Darkroom Malta is one year old!!

Darkroom Malta is one year old!!

To be honest I do not recall the exact day and also not sure which occasion is the official launch. Is it when the website went live or my first customer or a date on one of the legal documents? Any way all this date issue in not important, alI I care about is that a year has passed and now is the time for the traditional thank yous’ to my family, friends, customers and you know the rest.

Instead of all these thank yous’ (it’s not that I am not grateful but) I taught I should give some  insight into what I learnt from film photographers who have used my services this past year. You might find this article a little on the negative side but it may help many shooters to realise that film photography requires dedication and practice to get gorgeous results.

The 1st question you are asking is definitely: Which is the most popular film?

Agfa Vista 200, Darkroom Malta, 35mm Film, C41

Agfa Vista 200

Very easy, it’s Kodak’s Color Plus. The reason for this is also easy, it is cheap, actually one of the cheapest fresh films but it is also ‘good’. More about Color Plus’s qualities in another post.

Black and white is another story. These is no popular film. I have developed and sold the same amount of  the big four: Tri X, HP 5+, T Max 400 and Delta 400. Strangely all are ASA 400. With Malta’s bright sunshine and heavy reflections I would go for a slower film such as Ilford’s FP 4+, Ilford’s Delta 100 or Kodak’s T Max 100 but most probably ASA400 films are preferred  because the majority of cameras in use are pre 1970s’, when shutter speeds were rarely faster than 1/500 or 1/1000.

The limited settings and lack of auto options seams to be a major issue for most shooters. The amount of heavily under and over exposed frames i encounter is unbelievable. Im not saying a stop here and there but 4, 5 stops. More about Exposure further down.

Lenses.. Options and prices are limit less but there seams to be a great apathy towards good glass which I personally cannot understand especially when a bad lens is the main reason for poor quality photos, much more than cheap or expired film. Good glass with the cheapest film will give beautiful photos with the true film look. Isn’t this ‘film look’ the reason for shooting film?


Kentmere 400, Darkroom Malta, Analog Photography, 35mm Film, Black and White, Alan Falzon

Kentmere 400

Pushing is also popular both with color and b&w films but I have to say that unfortunately in the majority of cases it is being done incorrectly. Film shooters have heard about its magic but don’t know how it works nor how it should be done. In fact I can safely say that the majority of pushed films I develop result in very poor negatives, too dark that even the highlights have no detail, technically this means having highlights on zone 3 and zone 4. This is not a developing issue but from shooters who assume that ‘pushing‘ is the same thing as increasing the ISO on digital cameras. More about Pushing will come soon in a separate blog post.

Moving the technical staff to a side, what are film photographers shooting? Seasoned photographers, those who understand photography basics, shoot more specific subjects, generally the same they shoot digitally. The young Facebook/Instagram  generation shoot film with a ‘mobile phone’ mindset,  that is they shoot anything from their feet, their cat, friends, family and holidays.

HP5+, ASA3200, Pushed Film, Darkroom Malta, Valletta, 35mm Film, Black and White

HP5+ @ 3200

From the chats I have with customers You Tube always pops up and it’s definitely the main source of information. Why are so many getting their info from You Tube? I personally do use this resource but there is so much incorrect, unfounded information mixed with personal opinions that this is unfortunately negatively effecting the quality of photos. For example, the majority of popular You Tubers state that you can freely under and over expose because film has a very good exposure latitude. Isn’t this a simple way of saying just shoot and don’t bother? The digital way? How many of you can explain exposure latitude? How does this effect the final ‘look’? Under exposing colour economy films will create color casts. Add a bad lens and you are in for a psychedelic ride.  Over expose them by more than one stop and all you get are flat images with muted colours. Under expose black and white films to loose all details in the shadows, meaning what should be grey will be black.. A persons face will loose the smooth textures making it look ‘unreal’. Over expose  to say bye bye to contrast.

Now I understand that my point of view is as an old school photographer who follows ‘rules’ but spot on exposures and taught out composition must be done in camera not in editing. 

Analog photography is not cheap so I prefer to take my time to think instead of wasting a roll.

Film photography is new for most people and I’m really excited to see the younger generation getting into it to document their life with family, friends and holidays. It’s a pleasure to chat with people who are using cameras their parents or grand parents used, I too am using a Pentax my father used to shoot our family.

Yes it is  true that almost every one gets their negatives scanned to then view on digital devices but they now also own their memories as  tangible objects. 

More importantly, although film is an old complicated technology, the photos are still gorgeous!!!!

And that is why we shoot film.

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