Is It Cheating To Edit Your Film Photos?
Hot take: editing your film photos shouldn't be frowned upon! Reheat your afternoon cup of coffee for a little film chat.
Be the rebel! Listen to your heart! Don't let others bully you out of putting the final touches on your images!
Getting a new set of scans in your inbox is the fattest endorphin rush. After loading your stock, curating your settings, shooting the roll, and handing that baby off at your local shop — why wouldn't you take the time to perfect the photos and finalize your vision?
You've had a handle on every detail of the process thus far; why stop now?
Baby-film-photographer-me revered my film scans, cherishing the originals and avoiding edits for fear that someone would notice and shame me.
Years ago, a photographer I respected and admired told me (rather callously and unsolicited) that my digital work was "over-edited" and that I was "wasting my time." It momentarily shattered my understanding of art. But as I moved to 35mm and began immersing myself in new worlds of photography, I'm grateful to have recognized that no one can box me in — not even the purists. I still revere film and understand the beauty of a raw image, but I also harness the power & freedom of taking a second look.
Fujicolor 200 Color Negative 35mm Film
Need rolls of hassle-free film? Designed for flexibility and ease of use, Fujicolor C200 works equally well outdoors in daylight or indoors with flashBuy for $31.95
Professional Portra 400 Color Negative Film 35mm
Eyeing the go-to choice of pro film shooters? Kodak Portra Film at true ISO 400 delivers spectacular skin tones and color saturation in 35mm formatBuy for $79.99
Different Edits for Different Stocks
Small changes can make a big difference. Every edit, every slide, and every tweak shows up more dramatically on film. Less can be more when it comes to adjusting analog. My day-to-day stock workflow has become second nature during the editing process.
Fujifilm — Fuji stocks are known for a bold color profile, emphasizing green hues. Fujicolor 200 is my weekend stock if I need something affordable for a backyard hang or some snaps at a flea market. My edits are usually focused on shadows because that's where the green tends to lurk. I dive straight into my shadow color wheel, offset with a bit of pink, and compensate in the mid-tones.
Ilford HP5 Plus — Ilford being a killer medium for portraits and landscapes, the de-saturation pulls your focus to finer details: shadows, highlights, whites, and blacks. I attempt to clarify lines and balance lighting with a light hand. You'll be shocked how little tricks can make magic.
Kodak Portra — My most client-forward tool, Portra is a super versatile stock that captures skin tone exquisitely. Typically, my only move is to play with curves and lift my shadows just enough, especially if I push 160 or 400 a bit farther in lower light.
Kodak Gold — The warmest of warm tones. If I've shot in hard or direct sunlight, I might sneak the highlights down or even bump my white balance one or two marks cooler. It all depends on my composition, but I try not to touch more than a couple of my tools.
HP5 PLUS Black and White Negative 35mm Film (36 Exposures)
Looking to get a 35mm B&W film that will deliver outstanding sharpness, fine grain, under all lighting conditions? Feed your film camera Ilford HP5 PLUS 35mmBuy for $8.99
Gold 200 Color Negative 35mm Film
Shoot with the Legendary Kodak GOLD 200 35m Film! A low-speed color negative film, offering outstanding color saturation, fine grain, and high sharpnessBuy for $29.99
Psst — Labs Edit Your Scans!
Once the film is off my hands and sent to the scanner, I forget all those steps that fill the time between the drop-off and receiving a gallery in my email.
There’s a subjective art to scanning and developing film that’s no longer under my control. Those who develop and scan at home can enact edits in the darkroom by adjusting color balance or scanning and adjusting frame by frame. At a lab, technicians typically use an automated scanning system that, while efficient and pretty sick in its own right, can be inconsistent or generally calibrated.
When I’ve been so intentional with choosing my stock, framing up, and metering the light, why should the intention end at the scans? I’d instead follow through with my initial vision and make minor edits where needed.