As a student with a concentration in commercial design, I am required to take certain art courses to complete my degree, including a photography course. Photography I is a black and white photography course where students learn to manually control and adjust their 35mm Single Lens Reflective (SLR) camera to take photos. Prior to this course, I only ever used my Canon, which is digital and did all the work for me even though I had a decent idea of what I was doing. However, photography is a complex art, and in Photo 1 I learned all of the following skills and plenty more!
First things first: students learn how to load 35mm film into a camera, manually adjust apertures, adjust shutter speeds, learn the meaning and importance of ISO, and how to read and zero out a light meter. All of these elements control the image by how much light meets the film. “Photo” means “light” in Latin and “-graphy” means “writing”, so photography literally translates to light writing. The amount of light that is exposed to the film is what captures the image and ranges the tones from black to white and all the grays between.
Second, students shoot a roll of film using the previously listed skills and then learn to take proper photos and learn the process to develop negatives. My class partner Theo and I had the class record for shortest amount of time taken to unload film from the spool onto the reel in the dark room. Doing anything in the dark room means that there is no light whatsoever because the undeveloped film will be ruined if exposed to any type of light at all, even for .005 seconds or 5 thousandths of a second. That sounds like an exaggeration, but I promise it is not. If film is exposed to light at all prior to being developed, you can lose all of your work. The light will activate all the film so that when it develops into the negatives, it is blank and see through which means there is no image.
Developing photos is almost like its own form of science. You are required to follow a very specific process in developing negatives and photographs with chemicals, and if one is not careful, you could end up ruining not only one photograph or a few, but an entire roll of film which took however long to shoot, develop, and process up until that point. It would feel like taking hours or even days to create a lovely watercolor painting just to make the mistake of leaving it outside on a rainy day.
Once you get to create the prints, there are various effects you can use on the photograph. So far my class has only ventured into the realm of contrast filters, but there are plenty of other ways to enhance photographs which I will explain in a later blog post!
Learning the process of shooting film, development, printing negatives to create a photo and then finally printing the photo is honestly quite satisfying. It is a very unique, fragile, and specific process that feels rewarding when you make a gorgeous print of that adorable picture you took of your dog, food or your best friend.
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