Shooting Kodachrome Film in 2012

Like everyone else who heard that Kodak was discontinuing Kodachrome in 2009 — and that Dwayne’s Photo would not develop the slide film after 2010 — I shot as much Kodachrome film as I could acquire, before that “last developing day” deadline.

Eighteen months after that final day, people have still tried to develop Kodachrome on their own. It’s photographic alchemy. And after much trial and error, I came up with a way to not only shoot Kodachrome film, but produce color images with it.

It’s April 25, 2012. Thanks to an eBay auction, I have an unused roll of Kodachrome 64 35mm film in my possession. I packed the Kodachrome in my Nikon F100; and for all photos that were taken with this roll, I used my Nikkor E-series 28mm f/2.8 manual focus wide-angle lens. I mounted the camera on a sturdy tripod, and set my camera for shutter priority, shooting as if the film was an ISO of 50, rather than its printed ISO of 64.

After I took the first picture, I put a red Bower 2 filter on the camera lens and took another picture. Then I swapped out the red filter with a green Tiffen 58 filter, and took another picture. And then I swapped out the green filter with a blue Tiffen 47 filter, and took another picture. Meanwhile, the camera stayed rock-solid on the tripod. It’s similar to the Prokudin-Gorskii technique, in which Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii took three simultaneous lens-filtered pictures, allowing us to see his 100-year-old photographs in color today.

Kodachrome can actually be developed as a black-and-white film, and if you’re going to use Kodachrome in that manner, one company that I recommend for developing is Film Rescue International, a respected photo developing company that specializes in pulling pictures from vintage film. I sent my roll of Kodachrome film to FRI; they confirmed its receipt by e-mail, and let me know when the film would be developed and how soon I would receive it back.

On July 12, 2012, the developed film arrived in my mailbox. I checked the negatives. There’s images on them. So if nothing else, I’ve got black-and-white Kodachrome photos.

Here’s an example of Kodachrome as a B&W analogue film.

As you can see, this photo includes information regarding the 2012 horseracing season at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York.

Now here’s that same picture, with a scan that shows the sprocket holes.

And if you look at the top of the film strip, right next to the sprocket holes, is the designation “KR 64″ – the abbreviation for consumer-grade Kodachrome 64 ISO film.

I scanned in each of the negative filmstrips into the computer, and then lined up as many common points on each filtered image as I could. Since my art graphics software can split a color image into three “red-green-blue” channels, I set it up to do the opposite – create a color image from three “red-green-blue” originals.

Here’s what I came up with.

This is the Jericho Drive-In theater in Glenmont, New York. As you can see, the twin bill on the marquee is “American Reunion” and “21 Jump Street.” Kodachrome film, photographed last April.

This is a street sign in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., named for race horses Funny Cide and Bird Town.

This is an Albany, N.Y. neighborhood grocery store, complete with a vintage sign advertising lottery tickets and money orders.

Yep… all of these are Kodachrome shots. They were not created by that Kodak EasyShare camera that has a “Kodachrome” setting on it. I didn’t sit there and digitally hand-paint these pictures. This is not some other brand of film that I’m calling “Kodachrome” just for laughs and snickers.

Of course, I still have to work on this technique some more – for example, if I ever photograph the sky in this new Kodachrome technique, it has to be a cloudless sky, unless I want clouds that look like they were made of cotton candy. And this roll of film does have some fogging in it, which makes me suspect that this batch of Kodachrome was about to spoil.

And although trying to get a color photo with Kodachrome film in 2012 is almost like making a right turn with three lefts, I still was able to use some filters and ingenuity to produce color photos from this Kodachrome film.

About the author: Chuck Miller is a writer and photographer from Albany, New York. In addition to shooting traditional film and digital images, he has experimented with various lo-fi and non-traditional photographic techniques, and blogs about his successes and “back-to-the-drawing-board” attempts on his Albany Times Union blog.

Image credit: Remains of the Day (in Kodachrome 25) by ageing accozzaglia

  • Ren Bostelaar

    This is actually a heck of an impressive stunt.

  • Joakim

    Clever as hell, this blew my mind!

  • Raphael

    Why not just use a B&W film ?

  • Sam


    I was really hoping this was what it said it was. The technique described could be used with any black and white film.


  • Sideromelane

    That would be besides the point. Why not just use black and white? Why not just use a compact digital? It’s KODACHROME. It’s like recovering music from a 100 year old gramaphone record, or refurbishing a laserdisc player. There are newer copies of that record on CD, and DVD’s are more practical than laserdisc EVER was, but… Someone will still try. Someone WANTS to because it was something that was important once, and it’s nice to be able to say ‘It can be done’, even if the practical reality means it probably actually wont, very often. But the ability remains.

  • Steven Alan Worster

    This is amazing! I don’t think I would have thought of ever doing that.

  • JamesMcDaniel

    “And this roll of film does have some fogging in it, which makes me suspect that this batch of Kodachrome was about to spoil.”

    Fogging is mostly due to time / age, and exposure (literally) to the cosmic background radiation that slowly, continuously and inexoribly exposes tiny film grains. It doesn’t mean the film was about to “spoil” which sounds like some kind of chemical process.

  • Mansgame

    So you want a cookie for taking a long hard way to take bad quality pictures? All that matters is the final product. What’s it with you hipsters?

  • Jeroen

    That’s a lot of work for a result that is mediocre at best.

  • MikeAlgar42

    It is proof of concept. You’re on a photography website. You yourself cannot get more hipster than that. That is obviously because what everyone and anyone does now is labelled hipster. Ironic, methinks.

  • Ralph Hightower

    Okay, so Kodachrome was developed in 2012. The slides are muddy as best. It doesn’t have the snap of Kodachrome processed film; there’s no vibrancy in the photos.

  • Unknown

    That’s because the process is different. It’s like coffee, some people might like theirs from a french press, others like theirs from the ole’ drip. I don’t think that until someone is able to develop a way to make the chems again, will we see what we saw years ago with fresh Kodachrome. Don’t be so judgy the whale about everything.

  • YonaPhoto

    the means justify the end! :P

  • Raphael

    I think you missed my point…
    I’m not saying he should do B&W… I’m just saying, using kodachrome as a B&W film to do trichromia (? don’t know the english word) is a bit like… banging on an old vinyl with a hammer, recording the sound, and playing it back, saying it’s the good ol’ vinyl sound…

    Like sam says below, the title is misleading, the author is using kodachrome to take B&W pictures, with filters, and assembling them digitally … it could be done with any cheap b&w… and using kodachrome here, serves no purpose.

  • Mansgame

    I have always used the best technology I could afford at any given time. There was a time when I could only afford a a $40 camera and had no way to develop it so I got a Polaroid and made every picture count.

    A few years later I had a little more money and so I got a 35mm point and shoot. film was $1.99 and developing would cost $4 at walmart. I went with that. Every now and then I could borrow an SLR. Life was grand.

    A few years later I spent $450 on a 3.2 MP point and shoot digital. Pictures were a little noisy but better than anything I had up till that point.

    A few years later, I had real money to throw around so I got DSLR’s.

    Each time I did this, it was to get higher and higher quality pictures. I never did it to be ironic or cool and never looked back. I never said “gee, I miss that 35mm Kodak camera i bought from Target back in 1989. it’d be cool to try to recreate it and pay through the nose for developing and film”.

  • Jeannine Green Brewer

    well that was disappointing.

  • KeeFyBeeFy

    Awesome! I need to try this with my B&W film.

  • KeeFyBeeFy

    Individual film has their own unique character such as grain density and latitude. So it does serve a purpose. Why do people choose hp5 over fp4? There are differences and Kodachrome has it’s own.

    Maybe shoot some film and you’ll understand?

  • KeeFyBeeFy

    Whilst i have a 5d3 and 5d for digital, only L lenses in my line up. I still shoot and develop my own film. There is a difference in the pictures. Something that digital processing can’t capture.

  • Raphael

    Nice troll, I won’t even answer that

  • Devin Dillinger Paredes

    i spy a whataburger cup