Abbie McFarland: my journey to film

My journey into shooting film started with my friend Rebecca Conway, who had been experimenting with 35mm, a Holga, and Polaroids … I had been shooting digitally for only a few years at the time, and in a phone conversation with her became curious about trying out film. I wasn’t one of those girls that was born with a camera in her hands, and therefore was in a place in personally and professionally where I really wanted to learn and grow. Enter Jonathan Canlas and his guide for learning to shoot film, and I was immediately fascinated. I purchased a Nikon f100, some portra 400, and shot my first roll.

You should know that I can be a creature of impulse, and knowing that I was hooked, I sold a few pricey Nikon lenses and bought a contax setup. I meant business about shooting film, and I had moved from a point of thinking it might be too difficult for me, to knowing that I must make film work for me because it was going to make me better, and make me stand out in a completely saturated market.

I bought my contax setup in March 2010, and by the time we took a vacation to Hawaii that May, I brought only film equipment with me. Since that time, I’ve been shooting film almost exclusively….I still love having a digital camera around too, but film has truly helped me find my voice and my niche.

My advice to you if you are interested in trying it out:

1) Use a good lab. Since I jumped so quickly into shooting medium format, I took local drugstore labs out of the equation pretty fast, and I’m thankful for that. You will get much better results earlier on if you are working with a lab that is invested in helping you succeed. Richard Photo Lab has been my lab of choice since I started. I love them; they’ve been great to me, and have delivered consistent results for me over and over. There are several others as well….Find Lab (now open to the public), Indie Film Lab, Pro Photo Irvine, Image Source….to name a few. Sending in that first roll can be really intimidating, but know that these labs that specialize in film development want to partner with you, and can be an excellent resource.

2) Try out lots of different film stocks. Don’t rely on what you see other people shoot…..experiment and figure out what works best for you.

3) There are lots of resources out there for metering film, so I won’t beat a dead horse, but the best way to find out how to meter is to go out and shoot, send to your lab, examine your results, and apply what you learned.

What I love about film:

1) I love how much time shooting film gives me back, and that it also forces me to charge for my time.  During 2012 I did a custom color profile with RPL, and any post-processing I do to my film images is minimal. My time is freed to focus on more important things.

2) I enjoy the simplicity and beauty of film, both in the process of shooting it and in the results. It has a classic appeal that speaks to me, and I love the connection I feel with what I’m shooting when I am in the mindset of shooting film.

3) Shooting film has helped me improve by leaps and bounds. It has helped me start to find my voice….my brand….a cohesiveness in what it is that I put out there.

4) Last, definitely not least, film has given me a sense of community.  I’ve met so many wonderful people because of it…..being a part of the FIND community has been such a cool and unexpected component of what makes shooting film special to me.  I’ve found a group of people that are incredibly helpful and generous with their knowledge, and I am vastly improved because of that.

What’s in my bag:

I like to switch up and try out new gear, but my Contax is my mainstay. In addition to the Contax 645, I also have: a Leica M6, a Rollei SL66, a Mamiya RZ Pro II, and my beloved and inexpensive Holga.

If you have been wanting to give film a try and haven’t yet made the leap, I encourage you to give it a try! I truly believe that even shooting it occasionally will help you improve and will enhance your experience with photography.


What would a post about shooting film be without a few incredible film images to share? I’ve included images from some of my favorite photographers out there, and I am sneaking in a recent favorite of my own as well.

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Thanks so much to the following photographers for allowing me to share an image or two that I loved. I appreciate being inspired.

Jonathan Canlas

Ozzy Garcia

Rebecca Conway

Clary Photo

Mitchel Issel

Yan Photo


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