If you’ve been poking around my blog at all lately, you’ll know I have a renewed love affair with film that began my junior year of college and has recently stolen my heart again. Film, glorious film! And then my friend Laura went and posted this incredible blog yesterday about her new ventures into film, and it inspired me to the point where my pulse was racing and my mind was buzzing. So I spent the evening trolling eBay and obsessing over different possibilities for the future, spurred on by my good friend Rebekah‘s encouragement. I freaking love this industry!
Why do I love film? It’s hard to give just one reason, so I’ll just tell you all of them. I first really fell in love with photography in a dark room, learning to develop my own film and make my own prints. There is NOTHING as magical as placing a blank sheet of white photo paper into a tray of developer and watching an image bloom onto the page, right before your eyes. But it was more than that- it was the fact that film compelled me to see differently, to really THINK about a photograph before I click the shutter. The anticipation of racing to the dark room, spending the agonizing hour it took to develop and dry my film, all for the rush of seeing that first contact sheet. It was AWESOME.
And then I bought a DSLR on a hunch, and somehow film took the backseat for a couple of years. The immediate gratification of chimping over an image I saw on the back of my camera made me forget my adoration of the natural grain you get with 35mm. But then, slowly but surely, I started to come around again. I first remember feeling film envy again last spring when my friend Terra showed me a few gorgeous color images she’d taken in Mexico. I was seething with envy at the rich colors and the gorgeous tones those little 4×6 prints had- I WANTED that. I’d never shot a roll of professional color film before but I immediately had the bug, which leads me to where we are today!
Shooting film is a lot different than shooting digital, and I am still woefully ignorant of a LOT. I’m learning, (very) slowly but surely, and I’m determined to master my film camera, no matter how long it takes. Sometimes my film comes back and I scream with delight, and sometimes I open up my box of proofs to a big ol’ “womp womp.” But that’s the exciting part! I never know what I’m going to get! So I try, try again, and then try some more. There’s no “easy fix” for film- you can’t throw a crappy action onto a film negative and call it a day. To be a proficient film photographer, you really have to know what you’re doing, and I’m loving learning right now! I can’t wait to see where this adventure takes me!
Practical application time! :) *SOOC = straight out of camera
Left: 35mm film SOOC. Center: RAW digital image. Right: final JPG image, retouched for exposure and white balance. I love that the film photo, develop by a mediocre local lab, is (in my opinion) better than the retouched digital image. And who knows what a difference would have been made if I’d sent the film off to a pro film lab?
Forgive me for these photos. I’m showing them to prove a point, to give another example of why film is boss. The setting on my cameras were exactly the same for both of these images, and both photos are WAY overexposed (I’m an idiot and forgot to change up my settings after we moved locations). However notice that the film image on the left still maintains most of its integrity. Yes, the whites are a bit blown out, but it’s not nearly as bad as the digital image on the right, which is virtually unsalvageable. I could still make a pretty good print out of the film negative- the lab would just need to underexpose the negative a bit.
These next few images are from my first attempt with color film. I’m so in love with that image on the left. I love the image on the right as well, but the color balance is kind of off. (see below on white balance musings)
Left: 35mm film, Portra 400 (I think…it may have been 160), SOOC. Right: Canon 5dmkii, retouched for exposure, whites and color balance. I love love love that film images, if shot properly, require very little work in post production. It’s how I like my images best- organic and natural. I hate having to heavily retouch photos- the more true-to-first-exposure I can keep it, the happier I am.
These images are meant to be an example as to why your lab matters. I shot Rebekah’s bridal session on Portra film, which has a reputation for being warmer, a bit more yellow when overexposed. Somehow my scans came back with a horrible cold, blue tinge- I had to spend quite a bit of time trying to tweak them, and even then I still think they looked… well, bad. After chatting with Marta Locklear, who’s an AWESOME film shooter, I’m pretty sure the egregious white balance issue was a result of the lab’s poor skills. I’m going to send these negatives over to a legit lab to see if they come back any different.
Like I said, I know I have a LOT to learn on my journey toward being a proficient film shooter. None of these images are anything I’d claim as “perfect” or even “well done,” but they are milestones for me as I learn what I like, what I’m indifferent about, and what I absolutely can’t stand. And if nothing else, film consistently inspires me to create and dream big in a way that digital has only done on a couple of occasions.