Ever since I started my film journey in 2017, I never looked back! Film has allowed me to slow down and connect with my clients on a more personal level. Having 16 shots on 1 roll and not being able to see your shot right when you take some may think that would be very intimidating. But slowing down and composing your shot before taking it and being aware of the light you are shooting will help you achieve great results! Today I thought I’d share a few tips about shooting film and the process that comes with it and why it’s my favorite!
Choosing which Film Stock is essential to choose which style you prefer in your photography, of course you can use as many as you like. But most photographers stick to one stock to help give you consistent images time and time again. There are many types of Film stocks, Kodak Portra 160, Kodak Portra 400, Ilford Delta 400 , Ilford XP2 Super 400 , Ilford Delta 3200, Fujifilm Acros 100, Fujifilm Pro 400H and Kodak Ektar 100, just to name a few. For example, say you like your images warmer and a little more contrast and you like your colors to pop a little bit more, Portra 400 would be a great option. Or you like a Black & White images, Ilford 3200 would be an awesome option. The grain in Ilford 3200 is absolutely beautiful! Whatever film stock you choose you will get beautiful results nevertheless.
Metering & Rating
If you are a digital shooter I’m sure you know what “Metering” is. It isn’t any different when you are shooting film. In our Digital cameras when we look through our viewfinder, you will see your camera trying to get the proper exposure for your subject you are shooting. Letting you know if your photo will be over or underexposed. When you are shooting film you will need an external handheld light meter to get your proper exposure. I always take my meter and hold it at a 45-degree angle to get my meter readings. Rating your Film is just setting your “ISO.” On each box of film it will already have a set ISO. On your box of film you will see a number it could be 100, 200 or 400. On your handheld light meter you set your ISO accordingly . But unlike digital you will leave your ISO set and just adjust either your aperture or shutter speed to get your exposure for your scene/subject you are shooting.
Under & Overexposure
When we shoot Digital we are taught to error on the side of underexpose because Digital images retain a-lot of detail in the shadows, giving us more information to edit. Let’s say you take a photo and you think it is a little dark. In post you can just lighten the image and it will look great! But with film not so much! Shooting film it is very important to error on the side of overexposure. Unlike Digital, Film retains detail in the highlights. When we are learning photography we are taught that “Golden hour” is the best time to shoot! But with film, for me personally, I like to shoot several hours before sunset, because film likes a lot of light! Shooting early in the morning or at noon is perfectly okay with film. Film has so much latitude with overexposure you can overexpose your film 2-3 stops and still get beautiful results! Both images below were shot with the same film and rated the same. But you will see how different the quality of light was in each of these images. The left image is underexposed, when your image is underexposed with film it will cause your shadows to turn “Muddy” and produce a-lot of grain and it will cause your colors to shift. In the image on the right you will see it is overexposed and the overall the image is clean with little to no grain with beautiful colors! Again being aware of your light is extremely important when you are shooting film.
( Of course there will always be a a little bit of grain, I mean it’s film you are shooting;)
Unedited Film Scans
Medium Format (120) or 35mm
Wether you are shooting your grandparents old 35mm or a medium format camera you found at a pawn shop, whichever camera you choose you will get beautiful results you will be proud of! Of course their are pros and cons to each medium you may choose.
Order Form & Mailing your film Off
Before you head to the post office every lab will have an “Order form” you will have to fill out, telling them your name, street address along with a few other personal information. Then you will fill out what film stocks you are sending, the quantity of rolls, 35mm or 120mm and choosing your preferred scanner, Frontier or Noritsu . After you have filled out your order form then you are on your way to the Post Office! I am sure you are thinking to yourself, ” They still Develop film? ” Absolutely, but not at Walmart or CVS.. anymore! You will have to send your film off to get developed to a Film lab. There are many film labs out there; they all are great and can definitely give you beautiful images! A few you may want to check out may be The FIND Lab, Photo-vision , Indie Film Lab or Richards Photo Lab. When I go to the Post Office (normally every week) I put my film in a flat rate envelope and ship it overnight. You will get a conformation email saying your film has arrived to your lab shortly following an invoice with your order $$ amount & it’s due date.
Lab Relationship & Downloading Scans
The lab I use to develop my film is The FIND Lab. The Find Lab has awesome customer service they are more than happy to answer all of your questions and truly treat each customer the same, no matter how long you have been shooting film. Your Lab is there to help you! When you are first starting your film journey you will get plenty of images you will not like! It is your job to communicate with your lab to tell them what you didn’t like and what you did. They won’t know how to help you if you don’t give them feedback on your images. Finally, It’s your due date to receive your scans, YAY! You will receive an email with a link to download all of your images.
Film just ROCKS!
I hope I could give you some insight on shooting film and the process that comes with it! I know at first it can be very overwhelming but with practice you will be shooting film in no time! Once you see it’s beautiful tones you will be hooked!! My main film camera I use is the Contax 645, with a Zeiss 80mm and I my favorite film stock to shoot is Fuji 400h!