Lessons from Film

When I shoot with digital, I look for a flaw in the frame. When I shoot with film, I embrace the mistake...
— Singer-Songwriter Seal

I need to preface this post with a few points:

1. I LOVE digital photography and think there are some incredible benefits to shooting digital instead of film

2. I think both digital and film images can be beautiful.

3. I don't buy into what I call "inner circle mentality" that uses less popular artistic mediums to create a sense of superiority (i.e. "oh everyone is a photographer- I shoot film so I must be better than the masses").   


That being said, HUGE photography lessons can be learned through using film.  I have been going through a book by Photographer Chris Orwig called People Pictures ; it's a book filled with photo projects to challenge and grow any photographer.  My most recent project required the use of film (specifically 3 days of portraits with black and white film).  I have loved doing these projects because of how it is forcing me outside my comfort zone in photography.  My awesome second shooter friend Steven Wallace is a film-guru so he was able to give me some help with the film process and is now developing my black and white rolls for me.  I'll post some of those soon!

I have always loved my instant cameras (Fuji Instax, Polaroid 300, and the old Polaroid One Step camera), so I decided it was time to invest in some film through The Impossible Project.  If you aren't familiar with the Impossible Project, you should definitely check them out.  I say I had to invest in some film because the Polaroid 600 film is about $3-4 per image (so 8 images cost me about $28, although I found it cheaper on Amazon for $24).  YIKES! You could buy a 16GB memory card for a little more than the price of 16 Polaroid images.  But I knew that only having 8 shots would force me to think, be more intentional, and engage with subject and shot than I ever had before.  So for $4 a shot, I took some photos and made some mistakes.


I took my 8 Polaroid pictures while visiting one of my closest friends, Carrie Jo in Knoxville.  We shot a wedding together (hence the nose and glasses photos above!) and got to catch up on life/sit around on her couch with pizza and pajamas watching old movies.  We were out on her back porch and the light was just breaking through the clouds in the midst of a rainy day, so I grabbed my Polaroid camera.  She was drinking her signature french vanilla tea and I had my coffee, so it just seemed perfect to get a picture of her at that moment.  Above is the picture I got (made black and white).  I found out a few things from this shot: a.) You need to stand more than 2 feet away from your subject b.) it's good to read a manual if possible to find out if the flash can be turned off.  So it isn't the best picture ever, but to me it represents a lesson to be learned in imperfect photography.  It's figuring out a moment that is significant to you and capturing it.  So if I walked away from my time with Carrie Jo with just this picture of her I would be happy because it represents so much.  It reminds me of the comfort of our friendship, the ability to be totally ourselves in sweatpants and all, the joy of just being with someone who understands you, and how our journey as photographers is more about understanding what really matters and less about trying to be perfect.

This picture was taken with my Fuji Instax Wide frame camera at the farmer's market in Athens.  I love the colors and people at the farmer's market and it turns out open shade is the perfect lighting for my instant cameras. 

These photos were taken with the Polaroid 300 camera.  I love Athens and thought it would be a fun personal project to take images of favorite local places.  I learned that I didn't have as much control over the exposure as I wanted and this camera does not let you turn off the flash.  But it was a great experience for me to take time, compose my shot, and press a button knowing I wasn't going to take another shot of the same thing. 

I can't wait to get back the black and white Tri-X film from Steven to see how my father-in-law's 35mm Nikon camera held up.  His camera had a great 50mm 1.4 fixed lens, and I was forced to manually focus each shot.  Film causes me to slow down and take my time instead of shooting a million frames hoping one turns out.  I love the idea of taking lessons from film and applying them to digital photography, i.e. slowing down, composing my shot, trying different exposures, and not being addicted to seeing immediate results.  I also love the idea of embracing imperfections- and that is in all of life.  I talked with Carrie Jo about the idea of getting 8 shots per trip I go on.  So 8 total frames to capture it, making me choose what I want to remember most.  When I look at how many external hard drives I have, I get so excited at the idea of having 8 instant film pictures to frame or put in a book.  So what if 5 of them are a little too dark or too bright? That is so my life so it's only fitting that my photos reflect that.  I want to embrace what I get with what I got, and let go of perfection and the idea that more is always best.  Film is teaching me a lot so far.  On a random note- I just found out how to do double exposures on Polaroid film through this Youtube video- that is my next experiment!