The Chemistry of Film Photography


    • Film photography photos are produced in dark rooms by burning the picture on light sensitive paper and then putting it through a series of chemicals to fully develop them. The photos are taken on cameras that have light sensitive film running through the back of them, behind the adjustable glass lens.
    • When cameras first came about film photography was the only method used. The first film photo was taken in 1827. In 1984 Canon demonstrated the first digital camera. Film photography is very important because it helped capture some very important moments in history.
  • Film isn’t used by many professional photographers today but there are still a lot of people who like to use it. Personally I just like it because you actually get to see how the photos are developed up close and it also gives you a better perspective on how to take better photos with digital cameras.

Composition of ...

    • The Camera: The materials that are usually used in creating a camera are metal, glass, plastic, wood, and mirrors.
    • The Film:
      • Collodion: This substance transformed photography. This a viscous mixture of gun cotton that is dissolved in alcohol that then creates a thin film. It is then mixed with silver bromide, silver iodide or silver chloride. This substance reduced exposure time to seconds instead of hours.
      • Film: The first type of camera film was produced when the collodion was combined with celluloid, a flexible plastic. This film started to be sold with “Kodak” in 1889 along with the worlds first box camera.
    • Chemicals used to develop the film:
      • Developer: This substance is what causes the silver iodide on the roll of film to darken as if it has been exposed to the light. Developer is made out of two solutions.
        • Solution A: 50 ml of water, 1 gram of sodium sulfite, 0.16 grams of hydroquinone, 4.6 grams of sodium carbonate, and 1.1 gram of phenidone.
        • Solution B: 50 ml of water and 8 grams of sodium sulfite
      • Stop bath: This substance completely stops the development process
        • Stop bath is made out of acetic acid but many people just use water in lieu of stop bath to reduce the cost.
      • Fixer: This substance removes all of undeveloped silver iodide from the emulsion
      • Modern fixers are usually made out of sodium thiosulfate or ammonium thiosulfate.

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

The main chemicals, compounds and components come in when actually developing the film. The film has four layers: The first layer is a protective coating which protects the emulsion layer that has the gelatin and the silver halide crystals in it. Higher speeds of film have multiple layers of emulsion. The third layer is the film base. The film base is a polymer that is chemically stable and flexible. The fourth layer is the anti-halation backing which prevents reflections off the back of the film.

Chemistry's Role

There is a lot of science in photography, but it is also a form of expression and art. Photography fills books and many pages of the internet. There are many techniques and forms for photography. Photos can show motion and can also create many emotions in those who look at them. There is a lot of chemistry in photography. Like Chemistry, such as, chemical reactions and reactions with light.

Background Research

There are many parts to a film camera. The most important part is the lens. The lens draws the light into the camera and focuses the light onto the film which is directly behind it. The shutter is in between the lens and the film and opens and closes to control the exposure of light on the film. The aperture dilates and contracts to control the diameter of the hole that the light passes through. The camera body houses all of the camera parts and the film. There are many different companies that make cameras. Kodak, Dai Nippon Printing, Efke, Foma, Fujifilm, Indu, Ilford, Lucky, Mitsubishi, Olympus, Vivitar, polaroid, and Nova are just a list of some of the most popular film photography cameras.


How photographic film works

First film camera

When the digital camera came about

Parts and functions of a film camera

The composition of the camera and the film

Chemicals used to develop the film,,,

What the chemicals are made out of

The chemistry of film photography and how it all works

Popular film companies

About the Author

Chase Norwood is a student at Billings Senior High School. He took film photography the first semester of his junior year and is now regularly taking high quality photos with his Canon Rebel T3i. Chase has played and lettered in golf at Senior High. Chase is also planning on taking more classes on photography during his senior year and is even considering doing something with photography in college.