What practicing on a film camera taught me?

When I first started shooting video I wanted to get better so ofcourse I watched/study 6+ movies a day from cinema verite documentary to student projects. The best thing that happened to my development and mindset was being handed a film pentax camera. The mindset I had before that point was to take as many shots as possible, getting footage all day. The camera pretty much became my eyes. That helped develop my overall focus but taking a break from video and switching to film helped my shot selection and a few other principles. I’ll hit on the points below.

1. Shot selection (Patience)
2. Limits are good (Standards)
3. Cost and budgets (Efficiency)
4. All lighting isn’t created equal (Awareness)
5. Manual focus is your friend (Technique)
6. It won’t always go as planned (Improvisation)
7. Candid Moments ( Moments)
8. Quality
9. The feel of film vs digital (Pros & Cons)
10. Nostalgia

1. Being introduced to video first gave me almost limitless shooting capabilities. screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-9-45-44-amAslong as I had enough tapes (mini-dvs) and batteries to keep recording that’s exactly what j would do shoot until I ran out. DV tapes were cheap so the cost didn’t bother me, plus i wasn’t the one  paying. With film this isn’t the case. The cost of rolls and developing film can become costly to an “starving artist” My snap happy “spray and pray” fingers began to become more assassin sniper like. I knew I only had 24 shots and definitely had to make each one of them count. What I would normally think was okay and shoot no longer passed the “standard” of what I thought was worth it.
2. Limits can be good. In a digital world there are pretty much no limits to how much you can shoot which is good but can also open the door to a whole bunch of nothing. There was a quote that I recently read… Digital has raised the level of mediocrity, what is great will remain that way.

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3. Being that film is a constant investment of not only your time but your money you learn quickly how to apply a budget to your creative expression.
4. To be more specific all natural lighting isn’t created equal. I’ve taken shots that have been under lit and over lit but in some cases the mistake was perfect. You get a different feel for lighting in film than digital can deliver. I feel like with digital there’s more room to “Wing it ” where film demands more technique.

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5. I’m still surprised when I come across shooters that rely on auto functions. This is another cushion the digital era has ushered in. There are digital/film cameras out there and I have one but before that… Film helped me practice manual focusing and getting the right shutter speed for the look I was aiming for.
6. It won’t always look how you want it to look but sometimes that’s a good thing. Mistakes open your perspective up to what you could potentially do on purpose next time.

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7. I’ve noticed with film cameras (smaller, simple) capturing candid moments seems to be not easier but … more organic. I could be getting into more of a personal observation/tendency but people don’t tend to pay me any mind with a small film camera but when I have a big camera body with a zoom lens capturing those moments just isn’t the same. The art of catching people off/on guard is an acquired skill.
8. The quality… films delivers a richness in color and authenticity that digital lacks. I’ve learned to appreciate the photo albums my grandmother kept safe. Those are the memories that can be held and felt.

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9. The feeling of being able to hold your image and see it on a reel is different from uploading it to Lightroom. Developing film in a dark room is an experience I have not had the pleasure of yet but the sound of creating a whole room/space getting different color lights dipping the images in water…. Just that alone sounds more intimate than plugging in the usb and walaaa images ready to be viewed. The process of waiting the extra day for your images or having to go through and develop them yourself in a black room requires patience.

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10. There’s a nostalgia that comes with film. It could stem from the movies. The idea that there is a safe deposit box somewhere with photographic images holding some secret moment is an attractive reality to those that flex their imagination muscle. The memories of always having a disposable camera in hand growing up reminds me of how long I’ve been attracted to images. I think film photography will follow a course similar to vinyl records, respected by those who appreciate the sound and time and forgotten by those born in a digital world.

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