As with most things in life, assignments help with execution, and committing to write an article about exposing both sides of the film locked me into actually trying it.
And my goodness, I am so glad I did! I fell in love with it immediately.
It fits my current style of experimentation, unpredictability, and serendipity. I have exposed both sides of my film multiple times after that first go-ahead and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
The Basics of EBS and Shooting Redscale
The basics of EBS is that both sides of the roll of film get exposed, so you literally run it through your camera the normal way (emulsion side toward the lens), and then hack the film to run it through your camera with the emulsion side AWAY from the lens, creating double exposures.
This technique can be a little confusing, so be sure to check out the video at the end of the article where I walk you through how to hack your film roll and load your camera with the emulsion side away from the lens.
When you expose the non-emsulsion side of the film, you will be shooting redscale.
This is because the red layer on the back of the film will be exposed first, and it will create a strong red color shift in your image. (To learn more about why this is, check out this overview of redscale film photography.)
By creating double exposures with one normally exposed image and one redscale image, the final outcome will have a mix of vibrant red and orange colors. It can often mimic the look of light leaks without washing out your whole image.
There are a couple of different ways you can execute the Exposing Both Sides technique:
If you want to try to line up the frames of your double exposure, you can run the film through the camera with the emulsion away from the lens, and, then, turn your film negative upside down, mark the first frame to be sure the frames align, and shoot again.
It is also common to use a lens splitzer with this method which allows you to expose only half of the frame at a time, so you’ll expose half of the frame with the emulsion towards the lens and half of the frame with the emulsion away from the lens.
If you don’t mind overlapping frames, you can run the film through the camera with the film negative right side up each time.
My goal was just to run it right side up each time and get overlapping frames, so this article tackles this technique.
First, run your film through as normal. Rate and expose as you normally would and shoot away.
Once your film hits the end, it’s time to reverse it to shoot the other side!
This is NOT as simple as flipping the cartridge upside down. The cartridge won’t fit in your camera if it’s upside down, so you have to do a relatively easy hack to make this happen.
Supplies Needed for Turning Your Film Upside Down:
An empty cartridge with just a tail of film sticking out
If you don’t have one of these, sacrifice a roll of film. If you develop your own film, don’t shoot the last frame of a roll, and instead of cracking open the cartridge to extract the film, take the leader out and cut the film off, leaving a tail end.
Take your empty cartridge, and turn it the same direction as the roll of film you just shot. So if the nubby side of one cartridge is facing down, the nubby side of the empty cartridge should be facing down. The film from the cartridges should align upside down; one side will be emulsion and the other will be non-emulsion.
Tape the ends together as aligned as possible.
Bring the whole taped-film-in-two-cartridge-set-up into your dark bag or a dark room under a dark blanket.
Wind the film into the empty cartridge.
Cut the film off the cartridge. If you leave a little tail, you can use this cartridge for your next round of EBS.
Tape the leader back on. (It will be taped on in the opposite direction of the film. It is often curved in the direction you want the film to go, so it will help your film catch.)
Because you’re shooting in redscale, it is recommended to shoot two stops over.
So if you shot the normal side of the film at 400 ISO, you’d want to shoot the non-emulsion side at 100 ISO.
The more you overexpose the more light will hit the layers behind the red-sensitive layer.
I have found I like shooting things like flowers or sky on the redscale side. If it gets too busy, it overpowers and makes everything feel a bit messy.
I have also preferred to shoot the non-emulsion side at golden hour to really lean into the redscale vibe.
When you run the film through again, the film will be right-side-up, but it will be run backwards through the camera (last frame will be shot over first), so aligning frames intentionally is rather difficult.
BUT, I like the serendipity of shooting blind like this. You just never know what story the film will help you tell, even when you didn’t ask it to.