The World I Know

The World I Know

“The view of the Manhattan skyline always made my chest feel too full, like my heart had suddenly swelled in the way of the Grinch who stole Christmas the moment he went soft.” — Camille Perri

Why I Love Film Photography

They say that everything old is new again. Life does, indeed, tend to unfold around us in a cyclical fashion. Many of the so-called retro and vintage trends that rise to popularity often vanish as quickly as they appeared. But the fact that these things enter popular consciousness at all says something about our connection to — or, more likely, our curiosity about — styles and ways of doing things that preceded some of us. The retro stylings of cameras like the Nikon Df or the Fujifilm X100S certainly bear this out in the realm of photography.

But what about film photography? There surely seems to be a growing interest in film photography but, for many, the idea that film photography is “new again” doesn’t really fit, as they never completely gave up film even after the digital revolution took firm hold.

I, like most of my peers, was introduced to photography via a film camera — one those old Polaroid One Step cameras that I managed to wrestle from my aunt’s hands whenever she brought it around. But I am very much a product of the digital age and I jumped at my first opportunity to a digital point-and-shoot camera. I weaned myself from film and never looked back. For a while.

 

Olympus OM-1 Kodak Portra 400
Olympus OM-1
Kodak Portra 400

I’m not entirely sure what sparked the desire to return to film, but I’m glad it happened. Sure, I’m also reminded of the downsides, but I consider them relatively insignificant. To be sure, this isn’t a manifesto about abandoning digital photography or a screed about why film is ostensibly better than digital. No, I’m just sharing a few reasons why I love shooting film and why film photography will continue to play a small but important role in my growth as a photographer.

 

Hopefully, one or two of you reading this will be inspired to return to film or to try it out for the first time. Or, this all might serve as a reminder of why you happily kicked film to the curb and will never go back. Either way, food for thought.

 

Here are five reasons why I love shooting film, in no particular order.

 

Happy Accidents and Unexpected Treasures.

I tend to approach film photography with somewhat of an “art project” mindset, so I’m far more tolerant of imperfections as opposed to when I’m shooting digital. I don’t consider light leaks and lens flare to be problems, even when I’m not expecting to see them in a photo. And since I’m admittedly bad at reading manuals (I just don’t do it), I’ve made my fair share of accidental double exposures. Turns out I’ve enjoyed the results of most of those accidents.

Bronica SQ-A Kodak Tri-X 400
Bronica SQ-A
Kodak Tri-X 400

I Like a Challenge.

I would never go so far as to say digital photography is easy. But film photography sure isn’t convenient. Film photography forces me to be much more deliberate and thoughtful when I’m working. There are no do-overs. No delete button. If I don’t get it right the first time — get it right in camera — then I’ve just wasted a frame. As noted above, it doesn’t always go right but I am ever cognizant of the fact I have a limited number of frames to work with. Not all of my film cameras have working light meters, so getting the exposure I want (rather than a “correct” exposure) has become second nature.

Bronica SQ-A Kodak Portra 400
Bronica SQ-A
Kodak Portra 400

No Post Post-Processing.

Once I get my film developed and scanned, that’s it. The images remain untouched. I simply feel no compulsion to alter or “improve” my film shots in any way — even when they’re not very good. It’s a nice break from Lightroom’s develop module.

Canon AE-1 Fujifilm Pro 400H
Canon AE-1
Fujifilm Pro 400H

Grain Versus Noise.

Like virtually everything else on the list, this is entirely subjective (and, perhaps, a figment of my imagination), but film grain wins the war of aesthetics over digital noise every time. I understand the semantic use of noise as an analogy for grain, but that’s where that relationship ends for me. I’m partial to real film grain.

Bronica SQ-A Kodak Tri-X 400
Bronica SQ-A
Kodak Tri-X 400

The Analog Personality.

Not to be overly anthropomorphic here, but I thoroughly enjoy the personality of film and old cameras. While I love my DSLRs, I don’t feel they have much personality beyond what I assign to them. My old cameras, on the other hand, each come with their own distinctive quirks that generally escape being put into words, but if you shoot film you’ll know what I mean.

Olympus OM-1 Ilford HP5 400
Olympus OM-1
Ilford HP5 400

A similar case can be made for film. I have a particular attachment to Kodak Tri-X 400 and Kodak Portra 400 because, well, I just like the look of them and that’s all the reason I need. But I’m determined to try as many different kinds of film as I possibly can; and as I make my way through the different Fujifilm, Kodak, Agfa, Ilford, and other films (including rolls of expired film and instant film), I’m learning the many different “looks” associated with each one — looks that are rather difficult to replicate with plugins and presets.

Bronica SQ-A Kodak Tri-X 400
Bronica SQ-A
Kodak Tri-X 400

As far as the drawbacks of film photography (such as the waiting period and costs associated with developing film, cost of buying film, etc.), they’re not significant enough to keep me away since film doesn’t account for the bulk for my photography. Digital is still my go-to medium.

Olympus OM-1 Kodak Portra 400
Olympus OM-1
Kodak Portra 400

If you find yourself stuck in a creative rut or are in need of adding a new feature to your photographic repository, I highly encourage you to give film a shot (pun unfortunately intended).

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5 Reasons I Love Film Photography

Want to Create Great Images? Stop Waiting to Get Lucky.

Image

We all get lucky sometimes, it’s a part of life. And some people are certainly luckier than others it seems, but depending on luck to get you through life really isn’t a great idea — for many, many reasons. Relying on luck won’t make you a great photographer either. In fact, such an approach won’t even make you a mediocre photographer — you will simply forever be a lucky gal or guy with a camera.

It is my assumption that one of the reasons people even bother to read photography related blogs and websites is to learn how to improve their own photography in some way; you can learn about composition and shutter speed and depth of field; you can discover new post processing techniques; you get ideas about places to visit and subjects to shoot. All of these things can be highly beneficial.

But before you ever get to off-camera flash techniques, you’ve got to have some sort of philosophy of why you pick up your camera in the first place. You need to be aware of the things that spiral around in your brain while peering through the viewfinder. When you look at great photographs, you can see that there was a reason why those shots were taken. Those shots have purpose. They aren’t the products of dumb luck.

If you want to start capturing great images on purpose, the next time you’re spending time with your camera think about the following questions before you click the shutter.

Could you capture the shot from a different angle?

A fresh perspective can easily expand the impact your image has on the viewer. It’s a natural habit to photograph everything from eye level; we do it without thinking, we take the shot and move on. But take a moment to consider the possibility of shooting your intended subject from above or from ground level. A change in perspective could completely alter the way your image is interpreted by the viewer.

What message/story are you attempting to communicate?

Obviously there was something about the scene or subject you are in the midst of photographing that struck you to begin with — make sure you convey that in your shot. Use exposure, framing, subject isolation, composition to explain why you’re capturing the image and what it means to you. Even when you’re telling someone else’s story, you’re also making it your story to some extent.

Are there any distracting elements present?

If there are, they almost always show up in the background. Of course there are circumstances when you won’t be able to do much about it, but it’s always good practice to quickly scan the area directly behind your subject and determine if there is too much clutter or unwanted elements of any kind. Might as well run the same check on the foreground, too.

What is the anchor point of your shot?

If you can identify ahead of time what you want this point to be — the focal point that will initially draw the viewer in — you can put your compositional skills to work to decide on the strongest placement within the frame. You might also use size, depth of field, or shape to further enhance your focal point.

How’s your framing?

This is easy to overlook, especially when doing something like street photography where everything happens so quickly, but pay attention to how you’re holding your camera. When everything and everyone in the frame is leaning to one side, you either need to rethink your use of the dutch angle or start holding your camera straight.

Should you change the orientation of the shot?

Here, again, we’re dealing with something that is a matter of habit: vertical orientation versus horizontal orientation. We all have a preference with this — probably a very strong preference, which is fine. But while you’re checking to make sure your camera is straight as per the previous suggestion, try changing up the orientation. Like changing perspective, changing orientation can have an incredible visual impact on your image.

How’s the exposure working for you?

Of course, if the shot is too dark or blown out then it’s not going to be of much use to you; but you don’t always have to abide by what the camera tells you to do. I know we’re accustomed to talking about exposure as being either “good” or “bad”, “correct” or “incorrect,” but exposure should be an extension of your creative vision, not just some set of numbers arbitrarily cast upon you by a camera.

It’s unreasonable — or unlikely, at least — that you would go through each of these questions every time you pick up your camera; but if you keep a different one of them in mind each time you shoot, before long the whole process will become second nature.

Click Here: Want to Create Great Images? Stop Waiting to Get Lucky