Part of the charm of film photography lies in the quirks, the happy accidents, the unexpected and the learning along the way, but if you've just gotten into film or you've received your scans and there are things in your pictures you haven't come across before, it's not always super clear what's caused what and how to remedy it, or in some cases, to replicate it!
We've put together this little guide of some of the more common film nuances to help you better understand what's going on in your photos!
FIRST OF THE ROLL
You may find that the first frame of your scans has a big light leak across some of your frame. This is due to the start of your roll being fully exposed to light prior to processing and is nothing to worry about! In some cases this can be avoided by winding a few blank shots prior to taking your 'first' photo of the roll, though more often than not, it can cause a happy little accident; a truly unique 'burnt edge' across your first exposure!
Light leaks come in all forms of shapes and sizes, and can happen for a number of different reasons. Common causes are accidentally opening the back of your camera mid-way through the roll or the foam seals in your camera eroding over time and letting slight amounts of light in.
Light leaks vary hugely, case to case, often being a bit of a nuisance and instigating some troubleshooting, but some folks love them and every now and then can add some charm to an image.
CIRCULAR 'HALO' LIGHT LEAKS
Occasionally a fairly unique light leak might spring up, in the shape of a sort of halo / ring around the edges of your frame. These light leaks can tend to be quite consistent frame by frame, and are indicative of light entering your camera around the lens. Olympus MJU point and shoots seem particularly prone to these artefacts.
Every now and then a roll turns up with visible water damage. Frames often have a lot of blue-ish liquidy shapes on them. This can be a result of accidentally dropping your camera or the roll in water, liquids spilling in your bag or even condensation!
Twin checks are used by labs to tether rolls of film to orders. Typically a twin check is placed prior to the first proper photo of the roll appearing, but every now and then you may open your scans to discover a big number printed over your first photo! While they are fun little artefacts to discover, rest assured, if they do appear on your first photo, it's typically on a bonus first exposure before your 'roll' properly begins.
Film, especially C-41 colour negative film, is typically quite good at handling a little bit of over-exposure. Our scanners are also fantastic at compensating for over-exposure and delivering a nice, workable image. Every now and then, however, a frame may turn up thats too many stops over-exposed and has this bleached, 'washed-out' look. In the case of colour-negative film, this means there's a super dense negative that's been exposed for too long and our film scanners can not interpret a 'workable' image. If this is consistent across your whole roll, you can try exposing your shots for less time, and can be caused by camera malfunction, user error or incorrect ISO settings.
HAIR AND DIRT IN THE CAMERA OR LENS
A fairly common issue in the scope of film quirks and artefacts, and thankfully typically an easy fix! You may receive your scans back and notice a few small black dashes and dots on a few of your images. These are tiny specks of dust, dirt and hairs that have landed on your film and been exposed into the image. They can vary from tiny little specks, longer hair-like lines and often consistent little hair marks that appear in the same place on every frame around the edges of your photos.
These consistent marks are symptomatic of a small hair or bit of dirt trapped in your camera, making the same in-print on your negatives frame after frame. Smaller, sporadic marks can be the result of a generally dusty, dirty camera, or eroding bits of old foam seals flaking off your camera and landing on your film.
A quick remedy is to open the back of your camera when there's no film inside, take the lens off, and using compressed air or an air rocket, blow all the dirt and dust out of your camera and give it a thorough clean!
You may get your scans back and notice tiny little black splotches on some frames. They tend to appear in the same place frame after frame, and can range in severity and consistency. These tend to be tiny little fragments of dust and dirt on your lens that your camera has picked up and has ended up on your frames! A simple remedy typically is just to give your lens a thorough clean.
Every now and then you may see a faint line across the length of a frame, consistently across a few frames, or more severely, across the entire length of film. These are small scratches on your film and are most typically a result of sand or dirt in the back of your camera, which is scraping across the film every time a frame is wound. If you receive a roll back which has a scratch or two on it, it can be worth opening the back of the camera when you have no film inside and giving the whole camera a real good clean out - especially if you've taken your camera to the beach! Sand can be a real hassle with film photography!