What Film Has Taught Me (So Far)


Today while I'm waiting to get back some film, I can't help but think about how much I've grown since starting to shoot film only 3 months ago. Most of you know my story so I'll make this brief, but I do think so back tracking might bring this full circle.

[If you've read my back story before feel free to skip on :p]

When I was only 12 I decided I loved the idea of being a photographer. Particularly a film photographer, or at least- I used to watch shows where someone would be developing film in a dark room, and I would just get all giddy inside thinking it was the coolest thing ever.  After saving dollar bills for two years working at my parent's cafe I was so excited to buy my first camera.

My awesome mom was so supportive, she helped me do the proper research to know what to buy. I knew so little about photography, I hadn't even thought that there might be two formats (film and digital). So we got digital because at the time, no average consumer was even considering film! I'm ok with how things played out, I took nearly 10,000 pictures that first year (yes, I'm insane....my poor parent's computer). 

As I got older I felt comfortably with digital, I understood digital, but film was always playing in the back of my mind. So I finally pulled the trigger, thanks to some awesome supportive friends and family surrounding me.

It has been 3 months of serious fun!....and a LOT of learning. I have screwed up so much but each screw up is a lesson to learn. I couldn't be more grateful for this process, and I'd like to make a list of some of the most important things shooting film has taught me.

1. SLOW down!

After doing lots of pre-research (thanks for the genes mom), I found out that many digital shooters explained that film helped them slow down and focus more on the individual image itself. This made a lot of sense to me, and I'm tell you it's true. When you're broke like me, every shot counts! You really need to make sure the lighting is simply perfect, the model/client is posed well, that their expression is right, that the tree in the background is in the right position etc. etc. etc. When this became a habit, I also saw this come to life in my digital photography and I'm needing to edit less (thank God). 

2. Connecting with your model/client

I have noticed I connect more with my clients while shooting film. I think this is because you really have to do a lot of explaining when you're shooting film, models/clients are not used to getting their photos taken in film, I have to teach them like I had to teach myself, to slow down, relax and enjoy the process. This requires extra communication (not my strong point) and has helped me connect more with my subjects.

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3. Get it right the first time!

This was actually my philosophy before I started doing film but I feel it even more so now. I urge people not to be that photographer who while at the photo shoot say, "it's ok, I'll just fix it in post". This drives me nuts. I'm trying to let it go, maybe thats some people's style and that's their process? I don't think though you can ever be an expert photographer with this mind set, maybe an expert photoshop artist. 

Getting it right the first time is so important with film, like I mentioned before, every shot counts, and sure you can photoshop it, but save yourself the time. Not many of us like sitting in front of the computer working on levels and hue/saturation for hours on end anyway! It seems a little wrong to shoot analog photography and then add it to photoshop to change it, I think film is meant to be more "organic". So work on all your settings in the camera, even if it takes a while (practice on your cousin Jim) you will figure out how to get exposure, WB and all that right in your camera if you really make yourself practice. [and as an extra perk, you should know that with film you don't have to mess with WB, yay!] Personally I don't try to spend more than a 5 minutes on a photo, if I need to do more work than that, I usually discard the photo and tell myself to get it right in camera next time. It may seem harsh but it's what helps me become a better photographer.

4. Ask for help!

I know some very helpful digital photographers out there, but I have never known any one creative group want to help each other out more than film photographers. Find a FB group and they'll flock to answer your questions. I haven't yet met one film photographer who was unwilling to help/give advice. I really love this about film and I think the reason is clear, when we recognize we're all artists and we all have different ways of doing things we can support each other, the digital realm could get on this train a little more I think (IMHO). You screw up the focus? No problem, post it on a film photography forum and you'll get 50 likes (I'm dead serious). Expired film, can't see the image hardly at all, go ahead, post it, they'll say it's ethereal! These things have really happened to me and it's made me appreciate the variances in the art of photography even more and I love how these people see things in such a positive light.

5. Options

Not to sound pretentious but once I started shooting film I've started to kind of think the "Nikon VS Canon" thing is kind of hilarious. Film shooters be like, "I shoot Roliflex," "Well I shoot Pentax" "I shoot Hasselblad" "I shoot Leica" "I shoot Mamyia" "I shoot Lomo" and then after they all say their hundreds of different cameras, they say to each other, "That's so awesome! I'd love to try that!". That's just the cameras there are so many film options too! You can alter your image and do creative things just by swiping your camera or film, I love that! I think this just adds to the creative aspect of photography, when you try different things, different combinations you can create something special. 

 

6. Passion

Ok maybe this can't be considered something I've learned so much as I've become even more passionate about photography. I have always loved it so much, but when I got my hands on film something set fire in me. Photography has become more tangible in every aspect; pop open the back, pull your film from the roll, advance the film, watch the knobs turn,  turn the ring to focus, turn the other ring, feel it click when you pick your aperture, watch your light meter, hear that beautiful sounding shutter open and close, and turn that film over with that satisfying advance lever.  I just can't even tell you how fun it is. I've been shooting for 10 years and I'm a vivid dreamer, amazingly though I'd never dreamt of photography until the first day I shot a roll, now I dream about it all the time. 


I hope I didn't offend any digital photogs out there, heck I'm still 50% of one. I will also say that a lot of film photographers discount what digital photographers do simply because it's not film. That's not right either, we all need to support each other! I think film can support digital and digital can support film. We all have something to learn and we all have something to teach. This is just a list of what I've learned while shooting film and I'm so glad I began this journey, I don't think I'll ever stop shooting film. 

 

Some super great resources are:

The Film Show (my fave!)

The Film Photographers FB Group I recommend shooting at least one roll before you try to join this closed group, but there are 13,000 members and they'll answer just about any newbie (or not so newbie) question.

UK Film Lab Check out their blog posts, they're really helpful!

And YOUTUBE, youtube everything film, you'll get a lot of knowledge!

Thanks so much! As always feel free to comment, question and share!

-Rachel