Redscale is a technique much-loved by toy camera enthusiasts for its unique look and somewhat erratic nature. It involves shooting through the “wrong” side of the film! It is likely that it was discovered on accident by large format photographers long ago: they loaded their film backwards into the camera and didn’t realize it until after the film was developed. Talk about a shock!
But when planned for, redscale can create stunning and beautiful images that range in color from deep, hellish crimson to sunny and subtle golden shades. Expect vignetting, especially if you aim for a deeper red. It also seems to be grainier than normal film.
Redscale film can be bought or created at home. To create it yourself, go to a darkroom or use a changing bag. Bring a roll of film, an empty film canister [make sure it still has a small tab of film still sticking out!], and some tape. Next, tape the tab and the film together, but with opposite sides facing up. Finally, wind the film into the new canister. This last part can take some time. Stop when you feel resistance. Load it into your camera as you normally would.
Shooting Your Redscale Film
Exposing redscale film can be tricky. In my experience, it’s virtually impossible to overexpose it. Now underexposing – that’s all too easy! Shoot your film at least two stops over what the film was originally rated at. What I mean is, if you are using 400 ISO film, shoot it as if it were 100 – and don’t be afraid to shoot it at 50 or even lower! Remember, redscale film is extremely difficult to overexpose. The trick is in avoiding underexposure. I’ve found this rule holds even when using purpose-bought redscale film.
Substantial differences between images should be expected even on the same roll of film. Because of this, redscale lends itself to experimentation. Try soaking it in alcohol before taking pictures. Another idea is to shoot both sides of the film – once in redscale, the other as ‘normal’ film – to create a series of unique and abstract double exposures. Use different filters [blue will cancel the redscale effect]. Long exposure with redscale film is an unusual technique that is not seen very often.
Go take some pictures and remember to have fun!