Technique Thursday: learning to shoot film part 1

Oh now this is one of my favorite things.

Shooting film.

It has changed my life.

I hardly edit photos anymore which means more shooting and playing with the kids time.

My colors are just how I want them to be. Real life.  Bright and fun.  And the light.  Oh well the light.

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And a secret?   Shooting film is easy.  Its simple.

There is a lot to shooting film — way more than one blog post.

But for this post, I’ll tell how I got started and transitioned to film in the easiest way possible.

Black and White Came First

My first photography class at a local college 9 years ago was black and white in the dark room. I bought a Canon rebel film camera from Costco and fell in love with photography.  After the class I switched to digital (because that’s what everyone was doing and I thought I needed to).  But my black and white never looked the same so I still shot some black and white in my old canon rebel but used my new Canon L lens I had gotten for the digital.

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I didn’t think much about film vs. digital until I ran across this book —   Hot Shots (a how to shoot film book by Lomokev)  — in Urban Outfitters.  All lomographyAll about how to shoot film with super easy to follow directions for like $10. Within a week I had gotten my first lomography cameras and some film and was shooting away.  I had a cheap camera (olympus xa2) from ebay, 35mm film and went to Long’s drugs to process.  Not expensive and highly addicting.

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Using My Lenses on Cheap Film Cameras

Then I did what every digital shooter can and should do. I used my expensive Canon L lens (or your Nikon lenses) on my Canon rebel film camera (or you can get a Canon EOS 3 or a Nikon F100) and started shooting 35mm film.  Easy as pie and cheap as all get out.  Because its the lens that matter — not so much the camera — with film.

I started out using the AV settings (automatic settings.. I just set the aperture -how shallow a focus distance I wanted)  and used my exposure compensation to overexpose 2 stops (+2) if I was shooting into the light (back light) to make up for the camera’s meter seeing all that light.  And taking my film to the local drug store to process.  And boy did I fall in love.

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Shooting Film is Like Christmas Everyday

I don’t mean to be over the top but it is like Christmas everyday.  I love sending my film in to the lab (Richard Photo Lab, Indie Film Lab, and FIND lab are my favorite go to labs) and then receiving my scans back via ftp in 2 weeks.  Yes, scans.. and then its all the same as digital minus the post processing.  Anticipation and Joy.

And the actual shooting is so much more fun that digital.  I find myself more present because I can’t look at the back of my camera (well I can but there is nothing to see :)).  I think more. I shoot way way less. But have more keepers.  It’s a crazy joyous thing.

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Medium Format and my best friend the Light Meter

But when my friend hired Jonathan Canlas as her wedding photographer and showed me his site,  I found out about Film Is Not Dead workshops.  I attended FIND and started shooting medium format with a light meter.  That was my game changer. (we will talk more about that later).  Let’s just say that medium format film cameras looks just so rich and deep and unlike anything digital.

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You can get his workshop now in book form for cheap, cheap, cheap!  Buy Film Is Not Dead: A Digital Photographer’s Guide to Shooting Film (Voices That Matter) and it will tell you everything you want to know.  Of course I way recommend you attend the workshop too if you are really into it.  Its an experience you shouldn’t miss.

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That was two years ago.  Since FIND I sold the digital and shoot 100% film.  My business has taken off — more features, more clients, more money, more fun.

And the most important thing?  I have just the best photos of my kids growing up and shooting film makes me happy. Every. Single. Day.

We will talk more about exposure, metering, camera choices etc. in coming weeks.  But here are some tips and examples from our readers:

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And to top it all off.. since its the Christmas season.. we are giving away a Jonathan Canlas – Film Is Not Dead book.


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Our favorite 35mm films:

Kodak Portra-800 135-36 Professional Color Print Film (ISO-800) , Kodak 135-36 35mm Ektar 100 Color Negative Film (36 Exposure) ,Fujifilm Pro 400H 135-36 Fujicolor Professional Color Negative (Print) Film (ISO 400)

Our favorite medium format films:
Fujifilm Pro 400H 120 Professional Color Negative (Print) Film – 5 Rolls
Kodak 220 Professional Portra 400 Color Negative Film (One Roll)

Kodak Portra-800 120 Color Print Film (ISO-800) – Pro Pack 5 Rolls

And tomorrow we will talk a bit about processing digital to look clean!!!


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