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On the topic of shooting film

The past few months I’ve been trying to push myself to shoot more film, in part to the incessant efforts of individuals within particular social circles of photography. It’s something I’ve taken my time dipping my feet in over the course of the summer and also something that’s taken over to a degree. As of late I have put in the effort to shoot a lot of personal work with nothing but a film camera or two for a variety of reasons, mainly, that it slows me down.

What I mean by that is with the cost and effort involved in shooting film, from the purchasing of the film itself to the development and scanning costs, while not inherently tragic, can manage to add up quickly, especially if the bad habit of snapping off frames on the digital side comes along for the ride. You quickly learn there is very little space for poor compositions and random experimental frames after you spend a few weeks waiting to get your shots back only to discover there were sloppy or poor choices and approaches.

Of course, when there are costs involved you quickly learn not to make such careless mistakes and begin to start visualizing a lot more, at least in my case, than you would on the digital side. It has helped pushed me to a better understanding of not only things like metering but composition and paying attention to elements within a frame. It is a great practice at the core competencies to photography. I have fallen in love with the refinement it helps bring to not only the film stuff I shoot but the change in the digital approach. I found as time went on it became easier and easier to fall into bad habits when shooting digital. Don’t know what the correct exposure is? Just fire off a frame and adjust your exposure. Sounds great but it’s a lazy approach to properly learning and refining the basics. That in itself has already been well worth the experience.

Beyond that however is the greater emphasis it has helped to put on each shot. 24-36 shots a roll may not seem like a lot, and sometimes it’s really not but you also learn to really make each one count. This ended up especially being the case when I was shooting film down in Jamaica. I had brought only about 15 rolls down with me and didn’t have a place to pick up any more if need be. As it so happened on my last day there I was shooting some Portra and Ektar on the beach near sunset and completely ran out of color film. I only had a few rolls of monochrome film left so I made sure to focus on using it wisely. Ultimately you see that sort of attention reflected in the shots an it’s a wonderful feeling when you get a roll back, knowing that you may have only had 24 frames to shoot off and most of them came back as keepers.

Finally, of course, there’s the look of film. There’s qualities about it that are hard if not impossible to replicate and the majority of people that fall in love with it do so because of the latitude and color that it can bring to the table. I won’t go on about that much though, there’s no shortage of people who will gladly make that argument.

All in all it’s been a great experience so far. There are a lot of challenges and disappointing along the way, especially when you realize you don’t have the opportunity to hide some of the flaws of poor composition with digital editing like you would with a lot of raw files.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow some days but one that ultimately will make you a better photographer.
These shots in particular are a few I took of a friend, Miki,  a few months ago when we still had the October sun to shoot in.

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