With film shooters moving to larger formats and digital shooters using face-palm-inducing software to emulate the look of film, a 35mm shooter begins to wonder “What cool characteristic can 35mm film provide that no other format can?”
Enter the frame burn.
Unexposed 35mm film comes to us in a metal canister with a film leader hanging out. We then pull it out a little bit more to lay across the reels in our camera. If you only fire and advance once to get your film advance working correctly, instead of the recommended 3 fire and advances, you will get a frame burn.
A frame burn is simply what occurs when part of the first exposed frame of film is overexposed from bare light striking it. Half image, half film artifact.
For every roll of film you load, you have an opportunity to pull off a really cool frame burn.
I try to work the frame burn into the composition of my first shot, trying to keep in mind about where the burn will occur.
I find that my Leica M6 produces a longer “fringe” or transition from the overexposed area to the image area.
My little Olympus Trip 600 automatically winds all the film out of the canister upon inserting it into the camera and then rewinds the film back into the canister automatically after each shot. This produces a frame burn on the right side instead of the left side of the image. In addition, it’s a very short burn.
Loading color film in dim light can leave only one color layer overexposed and the faint image of your first shot will be left on the existing color layers.
So there you have it, a fun and simple way to squeeze some more cool factor our of 35mm film. Do you frame burn your first shot?