Part of the Process is a series of posts that puts the spotlight on film photographers and DIY film developers.  These features provide unique experiences and perspectives on shooting and developing film while also showcasing diverse talent and film photographers around the globe.  If you are interested in being featured, feel free to contact me!

Name: Szalai Imre

Location: Budapest, Hungary





What attracted you to film photography? How did you get started/introduced to shooting film? How soon after did you start developing?

The physical material of film, the special look, the chemical processes and the fact that taking pictures on film inspires me more than digital.  It extends my imagination and it forces me to be better at photographing. It is pure addiction: I want to experience, learn and I’m enjoying every single moment of it.

What do you like to shoot on a regular basis?

Portraits, glamour, lifestyle, fashion, but street mostly.  However, when travelling or hiking and the nature amazes me, obviously I don’t miss taking a shot of it.

What formats, cameras, and films do you shoot? What do you like about the formats, cameras, films you prefer? 

35mm: Nikon AF600, Nikon FE + 20mm, 35mm, 105mm

Medium Format: Rolleiflex 3.5e Planar, Hasselblad 501c + 80mm + 8/16mm extension tubes

The Nikon AF600 (LiteTouch) is a point&shoot camera with an incredibly sharp 28mm lens, auto focus and manually adjustable built-in flash. Quick, small and invisible. I use it almost exclusively for street photography but it’s also suitable for parties and get togethers.

The Nikon FE was my first favorite.  It made me fell in love with film photography. It’s extremely handy, very easy to control, and fast with aperture priority function. I use it for taking all kinds of pictures: street, fashion, glamour, lifestyle, portraits, whatever. It is my regular travel buddy.

I purchased the Rolleiflex when became familiar with medium format photography. I love it, however focusing might be a bit tricky sometimes. It is always with me on my travels.  It is small, pretty light weight, and pretty comfortable to carry around. I also use it occasionally in the studio and is a perfect MF camera for street photography.

The Hasselblad is a quite new love. It performs well beyond my expectations. It is a bit heavy though, but shooting models with it is always a pleasure for both of the model and me.

What types of film do you develop?

Black and white 35mm and 120.

Tell us about your first experiences in developing your own film.  How did you muster the courage to give it a shot? What resources did you use?

During a commercial video shoot, I met this guy who said he was developing his own pictures at home. I was always a bit afraid of it, but he told me what equipment I need and we developed my first roll together.

Since that magical moment I cannot imagine sending any of my B&W films in a lab. Youtube can be helpful as well and I was checking out several videos in order to improve the quality of my negatives.

There are several rules I created for myself, just an example: always start loading the film onto the reel from it’s beginning (from the 1st frame, so the whole film needs to be unrolled first).

What is your development process like now?

Not many unique steps, you could simply imagine the standard DIY way. Currently, I am counting the seconds when enlarging prints due to lack of a darkroom clock. This will be my next purchase to have better control on my work. I admire the work of Man Ray and Erwin Blumenfeld and would like to try solarisation as part of the film developing process (not afterwards, but during enlarging).


What’s your processes regarding scanning, enlarging, and/or printing your work?

I scan and just recently started enlarging. If developing is fun, this is an incredible joy! Surprisingly, spending the whole night with enlarging prints does not infer fatigue on the other day, but a guaranteed satisfied smile on your face.

What equipment are you using to develop your film and why?

I mostly use Kaiser products as I could get those are most accessible.  So far, I am happy with them. For developing, I tried and used Ilford’s Id-11 developer, but then tried and settled with Kodak D-76. It results fine grained, sharp and nice, contrasty negatives.

My everyday fixer is also Kodak (I use this both for negatives and prints). I have to admit that I’m kinda loyal toward Kodak as a brand and I also love their film and respect their past and know-how.

However, my favorite B&W film is Fuji Acros 100 aside from Tri-X. My darkroom is situated in a bathroom, where I also hide under a blanket usually to make sure it`s totally dark in there, but for my printing process, I just finished and equipped another dedicated room. Printing doesn’t require 110% darkness but only 99% is enough.

Are you content with where you are now with your shooting and developing? Do you have any future plans or ambitions?

I’m still learning the basics, but later on I would like to try solarisation, making montages, apply sandwich negs, and use other/any creative ways to give shape to my own style. I would like to make exhibitions and publish my “work” on different platforms.

Have you completed any notable projects or in the process of creating something from the film you have shot and developed? 

I was asked to shoot for a fashion blog, which was a great honor and a fun time with the models and authors. They were happy with the results and appreciated eventually that all the pictures were on film. The special look of it convinced them as well!

What advice can you give to others who are interested in shooting and developing film but are apprehensive about getting started?

It’s really not a big deal compared to the satisfaction and excitement in the end. If you are worrying about making mistakes (which is – believe me – part of the process of learning and experimenting and actually can be enjoyable), shoot some “not that important” rolls and use them first.

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