Introduction to Film Photography

 

Introduction to Film Photography

 

Lesson Info

Class Introduction

I'm Sandra Coan, as you've heard. And I am a portrait photographer here in Seattle, Washington, who specializes in newborns and families and classic portraiture, and I shoot it all on film. That's all I do. I have been doing this portrait photography thing for a very long time, this is actually my 17th year of business. So, when I started my business, and certainly when I learned photography, film photography was just called photography, right? Because that's all there was. So that's how I learned, that was my base. But when digital came along, I did what I think a lot of photographers did back then, and I kinda bought into the belief that this was the way the industry was going. And if I was going to stay relevant, and if I was certainly gonna keep my job and my business that I worked so hard to create, I really had to learn this new medium and make the switch. So, I started that journey around 2005, I think I bought my first digital camera, and then adopted it into my business around...

2007. And at that point, I just decided to go 100% digital, this is what I had to do. It was not an easy transition for me. I learned right away that the way that you shoot with film, and what works on film, doesn't necessarily work on a digital camera. I also learned right away that the whole paradigm had changed. No longer could you just pick up your camera and shoot, and be done, right? So now there was all this post processing. I had to learn Photoshop, and I had to learn Lightroom when Lightroom came along and, you know, all of those things. And suddenly my job went from taking photos and being a photographer, to spending a lot of time in front of the computer and processing. And I learned right away that I didn't like that, and that I actually just wasn't very good at it. I didn't have the patience, I didn't wanna sit there and learn all of that stuff. So I decided to hire somebody to do my post processing for my studio work, which was great. I would do a shoot, and cull, and then give those images to her, and she would process them, and we were done. But what happened as a result is that I actually just stopped photographing my family. I stopped photographing my own kids, because apparently I was too cheap to pay somebody to process my personal photos. So I just didn't do that. And I just stopped shooting. Or, I would shoot and just never touch the images again. So for example, I have twins, I have images that I took of my twins when they were having their little preschool graduation ceremony, which, for those of you who don't have children, is really adorable, right? (crowd laughs) They have these little, like, graduation hats and stuff, and they're super cute. Those images are still on my computer, they are still in my Lightroom catalog, and I still have not edited them. And, for some perspective, my children are going into middle school in the fall. Right, so total mom-fail. And I realized this was happening more and more. So around 2000, I think it was 2011, I decided, you know, this is ridiculous. I know how to shoot film. This is how I learned, this is how I got started. I'm just gonna pick up those film cameras and I'm gonna start shooting my own family. And so, I started incorporating film back into my work, just for my family. I mean nothing special, right? Nothing award-winning here. But I was getting pictures of my kids again, and I could just shoot it in the camera, the way the lord intended, and send it off to the lab, and get prints back and have photos. By the way, we're about to cut down a Christmas tree. I don't normally give my kids saws and things. (laughs) Normally. So anyway, so I started bringing film back into my life, and I was photographing things again. You know, like Christmas morning. I would never have taken this picture if I had had my digital camera, ever. By the way, that's an amazing video game, apparently. (crowd laughs) You know, going on vacation. Just regular old family stuff. And what happened was, when I started picking up these film cameras again, I felt something I hadn't felt in a long time, around my work, which was joy, and fun. You know, I realized, I don't even think I'd realized it that shooting with a digital camera, shooting digitally, had really begun to feel like work. In like, the worst sense of the word. I would go into, you know, my studio, and I'd pick up that digital camera and it was like, 'Ugh,' you know it just like, 'Ugh,' I didn't wanna do it. And it was just going through the motions, collecting a paycheck. Which isn't a great feeling. And I'd come home, and I'd grab my film cameras, and it was exciting. And it was fun. And I wanted that feeling in my job, as well as in my life. So, I started shooting in the studio with my film camera. Slowly, of course I started off with my kids, practicing. And now I'm at the point where I shoot film in studio, a hundred percent. So this is some of my work (laughs). Is that so cute? And you guys, I've never been happier. It has made such a difference. Like, not only do I love my work now, like I love the tones of it, I love the way it looks. It's like exactly what I've always, it's exactly what I've always ever wanted. I love the process of it. I get to go into work now, and I feel those same feelings, where I'm excited to pick up my camera, you know? And I'm excited to work this way, to photograph families this way. Are you ready for it? What? (crowd laughs) And it's just, it's just made all the difference for me. And I will never go back to shooting digital. I always say that shooting film has been the best decision I've ever made. Coming back to film. Both personally, and for my business, without a doubt. And what's interesting is that I know that I'm not alone in this. And we've all seen it, right? Like over the past few years in our industry, we've seen this huge resurgence in film photography, especially in the wedding world, which is kind of exciting. And that tells me that film is alive and well. It's not going anywhere, it's actually coming back. Which is fun. And what I think is really interesting about that is that if you do look at the wedding world, and you do look at the wedding industry in particular, where we see a lot of film photographers, those film photographers that are in that industry and shooting film are often seen as high-end photographers. Right? As kind of fine art photographers. And I think this is fascinating, because this is something that people thought was dead. Right, that people are just writing off. And now, you know, ten or so years after the fact, it is seen as high-end, and fine art. And I've certainly seen it in my business, for sure. Coming back to film, and marketing myself as a film photographer, has done amazing things for my business. And it has put me in a different echelon, where I am seen as a more of a fine art, high-end photographer, which by the way I kinda like. It's kind of awesome being there. But what I want to tell you is, I don't know everybody's story here, but if you are not a professional photographer, that's okay. Film is for you too. Film really is for everyone, okay? Really. So if you are a professional photographer, great. No matter what you do, weddings, portraits, lifestyle, pets, or whatever you do, I dunno. I guarantee that film is going to breathe life into your business. It's like the best cure for burnout around. It's gonna help you stand out in a saturated market, because your work's gonna look different, the process is gonna be different. So if you are a professional photographer, awesome, film is for you. But if you're not, maybe you're a hobbyist, or you just wanna play around with some cool cameras, or maybe you're like I was and you're a mom, or you're a dad, we do have mantographers, and you just want pictures of your kids, right, that you're gonna look at again. Because let's be honest, all those pictures that we take on our iPhones are never gonna see the light of day, right? So if that's you, film is for you too. Okay? It really is for everybody, even for little kids playing in the pool (laughs). I wanted to share this picture in particular because I just took this with a disposable camera that I bought at the drug store for like ten dollars, right? Easy, not super-expensive. Fun to play around with. Ship it off to the lab, and now I've got these super-fun prints from our vacation that my kids love, and that we actually look at as part of our lives. You guys, film is also easy. It really is. My kids shoot it, I have hipster children. (crowd laughs) So this is my son, Harvey, he shoots a Holga. And then my other son Dexter shoots a digital. So listen, if they can do it? You can totally do it too. So I was saying it was easy. If my children can do it, if I can do it, you can do it too, okay? I believe that there are actually only three core things that you need to know to be a good film photographer, and to create beautiful film photography. Just three, right? Or, I just said 'Just three' and handed up just two. (laughs) I do that sort of thing all the time. Okay, just three, and this is it. You need to know your light, you need to know your film, and you need to know your lab. That's it, alright? So, you need to know your light. You need to understand how film is different from a digital sensor. You need to understand how to meter. How to look at your light, read it. You need to know how to do that for color film, you need to know how to do that for black-and-white film. You need to know your film. What kind of film goes with what kind of camera. The different film stocks, there is no universal standard for film, so each stock has something a little different, something a little different about it. So you need to know what those differences are so you can use that in your work intentionally. And you need to know your lab. When you're a film photographer, the lab that you choose is really important. I always say, your lab is your creative partner. And so knowing how to find a good one, knowing what they do, knowing how to adequately communicate with your lab is really important. And guess what? That's what we're gonna learn today. So we're gonna know your light, your film, know your lab, alright? Easy, three things. My goal is that by the end of this class, that you're not only inspired and excited to go out and shoot your film cameras, pick them up, but that you're also gonna have everything you need to know to create beautiful film photography, okay? It's not that hard, I promise.

Class Description

Stop with the excuses, grab your film camera and get out there and make amazing images! If you’re comfortable with your DSLR and post processing, then learning to use your film camera is easier than you think! In this beginner course, Sandra Coan walks through how to shoot with film so that you feel comfortable, confident, and excited to take the best pictures! She’ll talk about choosing your film and how to find and work with a lab to process your images.

This course will cover:

  • The differences and similarities between film and digital
  • How a camera meter works and how to meter for film
  • The different film options and how they affect your photo
  • How to find the right lab to process your images

Don’t be intimidated by the idea of using film. Sandra will show you how to slow down during your photo shoot, focus on what you’re trying to capture, and ultimately get a great image straight out of camera.