting to me, and I’d like to try it myself sometime as an experiment.)

And one thing people don’t mention about C-41 temperature too is that of the 3 chemicals you use, only the first one, the developer needs to stay at the correct temperature, and (at least in the Unicolor kits we sell) the film only stays in that chemical for 3 and a half minutes. So you don’t want to worry too much about the developer losing temperature, since after 3:30 or so, you’re moving on to the next chemical anyway. (The next chemical is Blix, which even the Unicolor instructions say can be 10 degrees off in either direction).

There seems to be a lot of things in the film photography online world that aren’t completely, fully documented, and a lot of them seem to turn into games of Telephone sort of. Someone on a message board will say that you should try to stay within a few degrees of the correct temperature, and over the years this will be passed down from msg board to Facebook group to Twitter feed to msg board, etc, until someone is saying “If you don’t get within half a degree of the right temperature, your photos will EXPLODE and YOUR HOUSE WILL FLY INTO SPACE”. The temperature thing is a prime example of this, to me anyway.

Oh and also I wanted to cover why some people consider C-41 developing easier than B&W: With C-41, there is only a single developing time for your kit. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using ISO 100 or ISO 1600 film, whether it’s Kodak, Fuji, Lomography, etc. – it all just goes in the developer (then blix, then stabilizer) for set times. You can mix any C-41 colour films you want in one batch, and it’ll be fine. With B&W this is the complete opposite, and you have to look up times for each film/ISO/developer combination, and you can only mix multiple different films in one batch if they happen to share the same times.

So that’s that, I hope this is helpful. Because I actually sell C-41 developing kits, I always worry that I might sound like I’m biased or something, but I really do believe that it’s just as easy to develop Colour as it is B&W. I actually also sell B&W chemicals, so if I really thought that was an easier process, I’d just say so. And personally, I definitely love that the times are always the same and I don’t have to look things up every time I change film (or developer, ISO, etc), although I know some people really enjoy the process of experimenting with different times and temperatures and whatnot for B&W.

Spot Buy Film Canada in Mike Janik’s Latest Vlog

Mike Janik is a Toronto photographer who publishes The Toronto Times, and makes great Youtube videos.

While he started out by doing camera reviews and informational videos (check out ‘How to Clean Your Camera‘, ‘13 Film Photography Hacks‘ and ‘Let’s Talk About Zines‘), a few months he started also doing Vlogs.

In his latest, he prowls the streets of downtown Toronto, wielding one of the Fujifilm 1600 ISO, 39-exposure disposable cameras that we sell on this very store. He winds up taking some great architectural shots, which he shares, and also sums up his thoughts on the camera. He also mentions the possibility that he might make a video showing how to reload a disposable, which I personally would loveDrake disposable cameras to see. I know that a couple of people who have bought one of the (there’s some extra Toronto content!) have mentioned that they intend to that, and while I know there are a few videos about it on Youtube, I’d love to see a really good video on it.

You can watch it right here – recommended viewing for all Canadian film photography people (and the not-Canadian ones):


A Nice Review of Bergger Pancro 400 on Youtube

UPDATE: I originally forgot to link to Bergger Pancro in our store haha, woops, bad salesman.

I just wanted to point everyone to a very thorough review of Bergger Pancro 400 that I saw on Youtube. You may already be familiar with the MAX+ONE Portrait Photography channel, who make very good videos about film photography. Max and his friend Jules spent 3 months shooting only Bergger Pancro. He then tested out the film in a few different developers, and then made a great, comprehensive video about it. They shot in a variety of situations from Croatia to Munich, and did some prints as well. Great video, well worth a look.

I’ll quote some of Max’s thoughts from his review, but you should watch the entire video for more:

“Bergger Pancro is an amazing and very interesting film. It does have a rather flat characteristic, which makes it well suited for scanning and also doing prints of the negatives. I have to say that most of the time while editing in Lightroom, it was mostly about increasing the brightness and adding a little bit of contrast, so it was not really kind of working hard on getting the kind of dynamic range that you sometimes want an image to get kind of hard contrasts and things like that. So it was really easy to edit, and it felt the same while doing the split grades, that was kind of interesting to see how easy that was, and how quick we could often get results that suited our taste and what we had intended to do.

This is a film that I can highly recommend. I really appreciate it’s kind of glowy look for skin tones and skin in general. For Black & White portraits, I really think this gives it a certain modern and at the same time classic look, and I will definitely use this film again and again, especially using it with Kodak D-76 or, if I’m shooting it at ISO 200, with Spur Acurol-N.

So this is a film that I will most definitely order some more of, and that I really enjoy shooting.”


An Overview of Developing Film

Developing Tank

Since I added C-41 developing kits to the store the other day, I’ve had a few emails about developing your own film. I’ve been developing my film (Black & White initially, and then Colour) for a while now, but I can still remember the time before I did, and how daunting it was. For me, part of the problem was that initially, I saw a lot of very in-depth instructions on the web, as well as videos, but I just wanted to figure out a general overview. I hope this article will help with people in my situation, and I’ve decided to word some of it in a Question/Answer format.

Is it hard to develop your own film?

Nope! There are a number of steps you have to follow, but they’re all easy steps. To me, calling something “hard” means that you have to practice it before being able to do it, and also that you have to make choices/decisions along the way, which you might get wrong.

Developing film is not like this. You just do certain pre-defined steps, and as long as you do the correct things, your film should turn out perfectly.

What’s more, there’s less room for error than some people let on. People make some very scary claims about how perfectly, precisely, exact you must keep your water temperature, especially when developing colour film, but a lot of those claims are very exaggerated (in my opinion, some people like the idea that they have mastered a very tough process where you can’t vary your temperature by 0.5 degrees or else your film will be completely unusable).

The thing you’ll notice if you spend any time discussing home developing online is that 99.9% of people say “you should do it, it’s great!”, and almost nobody ever says “Oh it was a disaster, sooo hard!” It just really is something almost anyone can do.

Can you give me a really broad overview of the process?

Sure! So first, you take a bunch of photos. You probably knew that step haha.

Next, you have to transfer your film to a developing tank. This is basically a plastic jar that is designed to not let any light in. It has plastic reels inside that you spool your film around.

Now that your film is in the developing tank, you pour in developing liquid and wait for a certain amount of time (between 3 and 10 minutes depending on the film and developing liquid). While you’re waiting, you agitate the tank once or twice per minute, by turning it over a few times.

Now, you pour out the developing liquid, and you put in another liquid. The next liquid might be a few different things – it varies depending on whether you’re doing Colour film, or Black & White, but once it’s in there, you do the same thing: Leave it in for a certain amount of time, while agitating the tank 1 or 2 times a minute.

Now, there’s one more chemical liquid to pour in. Again it might be one of a couple of things (Fixer or Stabilizer generally), and you leave it in for a certain amount of time, then remove it.

Now you can open up the tank and you have negatives! You hang them up to dry.

There are a couple of parts where you pour water into the tank during the process as well, to rinse the negatives. This might be at the end or the middle, depending on B&W or Colour, but it’s the easiest thing possible.

Do you need a darkroom?

No, you don’t. There is only one step of developing film that requires darkness, and that’s when you transfer your film to the developing tank. This only takes a few minutes, and you can do this a couple of ways:

The easiest way is to use a changing bag. This is a special, light-proof bag that you stick your developing tank and film in, along with a few other things (scissors, can opener to open the film can). It has holes with elastics around them, so you can stick your arms inside the bag without letting any light in.

If you don’t have a changing bag handy though, it’s fine, you just need to black out a room for a few minutes. Personally, I’ve done it in both a bathroom, and a walk-in closet. In both cases, I just put a towel on the ground to block light from coming in the door, and I also put electrical tape up to cover the door cracks. While this is a dark room, it’s easy to set up when you need it, and isn’t the same as setting a complex darkroom with sinks and lots of equipment, like some people imagine it. That sort of darkroom is only needed when you actually print traditional darkroom photos (instead of scanning your negatives and sharing them online, or printing them on a printer).

So wait, I have to transfer the film to the developing tank in total darkness? Isn’t that hard?

You do indeed have to perform this step in total darkness (you can’t use a red light like you may have seen in movies, etc.- that’s for doing darkroom printing).

This is the trickiest step, and the ideal situation is to have a cheap, or wasted, roll of film that you can practice with in the light. What I personally did was to watch a few Youtube videos very carefully, so that I was pretty sure I knew what to do, and then I tried it on a long-expired roll of no-name film I got at a camera show. I did it once in the light, and was very confident that I knew what was going on, so I took a regular roll of film I had shot (that wasn’t too important and wouldn’t kill me if I ruined), and I tried doing the procedure for real, in the dark. Watching the Youtube videos and practicing once paid off, and I transferred the film just fine, and it came out perfectly.

If you don’t have a spare roll of useless film, it can seem painful to waste a roll to test this out. What I’ve always said is that hey, you can get a cheap roll for $5 CAD (even cheaper in US dollars), and I think you might as well just get one and shoot a bunch of quick snapshots, and chalk the few dollars up to learning a new skill. Having said that though, I still have a handful of unusable rolls handy that would be perfect for practicing, so if you make an order on Buy Film Canada, just make a note that you’d like one, and I’ll send it if I have one (I’ll also try to remove this part of this blog post when I run out, so if you see this, I probably have one). These rolls have been completely exposed and rewound, so photos will come out completely white from them, there is 0% chance of any photos coming from them, so please only request one if you need to practice transferring film to a developing tank.

How much does developing your own film cost, is it cheaper?

There’s an up-front cost that can run between $0 (if you find someone dumping their old stuff on Craigslist/Kijiji) to maybe $120 if you buy all the equipment brand new. Buying new is quicker and convenient, but old equipment does the job just as well, unless it’s damaged.

Paying the up-front costs might not be fun if you buy everything new, but you can do what digital shooters do: Pay a bunch of money up front, and then magically forget that it happened, and pretend that everything you do from then on is free haha.

Once you’ve paid the up-front costs, the actual cost of developing each roll is definitely cheaper than doing it at a lab. It depends what you use, but I would say that at most it’s going to be half the price of doing it in a lab, and a lot of people use chemicals very efficiently and spend much less than that (especially with B&W film).

If you also figure in the costs of travelling to a lab, maybe paying for parking, etc., it definitely winds up a lot cheaper for most people.

The main thing to really consider other than price is: Do you enjoy developing film? I used to think it was going to be a hassle, but I thought “Oh well, the round trip to a lab takes me 40 minutes, then another 40 minutes to go pick up the negatives later!” and did it. What I found out was that the process is very fun and relaxing to me, and it’s something I look forward to now. Other people might find the complete opposite though.

What equipment do I actually need?

The basics are:

  • A developing tank with reels. The most common of these are Paterson brand, and Buy Film Canada can actually special order these for you (and we’ll stock them if there’s enough demand). There’s also AP brand which are very similar, and also fine.
  • A changing bag (optional). This is convenient to have, but if you can black out a room for 10 minutes, it’s not necessary.
  • A timer. You can use your smartphone for this.
  • A can opener to remove the lids of 35mm film cans.
  • Scissors to cut the film from the canister.
  • Some sort of clips to hang the negatives to dry. (I need to clarify this, but people do use laundry clips.
  • Some containers to hold the chemicals – you can buy special ones fairly inexpensively, but I believe some people do use empty plastic pop bottles (thoroughly cleaned of course).

What chemicals do I need?

If you want to develop colour film, there’s basically only 1 choice for home developers, that’s called a C-41 Press Kit. We sell them on Buy Film Canada, and they contain everything you need to develop colour film.

For Black & White, there is a larger range of possibilities. You buy B&W chemicals piece by piece, and you need 3 things: A developer, a stop bath, and a fixer. A typical shopping list for these might look like this:

  • Developer: Ilford Ilfosol 3 or Ilford DD-X or Kodak D76 or Kodak HC-110 or Rodinal (also sold as Blazinol). There are many other developers, these are the most popular.
  • Stop bath: Ilford Ilfostop or Kodak Indicator Stop Bath
  • Fixer: Ilford Rapid Fixer or Ilford Ilfostop Stop Bath or Kodak Fixer or Kodak Kodafix.

As you can see, there are a lot of options, but they’re all decent choices. To start, you probably just want to pick whichever you can find most easily.

Buy Film Canada doesn’t sell any B&W chemicals right now, but we have access to them, so if you’re interested, drop us a note, and if a few people are interested, we’ll stock them!

Well, that’s about it for now. I hope this accomplished the goal of just sort of giving a wide angle overview of developing.

For me, the toughest part was actually just getting myself in gear to buy the equipment and do it. Once I did, it was just as easy as everyone says, plus a lot more fun than I expected. If you have any questions about this article, please email andrew@buyfilm.ca

Pushing/Pulling Film vs. Under/Overexposure – a Quick Definition

I’ve tried to keep this post brief and basic, and just explain what the difference between these two terms is. I’m going to follow it up with a couple of posts explaing why you might choose one of the other of these for colour or B&W film. They should be linked below once I write them.

A lot of people new to film get confused at the difference between overexposure/underexposure and pushing/pulling film. This is understandable, because the terms refer to very similar things, with one main difference. I’m also going to use the term “box speed” here:

Shooting at Box Speed means that you use the official manufacturer ISO for the film (ie. the ISO on the box).

Underexposing film means that you change your settings so that less light than recommended hits the film.

Overexposing film means that you let more light than recommended hit the film.

Pushing film means that you underexpose it, but also develop it for a longer time, to compensate for the underexposure.

Pulling film means that you overexpose it, but also develop it for a shorter time to compensate.

So basically, when you use the terms pushing and pulling, the key difference is that the actual development process is different than normal.

When you overexpose, or underexpose film, but don’t compensate for it while developing, you’ll get photos that look brighter, or darker than if you shot at normal box speed. If you push or pull however, your photos should look mostly the same as shooting at box speed, but the amount of contrast and grain will be a bit different (I’ll explain that later).

Probably the most time that you hear about pushing or pulling is when people talk about pushing Black & White film. I’m going to explain a typical situation where you might do this:

Pushing B&W film: An example

Imagine you are out with your camera one evening, and you have a roll of Ilford HP5+, and you want to take some photos. You check your camera’s meter, and it says that if you shoot at box speed (which is ISO 400 for HP5), your shutter speed will be 1/15 seconds.

“Oh no!” you think, “I know from experience I can’t hold my camera steady for a fifteenth of a second. My photos will all be blurry.”

Pushing your film is the solution to this situation! All you have to do is to trick your camera into thinking your roll of film is a higher ISO, perhaps ISO 1600. This is 2 stops higher than the box speed, so you can use a much faster shutter speed. For each stop, you double your shutter speed, so you can now take pictures at 1/60s (four times faster than 1/15s).

A common way to trick your camera is to set the ISO dial to 1600. If your camera doesn’t have an ISO dial but does have an exposure compensation setting (which is often marked as EV+/-), you can set that to -2.00. Finally, some cameras have neither of these options, and just read the film’s ISO directly from the DX Code on the canister (a simple bar code), in which case you need to learn about DX Code hacking (a whole other topic).

So now, once you’ve tricked your camera into thinking you’re shooting ISO 1600 film, you go about your business and shoot the film. Once you’re done, you make a note that you have pushed the film 2 stops, and now it’s developing time.

Most labs that develop Black & White film will do the next part for you. You just have to tell them “Please push process this, I shot it at 2 stops above box speed, ISO 1600”, or something like that – it’s probably extra smart to marker this onto the actual film canister too.

If you develop film yourself, you will just need to leave the film in the developer solution for longer than normal. How much longer depends on how many stops you pushed the film by, and what film and developer you’re using. The Massive Dev Chart is the ultimate reference for this, so just consult that.

Once your film is developed, you will now magically have a bunch of photos that look like they were exposed at box speed, even though you didn’t have enough light to do so.

There are a couple of trade-offs however. Your images will have more contrast when you push the film, and will also be more grainy. This is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what you’re looking for, and some people will push film just to get this effect.

Pulling B&W Film

Pulling film, as you may have guessed,  works basically in the same way, except you’re adjusting everything in the opposite direction. So your camera will take longer exposures, the film will spend less time in the developer (whether you or the lab is developing it), and your photos will have less contrast and grain.

In practice, pushing B&W film is much more common than pulling.

What about colour film?

Pushing or pulling colour film is entirely possible, but not as common either. One reason may be that photo labs tend to develop colour film in large, automated machines, and they don’t have the flexibility to leave some film in the machine for longer than everything else. This isn’t the case with B&W film, because all the different types already have different developing times, so labs don’t really stick these in big machines, they tend to use a more manual process.

If you develop C-41 colour film yourself though, you can certainly push or pull it, and the instructions that come with your home developing kit should cover that.

One last, important thing to remember

If you choose to push or pull a roll of film, you have to commit for the entire roll. That’s because you’re going to be putting the entire roll in the developing chemicals for a longer or shorter time.

There are a number of stylistic reasons that you might want to underexpose or overexpose a photo, without compensating for it later. If that’s the case, you don’t need to deal with pushing or pulling the film.

I hope this explains the difference between these 2 things decently, and I guess I sort of veered into explaining the whole concept of pushing and pulling. I still plan to write a couple of posts about doing this with colour film though, so if they’re not linked below, they should be soon!


Buy Film Canada Has a Newsletter Now.

I’m going to go ahead and admit that this isn’t the most exciting blog post ever, but we have a newsletter now, which I’ll be using to send out news when we get new film, add cameras to the store, etc. The signup form should be at the bottom of each page, but I’m going to paste it in at the end of this post, too.

One thing I should mention: If you bought anything from the store before this list existed, you didn’t see a “Join our newsletter?” option when you went through the checkout. Once I created the list, it automatically imported everyone who had already bought from the store, and subscribed them. I discussed this with a couple of people, and the general consensus was that nobody should be too annoyed at this, but if this does actually bother you, let me know, and I’m sorry!

Also, I know that basically every mailing list in the world says “Sign up for great discounts and cool exclusives!” but then doesn’t actually ever offer these things, so I am not making a big deal about that, but I do have a few plans to add some cool stuff to the list. One thing I was thinking was that each time I sent out an email, I’d have some special codeword and the first person to put in an order and mention that codeword would get a free roll of film thrown in. I don’t think that’s actually a great promotion though, because if multiple people try it, someone is probably going to be disappointed, and they might not even know right away that they weren’t the first. Also people who only see the newsletter a day late will probably not even care.

But if anyone has any ideas of cool little promotions like that, let me know (andrew@buyfilm.ca)! Here’s the form:


Subscribe to our mailing list

Bulk Loading Film – an Overview

I’ve had several people ask me whether I can sell bulk rolls of film. Actually, now I think of it, everyone has specifically asked about bulk rolls of Ilford HP5+.

I can indeed get bulk rolls from Ilford, so for now I have listed them in the store as a special order, but I think I may also buy some to stock normally, so nobody has to wait to get them.

Once I added them to the store, someone wrote me asking about them and how they work. I wrote him back, and I’m going to paste the important parts of that email here, for anyone else who is not familiar with bulk loading film. Let me know if you have any questions, I hope it helps. Also if anyone is interested in me carrying supplies like bulk film loaders and empty film canisters, let me know in the comments, or email support@buyfilmcanada.com

If you buy a bulk roll, it comes in one long roll that is enough for about 18 rolls of film, of 36 exposures each. You need a bulk loader, which is kind of a light-proof box with a handle. You put the bulk film in it, then you crank it out, into empty film canisters.

The first advantage of this is price. In the case of Ilford (the most popular bulk loading option by far I believe), you can get 18 rolls for the price of about 12. You do have to buy a bulk film loader, and these cost maybe $75 – $100 new, although if you can find one used you might pick it up for peanuts. You also need empty film canisters, but you can use these a number of times.

The second advantage is flexibility. Once you have the film in the bulk loader, you can make canisters with any amount of frames you want, up to 36 (if you go over 36, there can be big problems, although I forget offhand what they are). So if you feel like just making a roll with 12 exposures for instance, you can do that. A common reason to do that might be to quickly test a camera without having to use a whole roll of film.

One thing to note: Every roll of film wastes a certain amount of film while loading it (the stuff that you see while the camera is open basically), so if you get a bulk roll and do rolls of 18 frames instead of 36, you’ll have double the wastage.

Also by using a lot of short rolls instead of a smaller amount of long rolls, you’re going to increase your workload if you develop the film yourself.

These things might not be the biggest deal to you though, especially if you really prefer shooting shorter rolls. If you send your film out to be developed, it’s much more economical to use longer rolls, but most people who are bulk loading B&W film are probably developing their own film.

I’m going to also link 2 popular videos on bulk loading, which probably cover this more in depth than I have!