For the Love of Film // My Latest Challenge
How many of you reading this have shot a roll of film in the last year? Or even the last 5 years? How about 10 years? Well, its been about 15 years since I shot my last roll of real film - up until a few weeks ago. You see, I've always had an interest in photography, but it was not until the era of digital photography that I really got back into it. Digital is much different than film, but the same principals of photography apply. Exposure still is achieved from establishing your aperture (F-Stop) and your shutter speed. However, with digital you are able to control so much more in real time. That is why many photographers today only shoot digital (including myself). With today's technology you can adjust your settings on the fly after a quick glance into the LCD screen. Additionally, if you shoot in RAW format rather than JPEG (without going into too many details think of RAW as a digital negative) you have the ability to edit just about any aspect of the image in post-processing. This means you don't have to get it 'perfect' in the camera. THIS DOES NOT MEAN we just snap and hope for the best. I challenge myself during every session to get it 'right' in the camera. This is for two reasons 1) I think my sessions go way smoother and 2) it saves me time in editing trying to fix all the issues I may have encountered, such as increasing exposure, correcting the white balance, etc. Now with film, you do not have the luxury of peering into the back of your LCD screen to see how your shot looks. You have to understand which settings to use based on the lighting in that situation, along with what type of feel you are trying to covey. Luckily most film cameras come with some sort of light metering system that will assist you letting you know if your settings will generate a good exposure. If you have a really old film camera, you may need a separate light metering device to help figure out the appropriate settings. As for post-processing, film takes much longer. For professional film photographers, the common workflow is to send your film to a professional processing lab to have it developed, scanned into a digital jpeg, and, if desired, further edited. This can take additional time and add to a photographers workflow. Plus, if you do not want the lab editing your photo, this means you then have to further edit within your own system.
So why would I want to try film photography when it is so much more work that digital? Because the look of film is beautiful! Many editing software programs can re-create the look of film, but there is something about real film that cannot compare. When I started my venture into professional photography, a lot of my inspiration was from other professionals. I follow them on Facebook, Instagram, etc. A while back, I came across a group of folks that are hybrid photographers. These are people that shoot both film and digital. Seeing their film scanned photos were just amazing and eventually my curiosity got the best of me. I dug out an old Canon AE-1 Program camera which I used back when I was 15 years old. Luckily it was not too hard to find, but CRAP - the rewind button was not functioning properly. Fortunately for me, I have friends who also love photography! And conveniently my friend Scott has the same exact camera (in better shape I have to add) with extra lenses to boot! He was generous enough to let me borrow it for quite some time and on the right night, I grabbed my model (aka George my husband), the camera and a roll of Fuji 400H film and went to work. I decided to work off my digital camera settings and light meter, which I then translated to the film camera. Basically, if I was getting a good exposure using at f/2.8 with a shutter speed of 1/200 on my digital camera, that is what I used on the film camera. Yes, its a bit like cheating, but I felt it was a good way to start!
After shooting with George, I eventually decided on The FINDLAB to process my roll. They will process your first roll FREE! So if I completely screwed up at least I didn't waste too much money. I opted for their Basic+Premium Scan which included some editing. I asked for exposure bump, a bit of warmth and some additional contrast. After a few weeks of waiting, they arrived in my inbox! I literally felt like I just won the lottery. As I open the files, this is what went through my mind:
"wow, that one is good!....hmmmm definitely out of focus...should have fixed his pose...oooo love the colors on that one....wow I did really good!...man this film is awesome...I love this one!...yup another one out of focus....crap and another...oooo I love his smile on that one...I'm sooo doing film again"
So, thinking I'm doing well as a film photographer I go back to my email from The FINDLAB to review their feedback. They do this for all their clients to help build your film skills. Well lets just say he nicely said I need to really work on the exposure as they had to be lightened quite a bit, which then threw off the coloring....so on and so forth. Kindof a bummer these photos weren't great straight out of the camera, but honestly at least I know where to go from here! Back to the film store to buy more film!
As you can see in the images below, the film is much warmer than in my digital edits (and some are not entirely in focus). I could certainly go back and edit the digitals to match the film, but at this point I wanted to show you all how they differed. For my next roll, I do not plan on having The FINDLAB further edit my photos as I would likely want to do the edits myself.
So what did I learn? Work on exposure for starters and consider investing in a light metering device. Secondly, focus on focusing! This is much harder with film as there are much less focus points in the film camera as there is in my digital. Lastly, I am planning on picking up a Nikon film camera that will be comparable with my existing lenses (YAY!!!) and experimenting more with film. For me, it is a way to challenge myself, further my skills and provide inspiration for my work.
I would love to hear what you think about these! Thanks for reading friends.