I initially got into film soup by accident — a few years ago I was surfing with a friend (shoutout to mermaid queen Cat!); we were playing around with her disposable water-proof camera, but a bit of saltwater got in the casing, which yielded surreal color shifts and spots. I talk about all of the inspiration behind my souping journey in an interview with Lomography if you care to know more.
ANYWAYz film soup is all about experimenting and embracing risk since overall it’s a very loose process. You’re basically destroying your negatives but trying to do it artfully. More often than not the reuslts 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 (I’ve heard of people soaking the roll first and then shooting it… seems like a good way to gunk up your camera body)
- Soup film for 1-12 hours, depending on the strength of your ingredients. Stir every so often.
- 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, in that there is less time for the film to be affected, but also in that developing wet film is another risk entirely because it’s easier to scratch the negative.
- 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 $$. I’ve heard that more labs are willing to accept souped films these days, but best 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 experiemets with harsher chemicals (like widow cleaner and bleach) haven’t yielded great results because they tend to just completely wipe out 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.
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 to try to dry it out faster, and it ended up just 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 easier (and make the risk of losing your film a little less daunting).