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Negative Burning – Film Manipulation

This is an introduction to using a candle flame to manipulate and distort your negatives. This process results in melted, stretched, and twisted images with colour shifts. Proceed with caution there is no going back.

What you need:

  • A candle
  • Negatives
  • Scanner

Before I took any photos, I drew sketches and made notes of photos I wanted to take, I decided that this roll of film was going to burn. This is also useful to show my skilled assistant, Mrs. Akula, what I wanted in each shot. I developed the negatives at home and pre-scanned before burning, knowing that there was no going back. I held the negatives over a candle flame; I was really trying to heat the film to stretch it out, not letting the flame touch the film.

The heated film produced color shifts from green to yellow and black to purple and blue. The spots that got really hot blistered with red dots. I was aggressive with the edges of the film, which would occasionally catch fire – I simply blew out the flames.

I tested the technique on the end of the film roll to get a sense and feel for amount of heat to use and the results to expect. When I scanned my “test negative” I was struck by the color shift and the image distortions, I was hooked. The candle flame method of burning negatives allowed me to control the amount of heat applied to the negative, and location of the heat. I burned some of the negatives a second time to increase and the effect.

The film bent and got distorted, some got bubbled and shrunk. By the end of the process, the film was a crispy wrinkled piece of plastic that no longer fit into a negative carrier of the scanner. I placed the negatives directly on the scanner glass and manually selected the frames and light levels for scanning.


  • Keep fingers away from the flame to avoid burns.
  • Burn the negatives outside or in a well-ventilated room.
  • Have a method ready to extinguish flames (a bucket of water nearby.)
  • Wear gloves and eye protection (when working with chemicals and fire.)

written by akula


  1. clownshoes


    Cool, I like burning film.

    6 months ago · report as spam
  2. fartstorm


    I may just have to try this sometime. Thanks for the tipster!

    6 months ago · report as spam
  3. gemmatus


    cool effects, I wouldn't dare to try it... but it is really awesome

    6 months ago · report as spam
  4. ashgowan


    This is a really creative idea! I have to try it sometime

    5 months ago · report as spam
  5. glenn


    2 months ago · report as spam
  6. akula


    Thanks @glenn

    2 months ago · report as spam

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: 中文(繁體版), Türkçe, Français, 日本語 & Deutsch.