Film swapping is a great way to be connected to the film community in your area or with film hobbyists shooting happily miles away from where you live. Aside from that connection, it also helps build confidence and technical knowledge of film photography.
Here’s a quick guide for any beginner photographer looking to get into the fascinating sub-hobby of film swaps!
1. Look for a film swap buddy
Since it’s pretty niche, you’ll likely find a tight-knit community of film shooters once you’ve been introduced to one (seriously, everyone seems to know everyone else!) Facebook, Instagram or Discord have many film photography communities so muster up that courage and ask away!
If you're comfortable and want to immerse yourself in a new friend group, find film shooters near you and see if you can join them on photo walks, too. We also do film swap open calls at Lomography so stay tuned.
Even finding a film swap buddy can be an adventure, too. One of the best ways to make it so is to look for photographers whose photos you really like, introduce yourself and see if they're up for a film swap project with you. That's what happened to film swap friends Nikolas (@lofnikolas) and Naoyuki (@naosuke), who are from Greece and Japan, respectively.
“We do not specifically discuss the subjects to shoot in advance. We shoot on own discretion. But strangely, when the negatives come out, the same scenery of Greece and Japan is exposed in one frame. Roads and roads, buildings and buildings, forests and forests. I think this is honestly a wonderful miracle.” - Naoyuki (@naosuke), Film Swappers’ Society: The Transcontinental Friendship of Lofnikolas and Naosuke
2. Agree on the theme and technicalities
Once you’ve found a fellow shutterbug to team up with, start discussing the theme and technicalities for your swap. Do you want nature and street shots? Do you both want to photograph the landmarks in your respective hometowns? Or do you prefer to have no theme at all? For example, @makethisadouble conducts surprise film swaps for photographers internationally under the project called Make This A Double launched in 2021. The film swap results will truly inspire you. And it's something you and your partner can do too!
Don't forget to talk about which camera or film stock you and your partner would like to use. Black-and-white? Color negative? Or a color-shifting film perhaps? Generally, black and white and color negative films are good for film swaps as they have more forgiving exposure latitude than slide film.
If you’re not doing a surprise film swap, the first photographer can take notes of the images taken in the first round to give the second photographer ideas of how they can layer their own shots.
So that both of your frames align, you can mark your first frame with a marker before closing the lid to serve as a guide for the second photographer.
3. Double exposing
Now, on to making that double exposure magic. Film swap is basically exposing your frame or your roll to light twice, so try underexposing in the first pass by reducing exposure by one stop to make room for more details to come in on the second exposure. This is also where choosing a film stock with a pretty wide exposure latitude comes in, as it will allow for better overlapping of images.
Try shooting shadowy or dark areas in the first pass, then shoot more details or patterns in the second and you’ll find that those will fill in the shadowy/dark areas, creating a world within a world!
We met Mikki Lopez during the Fotobaryo Marketplace & Swapmeet event in the Philippines. Here are some of her tips and experiences for anyone who wants to try out film swaps:
"Don't expect too much because the results are really unexpected. Don't be frustrated and don't stop if it's not how you wanted it to be! I've experienced accidentally exposing a roll after they've shot the first pass. The whole roll got wasted. But that's alright, just try and keep on shooting. There's satisfaction once you've seen the images and you weren't sure where the shots would overlay."
4. Shoot to your heart’s content and share the results with us!
Bask in the unknown, and you'll definitely experience something worthwhile! The 8th rule in Lomography's 10 Golden Rules encapsulates it: you don’t have to know beforehand what you captured on film! Once you've had the results processed, talk about it with your film swap buddy and maybe the both of you will get more ideas for your next film swaps.
And if you want to level up your film swaps, experiment by maybe trying slide films or color-shifting film stocks. You'll definitely get mind-blowing results from film stocks like LomoChrome Purple, like community members Toby Mason (@fotobes) and Hodaka Yamamoto (@hodachrome) did in their own LomoChrome Purple film swap.
Of course, share the results with us too if you'd like!
Do you have film swap photos or tips you'd like for new beginners to know about? Feel free to comment below!