Film Destroying Tips: Ammonia film soup with home development


You probably know film soup. Do you want to see what happens when you splash ammonia on the film before you develop it?

I’ve been fascinated by film soup since I discovered it, but I didn’t try at first because I was afraid of the drying part. I didn’t want to send wet, sticky or damaged film to my lab. When I started to develop them by myself, I knew it was time to try!

I chose ammonia as my chemical weapon mostly because I had it at home, and because I didn’t see anybody else doing it.

Credits: aguillem

To do it yourself in the same way, you will need:

  • Ammonia (I used household ammonia with concentration inferior to 3%. It cost less than 0.50€ at the supermarket)
  • Exposed film (I used a Lomography CN 400)
  • Development equipment (developing tank and reels, chemicals, etc.)
  • Totally dark room (you won’t have enough space in a changing bag)

For my first film soup I got inspired by the work of hodachrome, and especially this tipster. Instead of pouring the film canister in the “soup”, hodachrome pulled out the film in the dark to “dab” this soup on it, and create some wonderful stained patterns.

Here is how I did it step by step:

1) Take pictures.

It’s all up to you! However, I noticed that the film soup effect is more accentuated in the dark areas (See the end of this tipster).

2) Prepare the material.

The next step will be done in the dark, so you should be quite organized. Once in the dark, you will pull out the film, so you will want it to keep it straight. To do so I taped the free extremity of the film to the ground, and prepared another piece of tape on the canister, ready to stick it to the ground.

Emulsion side (the matte one) should face up! You should also prepare gloves (ammonia is corrosive!) and a container with your liquid (large enough to pour your protected fingers inside.)

3) Pull the film out. To be done in the dark!

Just pull out the film that you taped on the floor, then tape the canister to keep it in place.

4) Splash the ammonia. To be done in the dark!

Use your fingers to “splash/dab” some drops on your film, just like in hodachrome's tipster.

I recommend that you give it a try before, to find the right strength, distance and quantity. The drops you create directly influence the results! Then wait for 2-3 minutes.

5) Roll it up. To be done in the dark!

Roll the prepared film on the developing reel, just like to develop a normal roll. I just paid attention to touch the film as few times as possible, to avoid spreading the ammonia. Once you have inserted the reel in the developing tank, you can finally turn the lights on.

6) Heat up.

To activate the chemical reaction, I simply poured some hot tap water in the developing tank and waited about 20mn.

7) Development

For all information you need about C-41 development, I recommend these 2 great tipsters:

8) Results

The ammonia created some stains where it has been splashed. They are mainly pink/purple, with a yellow/green outline. On bigger stains, the center also tends toward yellow.

The stains contrast seem to be more accentuated in the dark areas. It’s really clear if you look at the limit between the two pictures taken in Venice: The same stain is purple on the left and yellow on the right!

Credits: aguillem
Look how the ammonia effect varies with the exposure.

Have you ever done a film soup this way? Let us see how it looks like with other ingredients or other films!

written by aguillem on 2014-05-19 #gear #tutorials #spot #lab-rat #tipster #development #dark-room #destroy #stain #chemical #sprocket-rocket #ammonia #film-soup


  1. clownshoes
    clownshoes ·

    Nice results.

  2. bebimora
    bebimora ·

    Love the effect, tysm for sharing <3

  3. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    very cool results!

  4. neja
    neja ·

    what's the best way to dry it (I don't have a dark room or special canisters)? thanks

  5. aguillem
    aguillem ·

    @NEJA If you want to dry it before to send to the lab I'd recommend avoiding heating up because it could decrease the contrast of the pictures by making the film old. Although we're speaking about destruction so it might be interesting as well ;)
    You could let id dry in the dark before to roll it back in the canister, but you'd have to leave the room without letting the light in (it could work if the next room is dark as well).
    Otherwise just soak up the excess of liquid so it dries faster.

  6. neja
    neja ·

    @aguillem thanks! I am trying to figure out if I can do it without the darkroom. I soaked to rolls in some weird stuff, then left it to dry out "naturally" for a few weeks, wanna shoot it now but not sure if it will work out. Not sure if any of the liquid managed to get inside the canisters...

  7. aguillem
    aguillem ·

    @NEJA I don't have a real dark room either, I just use a normal room without any light.
    To make sure it's completely dark of course I switch off the light and I close the blinds, but also:
    - I wait for the night (in case the blinds are note perfectly light proof
    - I switch off the light in the next room (doors are not perfectly light proof)
    - I switch off any appliance which has a led
    - I switch off my cellphone (in case somebody calls me)

    From experience of other people usually the liquid gets in the canister, but it's very difficult to dry.
    Be careful because wet films are very sticky, so I'd be worried about damaging some cameras. If you use some simple plastica camera which can be washed there should not be risks (if it's stuck you can open tha camera, remove the film and wash).
    But other cameras have foam, electronics, etc. which could be damaged.
    However I never "souped" the film before exposure , so other lomographers know more than me!

  8. neja
    neja ·

    @aguillem Thank you for such a detailed response! Makes much more sense now. I still haven't done anything with those souped films, not even sure to proceed now, maybe I will try drying in the dark technique. A bit afraid of not being able to securely roll it back into canister though (without leaks)

  9. neja
    neja ·

    @aguillem very good point about damaging the camera! I didn't think about it

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