Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Secret Society of Goop

Goop is all the rage! For about eight people...including me. What is goop? Well, when you develop a peel-apart Polaroid, you have leftover trash. On that trash is beautiful, wonderful...goop. Most people throw all that stuff away and keep the print. I keep the trash.
One of the interesting (meaning inconvenient) things about goop is that it doesn't dry as fast as the print. It can take 10 minutes, it can take hours, depending on heat and humidity. I saved some goops in Los Angeles. They took at least 6 hours to dry. Here in the desert, it takes 5 to 10 minutes for the goop negative to dry. Negative, you say? Why, yes, for the goop is actually the developer for the print, and it is actually a paper negative...actually. If you are out in the field shooting, you have to be willing to hold onto those wet negatives for quite a long time. I can carry at least three while they dry...but they dry quickly here. When I'm driving, I usually lay them out on the back seat to dry. To speed things up a bit, I use the paper tab (step 1 when pulling out the film) to scrape off the goop that is piled up on one end of the negative. It's off of the image, so it doesn't hurt to remove it, and you reduce the chance of getting the crap all over you. Oh yeah, that negative can't touch it until it dries. You can touch it, but you can also wipe it right off of the paper. In theory, you could manipulate the image to some degree, but I haven't tried. Remember! This stuff is probably not all that good for you, as in toxic, so keep the skin contact to a minimum (says the guy who ends up with it all over his hands and pants).
There is a big secret concerning goop, though. I hope I'm not killed for letting the cat out of the bag, but goop photography is part manual photography (using the Polaroid) and part (GASP!) digital manipulation. Not that kind of digital manipulation, pervs. I'm talking Photoshop. These images wouldn't be possible without the use of a computer. So is it 'real' photography? I think so. Heck, I scan all my negatives, anyway, and adjust them in photoshop as needed. I only have half a darkroom. If we did have a full darkroom, we manipulate as we print with exposure time, dodging, etc., when we print on paper. This is just more futuristic than all that. And we use the future to make images that look quite old. Or maybe it's not legitimate photography. Can't we all just get along? Digital and manual, long walks on the beach, candlelight dinners, rose petals leading to the bedroom...*slap* snap out of it!
Okay, so how do we make a nice image from a paper goop negative? Let's use this picture that I took out in nowheresville in northern Arizona

So the opposite of that print is the dried paper negative. I've already removed the big extra paper tab from the left side. If you use Polaroids, you know what I'm talking about. If not, then you won't be making any goop images. I've scanned the negative in Photoshop. As you can see, the image is very dull and gray.

That blobby yellow stuff on the right side is what you scrape off to expedite drying times. This image has no text, but if it did, you would see it is reversed, as it is the negative to the positive. So I usually flip the image, though in this case it's not all that important.

Next I crop all the extra out, leaving the interesting stuff around the edges.

I invert the image, making the negative into a positive. Still very gray, isn't it?

Now comes the magic one step that brings out the picture. You can do it manually, but I just use "Auto Contrast" in Photoshop.

You can leave it all purple if you want, but I usually make it grayscale to lose the weird colors.

Then I convert it back to RGB, and for this shot I want a little bit of sepia. I use color balance and then tweak the curves a bit to get the right balance in the tone and contrast, and touch up some random hairs and white spots. The final image! It's interesting to note that the image extends beyond what you see on your original print.

They have a nice, dirty, vintage, low-fi feel to them. Sometimes they are more interesting than the original print. Other times they aren't. I save them all just in case.
This really only works with Type 87 and Type 667, 3000 speed film. All of the 100 and 80 speed films don't seem to have any kind of image at all. Some color Polaroid negatives have an image, but it's faint and scans kind of funky. They require a lot of tweaking in Photoshop to bring the image out. Here you see before and after manipulation of Type 88.

Notice that upstairs is positive and downstairs is negative? Another neat trick of the goop. It sometimes leaves a negative image, sometimes positive, and sometimes it solarizes. I've found no reason for any of the different behaviors. It does what it wants to do regardless of exposure to light, drying time, contrast of print, etc. But you get some neat images.

To show how delicate the goop is before it dries, here is a negative I put in my pocket while it was still "soft". It was mostly dry, but still tacky.

And I leave you now with some vintage goop. This Type 107 (same as today's 667) expired in 1983. It behaves more as a straight negative, with no tricky solarization. It's also lower in contrast and very brown, compared to the gray of today's 3000 speed film. Still nice, though.

This won't last, as all of the 3000 speed film has been discontinued. Enjoy it while you can! For more goop, visit the Polaroid Goop group on flickr.
And I am addicted to Polaroids, as evidenced by the endless Polaroid posts!


  1. Anonymous5:29 PM

    Yay! Goop!

    I just found your flickr group.

    I have a heck of a time getting my "negatives" to dry, though - living the foggy avenues of San Francisco - and haven't done much with them for fear of gooping up my scanner.

    I may now be inspired to just go for it anyways.

  2. just save 'em somewhere for awhile...they'll dry eventually!

  3. Anonymous11:28 AM

    oooooh. just started my polaroid adventures. seeing your stuff, I want it even more. thanks for linking me. will reciprocate on my blog!

    Theresa (blue coyote laughing)

  4. I've always just slapped them on the scanner wet. I guess that after doing this too much it starts to etch the glass, but it's not like my scanner is worth anything anymore.

  5. Anonymous3:05 PM

    wow, those images from your negatives are all wonderful. great post. great post title too, by the way - i saw this on tagged "polaroid" and couldn't help but be curious. :D

  6. I'd already did this myself once or twice - fascinating that there's a group for them!

  7. very very awesome. i see i'm a little late on noticing this post, but i'm glad i did...very informative and really neat!

  8. fwiw, the fuji fp-3000 film is still being made and also makes a nice goop print. they're amazingly good actually.

  9. Excellent project work.


  10. I love goop. Just playing with it last night!

  11. Awesome! I used to play around with paper negs (printing from a pos, then putting the print onto another piece of paper, to get a pos print - a sort of brute force interneg). Now I may have to go out and buy a polaroid.

    And thank you - I've been defending the use of the computer in photgraphy for ages, but there are still plenty of traditional photogs who get all smug about it - like DOS users who pooh poohed computers with GUI's. In the darkroom, you NEVER, NEVER reproduce an image exactly as shot: chemicals, paper, exposure, cropping, all play into _interpretation_ of the negative. So using photoshop to adjust color, contrast, curves, etc is exactly analogous to what we used to do in the darkroom - better in fact. Yeah, folks get wacky with filters, but then, why shouldn't they? The art of photography doesn't just lie in the taking of the photo, but what you reveal in the final result. And if solarizing (which is also an old darkroom trick) gives you something special, go with it! It's the old guard hubris that the new guard can do the same things easier, without all the vapors that the old guard inhaled. I fight the urge to be Cranky Old Guy in my job as a compositor for film and tv. When I started, there weren't degrees for what we did, and plugins were scarce. I developed a set of "tricks" that were my stock in trade. Now there are plugins that do my tricks in one pass, and kids pouring out of schools with degrees who work cheaper. So I use those plugins like they do, but I also don't get boxed in by their limitations because I understand beyond the plugins to how and what they are accomplishing.

  12. Oh wow... this is amazing stuff! I was just looking for something to do with those crazy negatives and looks like I have a solution now! Yay awesome times.

  13. Last friday i purchased a polaroid back for my hasselblad 500c/m and its fantastic to try this! I would love to scan the negatives but there is developer on them, wiping it off also takes the image... suggestions anyone?

  14. I absoutely love these!

  15. Anonymous7:12 PM

    fujifilm still makes ISO 3000 film

  16. The computer is just another tool in the photographer's bag of tricks. If Stielglitz were around today, he'd be using a DSLR and probably dancing a jig at the convenience as opposed to carrying a giant Graflex and having to soup negatives.

  17. Not having a heck of a lot of success with the negs from FujiFilm 100c. I'll have to give the B&W a try. Scanner won't give me the option of scanning directly to Photoshop. Imported and followed your lead. Might be doing something wrong. Oh well. I'll keep messing around.

    Thanks for the info and awesome shots.

  18. yeah you have to bleach the fuji 100c negs. that's makes an actual negative transparency, as opposed to the paper negs of 3000 film.

  19. very very awesome. i see i'm a little late on noticing this post, but i'm glad i did...very informative and really neat!