When I first began my photography journey I only knew photography to be from my dslr and at the time my samsung phone. Fast forward a few years and I would be introduced to a new format of photography and that is film.
Now this post I hope serves two purposes. One, to inform my clients what film photography is and the process. Two, to inspire aspiring photographers to incorporate film in their portfolio.
Both just capture light—the MAIN difference is, one does it with film, the other with a sensor.
F I L M
SOMETIMES REFERRED TO AS ANALOG .If you opt to use film and analog cameras, you do not just choose a different output medium or special aesthetics—you set the course for an entirely different process. What can you do with an analog camera that you cannot do just as well with a digital one? Both capture light, true, but the difference between film and sensor is significant.
It’s a far greater difference than two differently colored buckets that hold water in the same way. When working with film, you’ve made decisions (before any light even hits the film) that have a considerable impact on the end result of the photo. It starts with the choice of camera—its particular format, its features that might affect the picture, and its technical possibilities and limitations.
Then comes the decision about the film, depending on how much and what kind of light and contrast you can expect at the location where you are going to shoot, and how both can be used to create impact. The emulsion characteristics of the different brands of film can influence the resulting image just as much as the developer you are using. Ambitious film photographers like to have options, and they decide before the photo tour on a combination of film and developer that they expect will support the desired message of the picture or subject they are shooting.
You can also play around with developer temperature, tilt rhythm, and so on—and that’s just in terms of the development of the film. You haven’t even been in the darkroom yet. This is an important and fascinating aspect of film photography: the enormous creative potential offered by the different combos of camera, exposure, film, and developer—particularly with black-and-white film.
D I G I T A L
With digital photography, there are many decisions you can only make during post-processing. With film photography, you have to decide in advance. Otherwise, many creative ideas will never see the light of day. The key to working creatively lies in making the right decisions about processes concerning technical factors. Of course, you can make it a rule to only expose films at their nominal film speed and then have them developed in a lab with any developer in a standardized process. Then you can take the result as it is and simply enjoy what you get. But it is much more exciting to explore the settings and parameters that expand the photographer’s options of expression to an almost unlimited extent.
The process of shooting, from manual light metering to focusing to manually winding the shutter, can be completely irrelevant to you depending on the camera type you use—but that means you miss a chance to learn more about this process. The example of the analog large format makes it impressively clear how many steps of the whole process any modern 35mm or medium-format camera does for you.
If you can manually focus instead of leaving it up to some autofocus area, you will be forced to think more about the subject and the elements that are really important to your picture. The same applies to the exposure: where and at what angle do you measure the light if you don’t have access to matrix or multi-zone metering with a connected in-camera database, and are brandishing an old light meter from the flea market?
H Y B R I D
A Hybrid photographer understands the best of both worlds. I love how Leah Jean puts it, “It’s one thing to photograph what something looks like. It’s another thing entirely to photograph what something feels like. But we have to be careful because feelings alone may not be the prettiest to look at. For example, it may be beautiful that the bride is crying but if there is black mascara dripping down her cheeks that are now blotchy and red from tears, then I can confidently say this is not an image she will print and hang over her mantle. Yes, all brides should wear waterproof mascara but you get my point. It’s important to be well-grounded and photograph with a “safety first” mentality. In other words, you better have a few solid ceremony shots before you move in and start focusing on tears.”
When I asked Leah Jean to elaborate on this safety first idea here is what she said, “Take family formals for instance. I capture all family formals in a way that is timeless and clean. I make sure everyone is in the photograph and I pose them pretty straight-forward, smiling and looking at the camera. I give a lot of specific direction. After I know we’ve got the shot and my bases are covered I get to mess it all up and play. This is extremely fun with type-A personalities who want to be told exactly where to place their hands and which direction they should be looking. This time around, I have the pleasure of saying, “Just have fun and see what happens.” More often than not our client’s print a balance of both types of images.
The beauty of shooting this way is that everyone is happy. If you love the photograph of Aunt Sally throwing her head back laughing, awesome! This may be a great memory to print in black and white. Likewise, if you look at that same photo and hearing Aunt Sally’s laughter sends chills down your back or perhaps you notice a sticky friend in her nose, well then skip it and move on without guilt because you know you have Aunt Sally covered in your family formals.
The same principle applies to the bride’s and groom’s portraits. Safety first to get the shots everyone knows and loves and then have fun playing and capturing shots that are different, daring and full of emotion.