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Why Film?

Lesson 2 from: Quick Start to Film Photography

Sandra Coan

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Lesson Info

2. Why Film?

Lesson Info

Why Film?

I do just want to take a second to answer this question because "Why Film"? This is the question I get all the time. I get it from my clients, I get it in email, I even answered it today a couple of times here at Creative Live. And I get it, it's a totally fair question because on paper, film has a lot of drawbacks. Right? It is slow, totally is. It's expensive, yes. You have a fixed ISO, this is a big one. There's no just, like, bumping up your ISO in a middle of a shoot if your light changes. And you can't look at the back of your camera and see how you're doing. You have to wait to see your results, sometimes weeks, which can be excruciating. (laughing) Trust me. So, there are definite limitations, for sure. I feel like, honestly, a lot of these limitations have actually though, made me a better photographer. I may be a better photographer even when I'm shooting with a digital camera. Even when I'm shooting with my phone, quite frankly. So, I just wanted to take a minute to address ...

some of these and then share some of the reasons why I love shooting film and why I did make that decision to come back to it in my personal life and in my professional life. So, slowness and expense. Yes, film is slow. I work in a studio. I work with babies, kids, families. They're moving a lot. And when I first made that transition back to film, that slowness was something, honestly, that really freaked me out. Because I had become used to this session, this kind of a session where a family would come in, or a toddler would come into the studio and I would, it was like a race, you know. I was just shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting every single moment, every single expression, everything I could possibly get. I was like, "Oh, I don't want to miss anything and I don't want to...What if they do something adorable and I didn't catch it"? It was just this kind of frantic feeling almost to it. And I knew I was going to be able to do that with film. And it scared me, I'll be honest. But what happened was that that slowness actually changed the energy of my shoots, as woo woo as that sounds. But what has happened is now people come into the studio, toddlers come into the studio, kids still move, you know. Three year olds still run around. But instead of feeling like I have to chase them and I just have to capture everything and cull it down later, I can just kind of wait. And sit and wait for it. And capture a moment. Intentionally. And it's changed the dynamic of my work from something where it felt like I was just shooting and hoping I got something good and hoping I got it to taking the time to be intentional and make an image. Does that make sense? And it feels different. It changed the energy of my sessions even for my tiny clients. Because now, you know, I have to change a roll out after 16 shots. And that gives us time for a break, we have a little break, we have a little Goldfish snack or whatever needs to happen can happen in that time. And then everybody I feel like is more relaxed. The expense, so the expense has also slowed me down because I figured out that every time I hit the shutter it cost me the equivalent of buying, like an Americano. Which is a lot of money. So, I started really thinking again and just really waiting for things and waiting for moments. And I'm sharing this picture because A: this is one of the first images that I captured when I made that transition from digital back to film. And it was a one year old photo shoot, so if you've ever worked with a one year old or been around a one year old, they move a lot. And I was shooting this with my contacts and I was shooting this with manual focus. So, I was really nervous about this. And what happened was, though, is that I was able to really engage with this baby in a way that I hadn't engaged with my little, tiny clients before. And we were laughing and we were playing and just kind of waiting for the moment and I was able to capture this in one frame. Whereas before, I would have spent a lot of time taking a lot of pictures before and a lot of pictures after and then culling down to find the perfect one. And so, when I got this film back and I was like, "I was able to get that and nail that expression in one frame", it was kind of like, it was the end, it was over. It was like this is what I have to do. Because it just felt so much better and I love the results. So, film has a fixed ISO. That is true. There is no bumping up your ISO in the middle of your shoot. And what this has done for me is it really forced me to learn lighting and really understand light in a way that I hadn't before. Because I couldn't just look at the back of my camera and make some quick changes and bump things up to 6400. I had to be really intentional about it and I really understand how light works. Natural light and artificial light. And it's made me a better photographer, without a doubt. Some other things love about film. (laughing) It's like a poem by Sandra Coan. I love the actual film, the stock, the film stocks. So, what's cool about film is that there is no universal standard for film stocks. And so what that means is each and every stock is different. And it's up to the manufacturer to decide, you know, how this color film is going to read greens or read blues or read reds. There all a little slightly different. Are they going to be warm or are they going to be cool tones? The grain structure, you know, all these things are inherent in the actual film stocks themselves. It's as if, you know, a stock of film is like a little preset. People like to buy those presets, well that's what film is. And so, it's really fun for me as a photographer and as an artist to get to learn about the different kinds of films and then I can make a informed decision on what I'm going to buy and what I'm going to use based on how I want my images to look. And so, it's kind of like a different relationship. It's just, like I said, it's fun, it has a different element to it. I love the cameras. Right? (laughing) They're fun and they're pretty. And they look different. And that's important for a couple of reasons. First of all, I'm a newborn photographer in Seattle, Washington which means there's a lot of other newborn photographers in Seattle, Washington. And just by the fact that I am shooting my newborns on this, right? It means my images are going to look different. My perspective is going to look different. This camera is a 6x6 frame, I'm composing in a square format. It just helps me stand out. You guys, this is the biggest reason right here. It has freed me from my computer. And this is huge because I really didn't become a photographer to sit in front of the computer. I became a photographer because I really like taking photos. I like working with people, I like capturing that. And what film has done for me is it's allowed me to kind of leave this behind. So, when I was shooting digitally, I was taking tons and tons of pictures, way too many than I needed and then I would spend all this time culling and getting them to look the way I wanted them to. Which was a long process. Now, I shoot my camera on my film, I put my film stock based on what I want it to look like. I do everything in camera, like the way the Lord intended, and then I send it to the lab and it's done. I get my images back from the lab in a scan. I rename my files, I do some light edits, if any. Sometimes I don't do anything. And I send them to my clients. So, my post production, what used to take me hours, literally takes me minutes. It takes me about five minutes for an average family photo session to do post production and get those up online for my clients. And that's awesome. (laughing) It's been really good for my business, first of all, because it means that I can take more clients. It also been good for me because it means that I have time that I can spend with my family or see my friends or go for a walk. And I'm not getting burnt out where I used to feel burnt out at my job. And that's important. For real, I've even come to love the wait. And I'm not lying. So, this part used to be the most excruciating part of shooting film to me was that you'd have to wait. And it is rough in the beginning. I'm not going to lie. But now, what that wait has done for me, again, it's allowed me to have a little, a different relationship with my job and my personal life. So, I can go to work, I can do my work. I know exactly what my images are going to look like because I know my film and I know my light, I understand light, I know my lab, I send it off and then I don't think about it. I don't have to worry about it. I go home and then there's my life and then the film scans come back in like, a week, and I upload them and I'm done. So, it's helped. That wait has helped me get a little separation between my work and my life and build a little of that work-life separation into just my every day. Which is huge. So, listen, are there limitations to shooting film, are there drawbacks? You bet. That is true. There are. And I know they can feel scary and uncomfortable at first. Especially when you start. But I'm just going to ask you to trust the process because even though this is a quick start class, I'm going to teach you everything you need to know today to get a roll of film in your camera, go out, and shoot it, and get something back that's pretty, okay? So, let's get started.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Film Supply Club Gift Certificate
Richard Photo Lab discount

Ratings and Reviews

Cassie Roberts

Love Sandra's teaching style! I've been shooting film for 5 years now just as a hobby, but this showed me more of the technical aspects I haven't learned. A great intro for someone who hasn't picked up a camera before. If you have been shooting for a while, you might be a little disappointed as this is a really broad stroke overview, but I'm excited to check out her other more in depth classes.

a Creativelive Student

As all of her other classes, this class is amazing and very informative too.

Student Work