I initially got into film soup by accident — a few years ago I was surfing with a friend; we were playing around with her disposable waterproof camera when a bit of saltwater got in the casing, which led to surreal color shifts and spots. I talked at length with Lomography about my journey into souping.
Film soup is all about experimenting and embracing risk — overall it’s a very loose process. You’re basically destroying your negatives but trying to do it artfully. Often the resuslts don’t work out, but when they do it’s that much more satisfying.
The main requirement is experimenting! No real rules, I always end up altering my process slightly every time.
I follow these steps:
- Shoot film (some people soak the roll first and then shoot it… I shoot first to avoid damaging my camera body)
- Soup film for 1-12 hours, depending on the strength of your ingredients. Stir occasionally.
- Rinse film for a minute or two under running water. This essentially stops the soup recipe from going too far.
- Dry for ~4 weeks. Shorter drying time will change the results (there is less time for the film to be affected by the soup). Developing wet film poses additional risk, as it’s easier to scratch the negative when it’s wet.
- Develop! When I first started souping film, I couldn’t find any labs that would develop film that had been soaked. This inspired me to develop c41 on my own, which was a blessing in disguise because I have so much more control over the whole process from start to finish. And other reasons $$. There are more labs that are willing to accept souped films these days, but be sure to let them know your film has been soaked so that you don’t contaminate their fresh chemicals.
INGREDIENTS. You can use just about anything but I would recommend beginning with natural, organic materials. My experiments with harsher chemicals (like widow cleaner and bleach) tend to erase the image in a very short amount of time, and it’s harder to stop that process once it starts.
Ingredients I love: COFFEE and TEA (especially moldy coffee/tea if you’re willing to let it sit around for a few days — mold on anything is where I get funnnky spotting).
LEMON or other citrus fruits — produces psychedelic color shifts, the longer you let it soak the weirder it gets.
BODILY FLUIDS — requires a willingness to get witchy and weird.
ALCOHOL — so far I’ve played with gin and wine, use shorter soaking times.
BEET JUICE — I suspect the dye from the beets is what makes this one so wild.
VINEGAR — wispy ghosting.
HEAT — gotta be careful here. I put a roll on top of my heater once to try to dry it out faster, and I ended up melting the whole roll. Kinda sad, kinda cool.
SALTWATER — great place to start because it’s pretty gentle.
I typically add some amount of water to every soup to dilute the ingredients.
Another thing to be aware of is that cheaper film stocks degrade much more easily (and make the risk of losing your film a little less daunting) than professional films like Portra.