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One of the trickiest things about film soup is getting it developed. If you’re not quite ready to jump into the world of developing your own film, it can be difficult to find a lab that will take a roll of film soup.
The film soup process leaves your film rolls sticky and covered in chemicals. It’s easy to see why labs don’t want to take this on!
But there is a new lab in the film world! And one that specializes in exactly that… developing film soup!
Today, we’re talking with Amy Berge, owner of Film Lab 135 about her new lab, film soup, and so much more.
You might know Amy from all of her awesome articles here at Shoot It With Film. She is an incredible film photographer, always pushing the boundaries of experimentation and always willing to share what she’s learning. We could not be more excited for her new film lab, and will be shooting some film soup ASAP to send her way!
Check out the interview, and leave any questions you have for Amy below in the comments!
Amy, tell us a little about yourself and your history shooting film.
Well hello! My name is Amy, and I currently live in Minneapolis with my husband and three boys. In addition to being a homemaker, I also lead worship at our church, am a family and senior photographer, and am a film photography educator.
As a child of the 80s, I grew up with film as the norm. I fell in love with photography in high school, and it’s been a passion of mine ever since.
After graduating from college, I made the leap to a DSLR and gave up my Minolta film camera, thinking I’d never look back. But in 2009, I stumbled upon a Diana Mini in an Urban Outfitters and bought it for a novelty toy. Shortly thereafter, I found a Minolta SRT-201 on eBay to re-embrace the film SLR life for some personal work.
I started acquiring Nikon SLRs to use with my existing lenses and slowly began to incorporate more film into my personal work.
In 2016, I invested in a Noritsu LS-600 scanner and began to exclusively use film for personal work and eventually progressed to film for all of my client work as well.
I love how your work always has an element of experimentation to it. What draws you to experimental processes, and how did you discover film soup?
I love capturing emotion, and, oftentimes, experimental photography heightens emotion in a photo. Whether it’s long exposures, panning, light leaks, or film soup, unexpected or unusual elements in a photograph tend to elicit extra emotion.
I also love that I can intentionally do something to my film to get unexpected results; it feels like a controlled chaos in a way.
I first ran across film soup a few years back in a film-based Facebook group. Artists were posting their experiments with souping film, and I wanted in!
But, at the time, I hadn’t started developing my own color film.
I admit that film soup is one of the driving forces for my figuring out how to develop C-41. And, now, I develop all my own film, even film for family and senior session clients, so I’m glad I learned!
And now you’re starting a film lab! What led to the start of Film Lab 135?
I actually really enjoy developing and scanning film. In that same Facebook group I mentioned above, I noticed people asking where to get film soup developed, and, as time went on, it seemed like more and more labs were no longer accepting film soup for developing. (And I don’t blame them! If I had a processing machine, I wouldn’t want mystery elements messing up the chemistry.)
I develop film by hand, which may not be efficient, but it’s perfectly suited for bespoke services like developing film soup. This seemed like the perfect time to fill this need in the film photography community and start Film Lab 135.
For someone new to film soup, can you explain a little bit about what film soup is and share a tip or two to help them get started?
At its core, film soup is submerging your film in some sort of liquid to mess with the emulsion. This could mean submerging your film in ocean water, boiled water, or whatever you want and even adding things in to vary the results.
I most often boil water and add some other elements to my own soups, such as vinegar, dish soap, baking soda, salt, food coloring, and the like.
I soak it for a few hours or some people soak it for a day or two. Then, you rinse the film in running water for 5-10 minutes (sometimes more if it is still soapy), allow it to dry, and then send it off to the lab!
My soaking tip is to stir every so often when souping your film. The elements tend to settle to the bottom, so you want to mix them around to keep them seeping into the canister.
My drying tip is to throw the film in your dryer. It sounds crazy, but it’s become my favorite method for drying film!
I nest the roll in some socks (for sound) and dry it for 5 cycles.
I tried it when I looked up that a dryer is only 135 degrees, and the boiling water I usually soup in would be around 212 or more.
I have done the dryer method for about a dozen rolls, and I haven’t noticed any adverse effects from it.
Plus, if we’re going to “ruin” our film, might as well toss it in the dryer to be able to process it faster!
If you still don’t understand what it looks like to soup your film, check out my IGTV video. It shows me souping a roll and you can see it in action!
How is Film Lab 135 different from the other labs out there?
The main difference with Film Lab 135 is that, unlike most labs, I wantto develop your film soup! You can even request I soup it for you! 😂
As stated earlier, I don’t use a machine to process film. I do it all by hand in a tank, and I’m the only employee. The whole project is designed to encourage people to experiment with their film and know there’s somewhere they can send it to for development.
I love the idea of providing a premium service to the small segment of the film photography community who want to try film soup or incorporate it into their work but don’t have the tools or desire to develop and scan on their own.
Can you share more about what you offer at Film Lab 135? What formats and types of film do you develop? Is it only for film soup, or do you develop regular rolls as well?
It’s a lab for 35mm film, which is where the 135 comes from. 35mm is also known as 135 format. (As an aside 120 film is NOT 120mm.)
Everything that comes my way gets developed in C-41 chemicals, so slide film is welcome but will be cross-processed.
I do develop my own black and white but am not currently offering it as an option for Film Lab 135.
I don’t discriminate and will develop any 35mm sent in whether it’s souped or not! Just know it will be developed alongside other rolls that are souped, so if you’re up for possible wonkiness, I’m here for it.
We’d also love to know your favorite film soup recipe!
I don’t have a favorite recipe (yet), but I do have a favorite “base.”
I LOVE adding a big squirt of dish soap (like 1/2 cup) and a bunch of kosher salt to boiling water. That alone will create great effects, but then add in whatever you want to expand the recipe!
Look around your kitchen and add away: baking soda, food coloring, powdered drink, spices, fruit….really anything!
I will warn you that even if you use the same recipe your results will vary. I’ve soaked rolls in the same concoction and gotten wildly different effects, so always be prepared for the unexpected.