Movie Unit Promotional Stills Photography

Never said it’d be easy, Kid.

The great thing about blogging without any serious planning is that it’s very hard to cover up things that go wrong. After 3 weeks of tense waiting I finally received the phone call telling me that the negatives were developed. Off to the lab I trundled.

I arrived with much more panache and class than I had previously, an easy task this time due to being empty handed. I’m sure no-one cared either way.

Snatching the films like a ring-starved Gollum I ran back to the train station to head home. Being quite the impatient and curious little monster, I had a quick peek in the envelope to see the fruits of my labour.

Thought One: Ohh, that silhouette has come out nicely.

Thought Two: Uh, that one’s a bit Overexposed? Foggy??

Thought Three: Oh fuck.

Here are the full results, pictures are after all worth several numerous words. I used my monitor as a back light so colour accuracy in no way exists.

Photos 1&2: Blank and blank except for the fairly severe light leak at the corners. Hmm.

Photos 1&2: Blank and blank except for the fairly severe light leak at the corners. Hmm.

Photo 3: A spot of light leakage

Photo 3: A spot of light leakage

Photo 4: Perfection!

Photo 4: Perfection!

What the hell went wrong Marc?!” Bellowed the stereotype chief police inspector that rules my mind.

Truth be told, I’m not 100% sure. So I’ve been spending my time tying to analyse this as scientifically as possible. Obviously there is an issue with exposing film, the first two images are blank. This makes little sense to me. Both times I correctly prepared the negatives to be exposed, otherwise at least one of these would be a sheet of pure white. The only other thing that actually blocks the light is the shutter itself.

Looking at photo 3, I can only assume that was my fault. I think it’s possible that I let light leak in the cartridge, and the patterns certainly make that seem the case, however it’s hard to be 100% sure. Especially since I don’t recall buggering up the handling of the film cartridge.

Photo 4 however is spot on, I couldn’t really ask for anything better there. Hopefully when I get round to scanning it at full size it’ll be lush.

So what went wrong with the first two images? What happened? The film covers were removed, and the shutter was fired, technically there should have been nothing going wrong. Looking for any evidence and links I consulted my film notes (I write down all the technical information before each shot for exactly this reason). The shutter speed for the first three images were all 1/125 of a second, the silhouette used 1/30 of a second.

Currently the only fault that comes to mind is that the shutter failed to trigger properly, or failed pass through accurately. It’s possible that with it being a fairly cold day the 40 year old, infrequently used shutter jammed up a little bit and caused these dark frames. By the time the 3rd / 4th images were taken, it might have warmed up / loosened up to be accurate again.

This is what buggering up looks like when you won't realise for another three weeks. Exactly like if everything went well.

This is what buggering up looks like when you won’t realise for another three weeks. Exactly like if everything went well.

What now?

Well I want to perform a test shoot that uses a similar shutter speed, and see what happens. From there I will judge what course is best to take.


If you’re in London over the next few days, and fancy a free portrait from me and my Graflex, give me a shout at the email address below. You’ll find yourself plastered all over one of these blog posts for all your hip and trendy friends to see!

This is part of the large format photography series of articles, where I am using my 70-something year old camera on a film set filled with stunts and dangers of every kind. Have any questions? Email me at

One response

  1. Reblogged this on filmcamera999.

    March 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm

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