Within the land of film photography, there are mysterious and exciting aspects of shooting on film. The anticipation of not knowing what your shot will look like combined with the delicate responsibility of documenting memories feels both powerful and overwhelming.
As you begin your journey as a photographer, here are some pointers to keep in mind:
Creating the best shot of your ability takes belief, patience and luck. Starting on disposable cameras and moving to medium format and DSLR cameras is a great way to become familiar with digital and film photography, and each medium has its own unique characteristics and options.
Practice breath control
Controlling your breath is one of the most important things you can do as a photographer. While the aesthetic of blurry and Y2K-edited photos has rapidly taken over the internet, this kind of style can be a hit or miss with film.
Test out different kinds of film
Shooting on different types of film increases your versatility as a photographer and allows you to experiment with different mediums. Not everyone has the capital or the space to create a photo-developing lab in their rooms, but it’s remarkably easy to test out different types of film.
Kodak Black and White film and the different range of ISOs (which refers to the sensitivity of a camera's sensor) make prominent differences in your pictures, and understanding that not all your pictures have to be in color keeps you away from being stuck in a box of creativity.
Understand the beauty of moments
There’s a desire to be accurate and precise, and there’s the understanding that a film camera can never take the same picture twice.
Understanding the delicacy of a moment allows you to take the role of photographer seriously, and accuracy starts with controlling your breathing and focusing on nothing but the picture. Every photo is a universe in a moment, and treating it with the respect it deserves fills your photos with clarity and intent.
Using flash also helps to make your photos come up clearer and more defined. Using flash indoors puts the focus solely on the subject being photographed and can create a black background that highlights the subject’s features in a warm and defined way. The background melts away, and all that exists are the people in your frame.
Acts of movement also come out beautifully, and photographing people when they're dancing, for example, puts the emphasis on emotion and feeling rather than clarity in the frame.
Allow the subject to move freely
Allowing people to pose how they want immediately creates a layer of comfortability between you and your subject. By not directing them in a controlling way, they will be more comfortable around you and be willing to pose in the way that makes them feel best.
Most photoshoots feel like a succession of directions instead of a genuine moment that deserves to be documented, and avoiding that dictatorial mindset will make people more comfortable in photos.
Invest in film printing
While drugstores like Walgreens and CVS will develop your film for a relatively cheap price, sending your film to a professional photo lab will ensure that your photos are printed with the best possible quality. Websites like Mpix and The Darkroom develop your film and send you negatives, which ensures you have a hard copy of your photos.
Confidence is especially important when taking pictures. Most of the time it’s as simple as asking if you can take a photo of someone, and with that, any anxiety you have about being perceived melts away once you get their consent.
People are a bit self-centered at heart, and documenting them is an exercise in expression for everyone involved. This works especially well at parties and concerts, where these moments and situations will likely never happen the same way again.
Taking film pictures not only makes you a more unique individual, but you also receive an unfiltered and personalized perspective of important memories and people. It's a privilege to be able to document the world this way, and not taking it for granted is a wonderful motivator for understanding how to be a better photographer.