Dishwashed Film

I have long been an admirer of distressed film techniques. There are various ways of distressing film such as dishwashing, soaking in salt water, silicon gel, rice. All can lead to great shots but what I love is that it is a massive experiment and the results are bespoke and unknown. You cannot guarantee what results you will get as you are playing with the chemical balance of the film and the reaction will be different each time.

I have recently purchased an Olympus OM1 and I decided the first roll to go through this awesome camera would be a distressed film. There are a number of people who have written about these techniques with deliberately misleading information and missing out vital steps. I had tried this technique before without success due to following someones recipe who thought it was clever to not tell people the full story. Analogue is not always a great community, some people do not want you to succeed contrary to what some marketing schemes would have you believe.

So here it is the Dishwashed Soup Technique (DST).

1. Get a film, any film would work but remember what you are going to shoot with it and in what camera and adjust your speed and type accordingly. From what I have seen they will come out darker than what you would if shooting without DST.

2. Load into your dishwasher! Take it out of its canister and its best to load it into a cutlery tray to avoid it flying about.

2. Once finished leave the film for a couple of days to relax. Somewhere nice and dry and out of the sun unless you wish to distress the film even more. The reason for leaving it to relax is because step 3 is applying a lot of heat and that may just tip the chemical reaction over the edge.

3.  Find yourself dark room and a hairdryer. You will need to pull the unexposed film out of the can and carefully dry it. Use nice big sweeping motions to avoid prolonged heat contact. When you pull the sticky film out I found it curls up a lot so a top tip is to attach a clothes peg to the end of the film, this will keep it nice and straight.

4. Shoot it.

I knew that with this film it’s not great for creating detail so I wanted to try to shoot some shapes. So I rang up another aspiring photographer, Mike and asked if he fancied coming on a photo walk through the countryside. We decided upon a nice 10 mile walk in Lower Crawley following an old disused railway line. The route is called Worth Way and I highly recommend it. Details of the route can be found here. Mike  (@Mikey_AbsentElk) was great company and walked at a good pace which was nice as I like to walk fast! He was shooting digital but don’t hold it against him. We saw wild deer, llamas, pigs, pheasants, squirrels, pigs and various birds. Was all going swimmingly until we met the main road and didn’t know the right way to go so asked an old lady which way. She pointed us in the (wrong) direction. It started raining. We walked about a mile down a really busy 50mph road which was a bit sketchy. After deciding the old lady had sold us up the garden path we turned round and did the mile again. We decided to escape the rain and headed to the nearest pub to sample the local ale. (God I’m old).

So here are some of my results from that day. If Mike is kind enough I will show you some of his shots later.

Would appreciate any feedback on the shots. I know they are not everyone’s cup of tea. The rest of the shots can be viewed on my flickr page. A word to the wise putting these types of film through a commercial lab is naughty. It can ruin their chemicals so either ask permission and be prepared to be shot down, send it away to a mass lab or give it to a lab you are not fussed about using again. I won’t disclose where I got these developed.

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35 thoughts on “Dishwashed Film

  1. This is great!! I’m looking for some different techniques like this to help take some less standard photos around Hong Kong. Don’t know if my bathroom will be dark enough to pull it off, but the last tenant left a hair dryer in my closet… Maybe it was meant to be

  2. Hello, so I have a quick question: Would this be something that could work with black and white film? if so is there a particular type of b&w film you would recommend? I’m really intrigued by this process and I’m not sure the lab I take my film to would appreciate this too much and seeing that I have a dark room at home I could take care of all the developing processes myself…but its only for b&w…(colour is much too complicated for a small spare bath 🙂 )

    • Hi! The process should work, it is a chemical reaction and it will react regardless of the chemicals being colour or B&W lead. You are right that your lab will not like you for running this through their service! All you are really doing is applying steam, heat and some detergent to chemicals on film so I see no reason why it won’t work. Just be particular about what you shoot with it and make sure you dry it out properly. Please come back to me and show me the results!

      • Thank you for the reply, and yes! I will most definitely show you the results!

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  5. Just to be clear about the process:
    – the film remains rolled in its metal can during washing & the sitting period;
    – in the darkroom, unroll, dry, and re-roll;
    – shoot as normal (perhaps adjusting for a slower film).
    Yes?

    • Hi Matthew, thanks for commenting. You are correct. One word of advice is when you dry the film be very careful with your fingers touching the film. You don’t want (or maybe you do want) finger prints all over it. I think its safe to say you should adjust your ISO setting from what it says on the film. Don’t get carried away with too much detail in your shots. The best DFT I have seen have been very simple patterns almost. If you try it would you be so kind as to let me see the results?

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  20. Hi! Great photos!

    I have a question regarding a different distress technique. You say the dishwasher technique can be bad for the labs. I’m shooting with distressed film, but in plum liqueur, water and salt, and i’ve been wondering if that also implies a risk for a commercial lab? I don’t have access to a home lab…

    Cheers
    Tom

    • Hi Tom.

      Depending on what you are distressing your film in you run the risk of contaminating the rest of their dev tank. Its best to send it away to a lab or just use somewhere who you don’t mind annoying!

  21. Hallo, so finally got to doing this in black and white and i’m very pleased with the results! I have posted one of the results in my flickr…its not quite100% true since I lack a scanner, I had to take a photo of a photo to post it…so it is a bit darker. Thank you for posting the initial idea! I will definitely be doing this again.

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