Sometimes a picture is so pretty, you just want to frame it and hang it on the wall. With an in-camera mask, you can skip the framing bit, and create fun borders right on your pictures.
Lately I’ve been experimenting with in-camera masks. It’s a fun and easy way to add some extra prettyness to your pictures. Here are some different things you can try.
Cut out a tiny silhouette of an object – a tree, an airplane, a person, – and stick it inside your camera. I put a little cat inside mine. Remember, the lens will project the image upside down onto the film, so you have to attach the mask upside down, too.
And remember that mask, or you’ll end up with failures like this one.
Take a bit of lacy fabric the size of a film negative (35 × 24 mm for a regular 35mm film,) cut out a hole that is a bit smaller, and stick it inside your camera.
The best way for me to make masks is to print a nice border on a transparency sheet. I made several frilly borders in Photoshop, printed them on transparencies and stuck them in different cameras.
- 35 × 24 mm for regular film
- 24 × 24 mm for rapid cameras
- 24 × 18 mm for half frame cameras
- 60 × 60 mm for square format medium format cameras
- 60 × 90 mm for larger negatives
You can make a classic photo frame or try all kinds of other stuff. I made a kind of paint brush trick and a border of autumn leaves and some random arrows as well. Try something that fits your subject: little hearts for you Valentine, birds for your trip to the zoo, a Victorian curly edge for classic buildings, whatever you can think off.
Of course, not all my experiments turned out great. I thought a pattern of scratches in a bit of transparency would be really cool, but the scratches turned out not very clear and a bit messy.
And before I printed masks, I drew on the transparencies with a marker but that didn’t create a very even layer. Also, I messed up developing…
Another failed experiment was a hole burnt into a bit of transparency. I had hoped for a nice rough burned edge but the plastic scrunched up into a bit of a mess and the pictures were fairly unimpressive.
A thing to keep in mind with these in-camera masks, is that you can’t really change masks after a few pictures. So either be prepared to shoot an entire roll with the same mask or try one of the following things.
- Shoot a few frames, remember how much, rewind your film, change your mask, shoot the amount of frames you shot earlier with the lens covered, shoot on with the new mask (repeat if necessary).
- Split your film into different parts. In a darkroom or changing bar, pull out a third (or half, or whatever) of your film, cut it off, stick it to a used film roll like you would if you were making your own redscale. Repeat until you have the desired amount of parts. If you have a rapid camera, you can stuff it into rapid cassettes and save yourself some tape.
The first method is a bit of a hassle, and you have to remember the number of frames you shot and hope you don’t get any accidental (partial) doubles, the second will mess up extra film because you’ll need more leaders, and unless you develop your own film, you’ll either end up paying for developing three rolls, or spend some extra time in the darkroom sticking everything back together (and I don´t know how happy your lab will be about that…) Did I mention I develop my own film? Or you know, just accept a whole roll of the same mask.