Photo tips

At home photography tips for the analog photographer

Lockdown is a real deal right now. There is no getting around it. Events are canceled, businesses are closed, and there is no way to mingle with your friends out in public. Rather than go stir crazy, there are lots of different things an analog photographer can do while at home. I’ve put together few items we all can do to occupy the time. This list was inspired by actions I have taken at my own home, so I thought I would help out my fellow film shooters out there. At the end of each paragraph, I’ll have links to follow if you need a few things for your at home photography adventures.

Develop that film

Come on, I know you are as guilty as I am with rolls of film that you shot at one point, but haven’t been able to develop for a myriad of reasons. Now that you have time at home, dig out those rolls of Tri-X or that special project shot on HP5, and get ‘er done son. We all have our favorite developers, I’m partial to D-76. It is a great all purpose developer than develop many different films. It is easy to mix, easy to use and a staple in lots of darkrooms. I use a water stop and Ilford rapid fix. I’m partial to steel reels but have also used Patterson tanks without any issues. Either way, you will be developing your own film in no time and finally getting those images out of the can. D-76 tip: Mix at rated water temperature (hot water) and let sit for 24 hours before using. It will be at room temperature by the next day, and the powder will be fully mixed.

Organize those negatives

Now that you have your film developed, it is time to organize those negatives. I will finally be developing a few different rolls of film this weekend. When I am done drying the film, I find some Printfile negative sleeves and a Sharpie marker and get them marked and placed in a 3 ring binder in chronological order. I can then remember what film I shot and when it was taken. The negative sleeves are archival, and they keep the negatives separated and scratch free. Plus they make printing contact sheets a breeze. Sharpie tip: It is a great pen to have in your camera bag at all times. You can mark the roll with the date and subject right after you pop it out of the camera. Later it can be used to write on your negative sleeves.

Darkroom time

Time to print. It is a perfect time to break out that darkroom gear and put it to use. Either to make contact sheets of the film you just developed and filed away safely, or print your favorite images. I have a home darkroom that takes over our second bathroom when I am able to print. Don’t think you need anything crazy complicated to have a darkroom at home. There are only a few things you need to successfully print at home. An enlarger is most important, I have a Beseler 67cp that takes up very little room when out of the dakroom and can print 35mm and medium format negatives. You will need a safe light, a timer, a few trays, some developer and fixer, a grain focuser, paper easel and some print tongs so you aren’t dipping your hands in the chemicals. My darkroom sets up in about a half hour, I can print for hours and then clean up and tear down. The enlarger and bits and pieces go into bins, and my wife is happy to have the bathroom back. Darkroom tip: mark all your trays and tongs with the chemicals they will be used in (remember that Sharpie?), and always use trays and tongs with the same chemicals each darkroom session. Tip#2: Clothespins and a line are perfect for drying prints. Wrap some clear tape around wooden clothes pins, and they won’t leave marks on your finished print.

Organize your film gear

I spent the last two years paring down my film gear to what I use today. Honestly I can probably get it down to less equipment, and I probably will sell a few more things this year. I tend to overthink a project I have in mind. When I look at the equipment I have, I sometimes get overwhelmed with choices. Should I use Camera X or Camera Y? Lens A or lens B? Then the project gets stalled an it never gets done. Recently I went back to my Nikon FM2N and only a few lenses in a small camera bag. It is what I used for 90% of my work back when I was a journalist, and I feel comfortable and relaxed when I use this setup. One thing that I learned to do the hard way is use silica gel packs in plastic containers to store my gear when I’m not shooting. It keeps everything dry and moisture free. Ugh, I have a 50mm f/1.2 that was ruined by moisture. After this happened, I went to my current storage method and haven’t had any issues since.

Go for a neighborhood photo walk

Just because you can’t go out for a mass photo outing, doesn’t mean you can’t keep your safe distance and go for a walk around your neighborhood. I am also fortunate to have a nice lake and hiking trails about 15 minutes from my house. Even when times were normal, this place is my sanity spot. I enjoy hiking, taking pictures, sitting and writing in my journal and generally escaping life for a few moments. To piggyback on my last topic, I like to limit the photo gear I take along. I have been really liking my Lensbaby Twist 60 lately. It is a f/2.5 lens and uses the Petzval portrait lens arrangement. This gives the photographs a sweet spot of perfect focus in the center, and as the image reaches the edges you get crazy Petzval lens swirl when shot wide open. I enjoy the one camera body, one lens concept with this lens. It has been a breath of fresh air on the creative side for sure. I also journal when I’m out. I caught the fountain pen bug a few years ago, and to get smooth writing without ink bleed through, I had to up my notebook game. Good paper makes all the difference. I tried a few manufacturers and found the paper in the Leuchtturm1917 notebooks to be the best. This of course is personal opinion, as there are lots of notebooks and opinions about them on the internet. Ha! I also tried 3-4 pen manufacturers until I found one I liked for every day carry. Something pocket-able, and will take the bumps in my bag or jostled around in my pocket without any issues. I settled on the Kaweco Sport Classic, which I absolutely love. Again, lots of pens and lots of opinions out there. This one works for me. It is compact, the lid screws on tight, and it is smooth and easy to use.

So there you go

Get away from the TV and social media to spend some zen time with your analog gear. I hope you too get inspired to work on your personal analog projects from these at home photography tips. I’d love to hear about your own photo/developing/darkroom experiences. Leave a comment below and let me know how things are going!

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3 replies »

  1. Some good tips! As someone who has only started shooting film again over the past couple months, my big selfish worry right now is where to get my film developed. I haven’t yet gone down the road to home development, so I’m warily watching the local situation and if my local developer will have to shut down. It’ll also be interesting to see what will happen with the mail-in labs.

    Oh yeah, the Leuchtturms are great! I mostly use their sketchbooks, which I like better than the Moleskine equivalents. I like the notebooks too.

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  2. If you need help with home developing, send me a message I’d be glad to help. It is pretty darn easy, especially with plastic reels. I use a Leuchtturm notebook at work, and a sketchbook at home. And I do like better than the Moleskine as well. Keep shooting!

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