I have been mulling over this post for a very long time. The moment I started shooting film for personal work, I was instantly confronted with questions…. “But, WHY?” As I fell more and more in love with film and made the transition to shooting film for my professional work…. the questions continued…. “Why film?” Each time I would ramble about the look, the colors, the process, tangibility….. I still get this question a lot, pretty much every time I talk about film or when I am at a shoot and they see me loading or unloading. In a world where instant gratification and “ease” of digital reigns (quotes because, to me, digital is harder. Thats for a later post ;)) there is a growing population of photographers learning, relearning, and continuing to shoot film.
So, why have I been putting this post off? Well, I didn’t think I could do the topic justice. I still don’t. But these are my thoughts and feelings and why I shoot film.
A little background on me… My grandparents (mom’s side) ran a camera repair shop when my mom was a little girl. I don’t know a lot about it, nor have I seen the shop because my grandparents passed away before I was born. But, sitting around our house in pockets of different rooms are cameras, equipment, dark bags, filters, the list goes on. Growing up I remember seeing these old cameras. Some were my grandparents’, others belonged to my mom’s brother (whom I never met), and some were hers. I never would have attempted to use them…. but they would make really great decorations on a shelf somewhere. Little did I know as I approached 30, I would be loading said cameras to capture my own family and feeling a special connection to a side of family that I never knew. Also in pockets of rooms there are old photographs, boxes of negatives and envelopes of proofs. There is something special about the tangibility of negatives and knowing that the proofs and prints that you flip through came from something physical.
*I will preface this by saying that I think Digital and Film are both incredibly beautiful, but for me and my work….. film wins*
Perfectly imperfect….. the colors…. a certain softness (I’m not talking missed focus here)…. the grain…. the colors….the uniqueness of different cameras….the retention of highlights and shadows…. the colors…. did I mention the colors? This is where I feel like I can’t do the topic justice. While shooting film I feel like my images finally look the way that I imagined them. The way I saw what I saw. It looks the way that I intended to capture it. And it feels the way I felt… Maybe that doesn’t make sense… Its really hard for me to put it into words…. and maybe thats okay. Maybe thats the point.
I love every single step of this process. Ordering film and receiving it in the mail (nothing better than getting a package!), packing my bag for an outing or shoot, choosing the film stock, deciding on the camera and lens, checking the light, loading the camera, unloading and labeling, filling out the order form, packaging it and mailing it off… and then the wait….. OH the WAIT. Its glorious and torturous at the same time. When I shot digital I would need space from the shoot. Instead of running home and uploading the images to my computer right away I would wait, maybe an hour or two, maybe a few days. With film it is built in. The film goes to the lab and I TRY not to think about it for a while. The time away from the images is super valuable to for me. After all distance makes the heart grow fonder right? As the beloved scan day approaches my excitement and anticipation starts to climb. And then they hit my inbox. Until you have experienced trying to download scans while away from your computer onto a phone with less than 5% battery, you have not truly lived. And then the emotional rollercoaster that is scan day… from loving them, to hating them, to thinking you should throw your camera away and sell your film supply, to checking to make sure your light meter works and then back to feeling over the moon about film and realizing that I never would have been able to do that on digital.
The Way It Makes Me Shoot
Everyone says it. But they say it cause its true. Film makes me slow down. Because, each frame costs me money, I can’t afford to hit the shutter willy nilly. I have to slow down. I have to compose my shot with purpose and get my exposures right. I have a much deeper understanding of the light triangle and a deeper appreciation for intentionality because of film. I strive to get it right in the camera. This also saves time on the back end but I’ll get into that next. With film I will take one maybe two shots of each thing. I have to get it right and I have to trust myself and my eye.
I also believe that film brought out the creativity in me. Once I conquered one film stock, I wanted to try another, then I wanted to experiment with expired film, experimental films or cross processing. Then it was playing with different cameras. Then I wanted to figure out light leaks and in camera double exposures (I know doubles can be done on digital, I never learned how and I have no desire to. I also know that they can be created in post, but again…. I never learned how and I have no desire to). Not only do these things make me feel that film is unique but it also reminds me of the physical nature of film. To me, film feels authentic and I love that what I capture cannot be replicated, even by me.
Less Time At My Computer
Photographers spend a TON of time at their computers. When people think through the price of photography they often only think about the time spent at the session. But let me be the one to break it to you… there is a lot more that goes into it than that short hour spent with the client (more on this in a future post… I’m sure). The point is, I want to spend as little time in front of my computer as possible. I want to get it right in the camera so that I don’t have to spend time fussing over images for another few hours. I choose to get premium scans (I’m gonna do a post on this some day). One of the major reasons is less time at my computer. The three actions I use when “editing” a session? CROP, STRAIGHTEN, DELETE. Thats it. And a lot of the time the images I keep don’t need the first two actions….. Wait…. you mean you don’t touch them? Yeah… I pretty much don’t touch them… thats why I get premiums… (again, a post for another day).
Now if you read this far, I am super impressed. Either you love film and agreed with most of it, or you are interested in shooting film. Or maybe you are one of the rare people that actually like to read my ramblings (thanks). But now I want to hear it from you. What are the reasons you love shooting film? Or what are reasons you want to learn to shoot film?
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