I’ll not mention the current worldwide situation and instead, will just say that there are times when we all find ourselves stuck at home twiddling our thumbs in need of distribution and inspiration. To help, I reached out to the film photography community and asked what kinds of photography projects they’d be doing while stuck at home/physically distancing over the next few weeks, months (years?)

This article collects the more sensible suggestions, a few of the absurd ones and mixes them in with dozens of my own – 65 in all. I’m hoping it should keep you occupied for a while. Truth be told, my original idea was to stop at 20 but I got a little carried away. In fact, each time I’ve come back to edit/check this article before going live, I’ve added more. I’ve got to stop some time but will no doubt be adding more after this has been published.

I’ve split the 65 projects out into some loose categories for the sake of your sanity. Some of these will take only a few minutes to complete, whereas others may take a few weeks or months when spread out.

Scroll down, or jump through the list below as you desire.

Shall we get stuck in?

Developing film and printing: 7 projects

At the top of the list, mostly because it’s the biggest pain point I have right now: developing a film backlog. I have a dozen rolls to develop. Following a couple of months of pretty much zero “real” photography, I seem to be in the swing of things again.

I’ll be getting to them right after I’ve finished writing this. First things first though, I need to check and refresh my chemistry (so should you).

Remember that with many labs closed, your friends and film-shooting family might not have access to develop their film. Why not spread the love and help them out with a roll or two?

If you’re not already developing your own film at home, now is a pretty good time to give it a crack. Getting into home film development has never been easier. There are loads of kits and deals you can find out there on the web. The recently release ILFORD/Paterson starter kit is (almost) all you need. Add a film changing bag and you’re all set.

If you have a darkroom, then this time could equally be used to print new photographs or revisit and reinterpret old prints to see if something new sticks. If you’re feeling adventurous and you’re already set up, you could also try taking a leap into learning RA-4 colour printing.

Here are those 6 points again:

  • Check and refresh your chemistry.
  • Develop your film backlog.
  • Help a friend develop a roll of film.
  • Start developing your own film at home.
  • Clear your print backlog or have a crack at reprinting/interpreting old prints.
  • Get started with contact prints.
  • For the adventurous: give RA-4 colour printing a shot.

Scanning film and the digital darkroom: 8 projects

If you’re planning on developing your film backlog then scanning it should be your next step. Depending on how much you have, you might want to pace yourself. If you’re like me, you probably also have a few developed rolls/sheets that you haven’t scanned yet. Throw them on the pile.

Still on the subject, why not try your hand at rescanning some old negatives? Your scanning process has probably been refined quite a bit since you first started, so put some of those skills and experience to use and pull more out of those old slides and negatives.

Add another one to that: remove dust from all your film scans! That should keep you busy…

Remember though…it doesn’t have to be all about you.

I’m sure you have a box or two of old family negatives under the bed? You could take a crack at getting those scanned too, then distribute the results to your family over social media and email. I have a few old rolls of APS from my early 20s that I’ll be scanning – I only have the prints and they’re currently in another country.

If you scan your own slide film, now is a perfect time to spend a few minutes calibrating your scanner with an IT8 target to nail that colour. It’s simpler than it sounds, trust me. All it takes is a suitable target and following the instructions in your scanning software.

VueScan, Silverfast and others make it easy and you can get some incredibly reasonably priced targets from Wolf Faust over at Colouraid for each film stock/family you want to create a calibration for.

If you’re feeling in the mood to torture yourself and calibrating your scanner wasn’t enough, calibrate your screen. Really.

Think scanning film is old-hat? Try your hand at scanning your negatives with your phone or DSLR/Mirrorless camera. If you’re going down the phone route, you should give Abe Fettig’s Film Lab app a shot. It’s available for both Apple and Android devices. You’ll need a light source and some form of negative holder. I use a cheap A3 LED lightpad from eBay for the former and the latter could be a quick homemade project or a ready-made product like pixl-latr. Regardless, once you get your scans — from your phone, digital camera or film scanner – I highly recommend giving Negative Lab Pro a shot for inversion/conversion.

Finally, I cannot stress the importance of a logical and easy to use film archive, no matter if your negatives/digital archive cover a few rolls or a few thousand. I’ve written about my approach here, which also provides a spreadsheet you can use to document everything. You can also find a more recent article from Olli Thompson covering his archive system.

Here are the 8 suggestions from this section:

  • Get on top of your film scanning.
  • Remove dust from your film scans.
  • Rescan old film using your process and skills today.
  • Scan old family negatives.
  • Organise your negatives/digital archive
  • Calibrate your scanner with an IT8 target.
  • Calibrate your screen.
  • Try your hand at digitising your film with a digital camera.

Organise, clean, repair, modify (and create) gear: 5 projects

Get. Your. House. In. Order. Not your house, house, your photography house. Now is a great time to do some spring cleaning.

For my part, my cameras and lenses are all organised in their various dehumidifier cabinets but my photographic accessories and trinkets are all over the place. I’ve just picked up a small set of transparent drawers so I can organise my various lens/body caps, straps, connectors, cases, batteries, cable releases…you get the idea.

With everything organised, your next step should probably be to sit down with some cleaning supplies, a few q-tips and some isopropyl alcohol and give your cameras a clean. Your efforts needn’t be limited to just the outside, mind you. You could get adventurous, as I recently did.

I can confirm that no cameras were harmed during the making of the first photograph below.

A quick surface clean is one thing but it’s easier than you think to perform some simple basic maintenance on your gear. The most simplest form would be to check and replace batteries (as well as buying more for your more power-hungry gear). Next up, and still suitable for even the least technically inclined among you: like replacing light seals (second picture above) or even “re-skinning” one or two cameras with new leather.

Both are simple and incredibly rewarding activities. In the process, you might learn a thing or two about your gear and the probability of inflicting damage is LOW. I’ve used both Aki Asahi (for light seals and leather) and cameraleather.com for years and have nothing but good things to say about them.

You might be interested in…

Speaking of leather, isn’t it time you gave your cases, straps and other leather/leatherette a bit of TLC?

For the more adventurous among you, why not have a crack at some gear mods? I understand this is a bit of an outlier but I’d be remiss not to mention it. The first that comes to mind are the (utterly reversible) lens mount modifications offered by Leitax.

I used their Contax CY to Nikon F kit to convert a Carl Zeiss Sonnar 135mm f/2.8. There is a why but this isn’t the appropriate time to talk about it. I’ll get back to you sometime soon but I will tell you that the mod works like a charm.

If you have a Nikon film scanner, you’ve probably read Helmut Stoepfgeshoff’s Nikon Scanner Know-how once or twice. Did you know he also documented how to convert the standard 6-frame film strip module into the full roll version? If not, you do know.

The modification takes about 15 minutes to complete and including previewing each frame, scanning a 36-frame roll at ~ 2400dpi takes about 40 minutes from pressing the start button.

If modifying your gear isn’t your bag, what about making a camera or something that will help with your process? There are so many choices out there today. You could:

Here are the 5 suggestions from this section again:

  • Organise and tidy up your gear.
  • Clean and refresh your gear.
  • Perform some basic maintenance.
  • Gear mods.
  • Make a camera/accessories.

Get “social”, support the community and your sanity: 7 projects

Kill time, not your family: get on social media, post a few photos, get into a discussion, help out a fellow member of the community, post a meme. I recently expanded my film photography “Never Have I Ever” from the end of Feb. I’d love a few minutes of your time to help contribute to this ongoing global film photography survey.

If you’re feeling particularly generous with your knowledge and experience, I recently added a mentorship feature to my Facebook group, Film Photography Chat. Details are pinned to the top of the group, so please give it a shot if you’re able to provide help, or in need of it.

I’m guessing you probably do some or all of this already but there’s always room for more, especially when it comes to providing support to those in need during these trying times. On a totally selfish level, you might also want to try your hand at writing something, whether it’s for your own blog or sharing your experiences here on EMULSIVE. I’m always on the lookout to feature the words and work of others, so get in touch if that floats your boat.

You can also offer your support to the many small businesses and microbusinesses run by members of the community. I’ve put together a list of a few at the bottom of this article and all have been kind enough to provide special promotions/codes that you can use to get money off.

Disinfect your social media feeds as well as your hands. This sage piece of advice comes from Anil Mistry: “Social media can be toxic and hysterical and that is especially true right now. Spend 5 minutes a day blocking, unfollowing or muting anybody who is posting unhelpful/negative stuff and disinformation into your social media feed. After a few days of doing this your feeds will be a lot less depressing and annoying and you will feel somewhat more positive when scrolling through.”

I don’t really know what to say about this fourth idea, so I’ll leave this comment from Alex Luyckx here: “Convincing neighbors to join in a recreation of the film Rear Window.” There you go.

Here are those 4 points for you again:

  • Engage on social media.
  • Fill out my global film photography survey.
  • Become a mentor.
  • Write something!
  • Support your local photography businesses as well as those run by members of our community.
  • Disinfect your social media feeds
  • Recreate “Rear Window”.

Photography at home: 14 projects

The cyanotype on toilet paper should give you an idea of where this is going. Yep, here’s where it gets interesting-er.

Ask yourself a question, how well do you know your own home? Probably not as well as you think, especially if you’ve not been working there full-time.

Here are a few photographic ideas while you’re “stuck” there:

  • Still life.
  • Create a project based on colours.
  • Create a project based on shapes.
  • Create a project based on shadows.
  • Macro photography.
  • Make photographs that represent concepts in abstract: fun, happiness, loneliness, absurdity, the seasons of the year, even pictures that represent letters of the alphabet – a roll of 35mm film gives you space for 10 mistakes 😉
  • If you have kids, give them a camera to document their lives – toddlers to teens, it’ll be something you can look back on.
  • Take photographs of your family.
  • Take photos of…cameras.
  • Long exposure photography inside the home or in the garden
  • Creative selfies.
  • Documenting working from home.
  • Figure out your studio lighting/make a small home studio.

Photography isn’t the only creative option open to you. If you’ve got kids (or are just naturally curious), I highly recommend trying out the cyanotype process. It’s quick, simple and the possibilities are endless…especially if you’re a fan of things like crumpets or have toilet paper to waste (see above).

No sun? No problem.

The great outdoors: 7 projects

As I write this, it is still both possible and not socially frowned upon to go outside for work or pleasure in many, many parts of the world – especially in the East where the act of wearing a facemask to protect yourself and others is considered a social responsibility and not lauded or mocked.

If you happen to be someone who that applies to, this list is for you. Remember to stay safe, wear a face mask and keep your distance from others. You might be able to “handle it” but imagine how you feel if you passed something on to a loved one.

  • Pack a lunch and take a long walk.
  • Document life under duress.
  • Photograph the small things in your neighbourhood.
  • If you’re working, document your workplace and/or commute to and from work.
  • Documenting isolated towns/communities.
  • Document your garden (if you have one).
  • If you happen to be under lockdown, why not use Google Streetview to pretend you can still go outside?

Once again for those in the back: if you plan to go out during this time, follow the guidance provided by your local and central government, other relevant authorities and of course, common sense. You might be ok but it’s crucial to slow and stop social infection rates. “Outside” will always be there, your friends, family and others you come into contact with may not.

Other things: 17 projects

  • Make a box frame of 35mm film cans you have lying around the house *
  • Get inspired and then create and print a zine or photobook.
  • Listen to a podcast – there are over two dozen film photography podcasts to choose from.
  • Subscribe to a photography YouTube channel.
  • Read another film photography blog.
  • Read a book…or ten (including photo books).
  • Read a magazine like Silvegrain Classics or Let’s Explore Magazine.
  • Build a lightbox for scanning or viewing slides/negatives.
  • Build an LED UV lightbox for making cyanotypes.
  • Work on your website.
  • Keep a diary.
  • Draw or paint (walls and/or pictures).
  • Master the dark art of lock picking.
  • Do some gardening.
  • Make dry plates.
  • You could also stay here on EMULSIVE. With over 2500 articles dedicated to the craft, people, gear and medium that makes up film and traditional photography, I’m sure it’ll keep you occupied. I’d suggest starting with my 200+ film photographer interviews and moving on from there.
  • Finally but by no means least, check out some of the other film photography blogs out there. There are quite a few, as you’ll no doubt know. Hamish over at 35mmc has a list and I heartily recommend them all.

* I used a small IKEA box frame as a test for a much larger piece. It’s rough around the edges but a good proof of concept for me. The cans are held in place using small neodymium magnets, which have been blu-tacked to the backboard. Next step: cut a sheet of card for a decent mount and give it a shot on a bigger scale. Using magnets means that some of the cans aren’t perfectly straight, but I can live with that!

It’s not an exhaustive list but it should keep you occupied while I think of a few more and inevitably get told by the community that I missed this idea or that. Your suggestions are very welcome and please leave them in the comments section near the foot of this page.

You may recall I mentioned supporting businesses created and run by members of our own community above. There are many, some of which have been profiled here on EMULSIVE. I’ve spoken to a few of them and provided details of offers and promotions they’re running while normal business is suspended in large swathes of the world.

~ EM

Name/link Description Checkout code Limits
595 Strap Co 20% discount on all neck straps and wrist straps emulsive20 None
Analogue Wonderland Rotating deals on different film stocks None None – but will update with new/different deals every couple of weeks
Chroma Cameras 5% off all cameras None First 20
Japan Camera Hunter 15% off JCH products in the shop (excluding lenses) SUCKITCOVID Until 31 March 2020
John Whitmore Photography 30% off limited first edition of “Sri Lanka” None While stocks last
Kamerastore Free home delivery in Europe + 500 items either 25% or 50% off. SHIPFREE Free shipping until Europe is back moving
Kosmo Foto 15% off everything in the Kosmo Foto shop. MARCH20 Til 31 March.
Let’s Explore Magazine 40% off everything in the LEM Shop. None Until 20 April 2020
Little Vintage Photography Educational kits & Workshop vouchers None Until further notice
ShootFilmCo 10% of proceeds donated to the California Association of Foodbanks AND 10% off discount eligible merchandise foodbank10 Through April 2020
Silvergrain Classics 15% off everything in the shop. StayHome15 Until further notice
Solarcan 10% off for parents teaching at home. TEACHATHOME Until travel/movement restrictions are lifted

I realised I left off at least two items and have so far had half a dozen new suggestions come in from readers. Once I have a few more, I’ll post a full update. Thank you and please keep the ideas coming!

Read the full article here