Shooting Film for My Family Vacation – Why?


I set out to shoot nothing but film on our family vacation. I did this because I am suffering from digital overload and wanted to try something a little different. I wanted to slow down, breathe, and think more (creatively). Be more intentional. Sometimes when I am shooting. I shoot just because I can. It’s digital so why not? If I don’t like it, I just delete it. The downside is that I do not like to spend my time seated in front of a computer flagging all of my favorites. I would much rather sit down and say, here are my favorites, now let’s proof them. When I am blindly shooting just because I can I am only creating more work for myself later, robbing myself of “working/thinking creatively” and in the end devaluing what it is that I do. I also don’t believe in outsourcing my proofing process to a third party. There is too much of a separation from what I see and want to deliver vs what they see. I outsourced this process a few times but when the results were returned to me it looked like I didn’t even shoot the wedding. Not a good feeling.

Has this little experiment of shooting film helped me? The jury is still out since I am still shooting and have not sent the film in for processing, but i anticipate a big “YES”!!! The good news is that you do not have to shoot film to benefit from the exercise. I chose to do this for the reasons stated above, but I also love and miss the look of film.

Film provides some undeniable characteristics that digital will never replicate (IMHO). I love the way film looks when printed. The bokeh, softness and creaminess you get when shooting a wide open aperture is unrivaled in digital. The character that it captures and transcends to the viewer is so beautiful. The imperfections of film is what makes it such a perfect medium for timeless images. In my own experience I am shooting 35mm film (full frame digital sensor equivalent), medium format size is even more amazing. The way I shoot, medium format is just too big and bulky for me. Someday I will probably grab a medium format camera and lens to make some portraits but for now my Nikon N80 is just swell.


If I did not own a film camera and wanted to do this exercise, here is what I would do. Keep in mind this is a personal work project. Do not go out on your next client assignment and drastically change what you do. Change takes time, slow and steady. Commit to shooting more personal projects to make your paid opportunities better.

1. Get a small memory card, like 512MB or 1GB so you are limited to a small number of shots. You want to feel the reduction in storage space. You want every click to be meaningful. In fact shoot RAW to make it really count! Your file sizes will be large therefore limiting you once again to a smaller volume of images per card.

2. Turn off the LCD display on the back of your camera so you do not chimp (constantly review your results). Buy some black gaffer tape and cover that baby up! Do not use duck tape as this will put a very sticky residue on your camera. All photographers should own gaffers tape. Get you some!

3. Shoot. Be intentional. Compose, expose, focus and shoot. Don’t cheat by looking at the LCD. Be confident. Be prepared to learn, be humbled and improve your compositions and exposures.

4. Review and proof – at this point you should not have tons of crap images to end up in the trash, but a tightened selection of good images to share. Don’t be surprised or discouraged if at this point you don’t like your results. Use this as a motivator to improve. What this is doing is essentially pulling back the covers of your shooting habits that are typically masked with lots of noise due to the large quantities of images. When you click that shutter 20 times on the same image you may not be getting the best one. You are more likely settling for the one you can live with most.

5. Retouch – using your tool of choice ( mine is Adobe Lightroom ), take the time to adjust color, contrast, brightness, tones, dodging and burning, etc. To put your finishing touch on the image. I work with the philosophy of less is more. I want a genuine representation of a moment or portrait that draws people to the image and not “the effects I applied in post production”.

6. Print and share – the other digital overload factor that stifles me is the lack of printed work. An image in the digital form lacks realness to me. I want to hold it. Show it and share it. When it’s printed, it’s more real, tangible. After your retouching is complete, print it and share it. If you do not have a good color printer, I recommend using offers high quality, professional quality printing products for consumers. Printing on your own is another topic I will share much on in the future because I am determined to make great prints.

I am going to get back to enjoying this experiment, shooting and then anticipating the return of the developed film to review. I imagine I will be like a boy on Christmas morning opening the package. I will be sure to share the results with you too!


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