How large can you print from 35mm film: Making c-type prints by hand

Many of you will know just how much I love analogue photography. Although I shoot all of my paid work using digital equipment, it’s rare that my personal photographs are taken using anything other than traditional film emulsions. I have a particular love of the 35mm format. I find 36 exposures per roll just about right, and find 35mm film easiest to process and scan afterwards. 35mm film however does have one inherent flaw. The comparatively small size of its negatives means it’s commonly assumed you can only make small enlargements. Throughout my work, i’m a massive advocate of displaying artwork for it to be truly appreciated. In my world, that means prints. Beautiful big prints that do the image justice. So, how well do these two worlds collide? Just how big can you print a 35mm negative and get ‘usable’ results? Every now and again I love a challenge so I headed into the darkroom with a mission to find out!

Setting up and focussing the negative image ready for printing.

I started by making a regular 10×8″ enlargement (roughly A4 sized). As anticipated, the film handled this enlargement with no issues at all. The prints are crisp, rich in colour and have no visible grain. The next test was a 16×12″ print (roughly A3 sized). At this point, the print still maintained excellent crispness and colour, but close up some flecks of noticeable grain had become visible. Still confident the film would take more, I reached for the biggest box of paper I could buy*. A giant sheet of 24×20″ paper, and masked an appropriate border. The final print measured 23.5inches x 15.4 inches. A few seconds of exposure, a little doding and burning and into the processor it went.  I eagerly went to await the print. Wow! Simply gorgeous. I’m not going to hide the fact that if you look close up you can see the defined dye clouds that make up the emulsion but for such a mammoth enlargement I was mightily impressed, and of course with larger print sizes the viewer would typically be further away (*As of Nov 2017, 24×20 paper is the largest commercially available for darkroom use.)

So, how big you can you print 35mm film? As big as you like I say!

*A massive thankyou to The Photo Parlour in Nottingham for all their help and expertise in the darkroom. If you’re a local photographer interested in learning more about Analogue photography then do go and say hello.

Would you like handmade darkroom prints of your images? Why not drop me a message to discuss photographing your session on traditional film. I’d be happy to work out some special pricing for you.

2017-11-28T14:04:33+00:00