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Black and White Film Soup Experiment: An Art or a Science? by Jennifer Stamps

Black and White Film Soup Experiment by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
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Written by Jennifer Stamps

I went into this project thinking that film soup was an art. Experiment, go crazy, use your imagination. And while that definitely is the case, I learned that there is science involved. I made three attempts at black and white film soup and got three very different results. The key? Heat! You need heat.

*If you’re new to film soup, you can read all about it in this Shoot It With Film film soup tutorial.

First Attempt at Black and White Film Soup

My first attempt is when I really learned the importance of heat. I shot a roll of black and white 35mm film and loaded it in the developing tank as I normally would. But before I developed, I poured hot coffee in the canister for about an hour. Hot coffee…but drinkable coffee. The results? Lacking. You can see a few little spots of imperfection, but overall, it really doesn’t look like I did anything to the film.

Black and White Film Soup Experiment by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

Black and White Film Soup Experiment by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

Black and White Film Soup Experiment by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

Second Attempt

So, for my second attempt, I went nuts. I shot a roll of film. Instead of loading it in the developing tank for developing, I left the roll in tact and boiled it! I boiled it for 15 minutes in water, red wine, and hand soap. Then, after boiling, I put it in a mug of the boiling mix for an additional hour. I took the roll out and put it in a cup of rice to dry for a few days. Then let it sit on the counter for 3 weeks to continue drying.

When it came time to develop, the roll of film was STICKY. Mostly dry, but really sticky. It was challenging getting it in the developing reel. Green, sticky residue was left all over my hands when I was done loading it.

The results? Insane! I literally destroyed the film. The emulsion was rubbing off. My guess…too much time boiling (and the soap didn’t help). But I got results. And they are pretty gnarly.

Black and White Film Soup Experiment by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

Black and White Film Soup Experiment by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

Black and White Film Soup Experiment by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

Third B&W Film Soup Attempt

The third time, I wanted to develop a 120mm roll, since I mostly shoot 120mm these days. I decided to load it in the developing tank. But before developing, I poured boiling water with lemon juice and olive juice in the tank. I agitated it. And let it simmer for 5 minutes. Careful with this one…the developing tank gets VERY hot with the boiling mix in it (especially if you’re using stainless steel like me). The results with this one are way more subtle than the second try, but at least they are noticeable. Lots of dots all over the film.

Black and White Film Soup Experiment by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

Black and White Film Soup Experiment by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

Black and White Film Soup Experiment by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

Final Thoughts

So, an art or science? It’s an artistic science. You need some acidic and you need high heat, but from there? Just have fun. Add food coloring, salt, baking soda, tequila. Heck, boil it in a margarita? But bottom line: take notes (so you know what you liked and what worked) and have fun!

Sending Film Soup to a Lab

Note: if you’re going to send this to a lab, you need to check with them first. Lots of labs will not develop souped film. Or, you can try developing yourself. Follow these awesome guides on Shoot It With Film for developing black and white and color!


Thank you so much, Jennifer! Jennifer is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and you can check out her other articles here. You can also check out more of Jennifer’s work on her website and Instagram.

Leave your questions about film soup below in the comments!

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