Have you ever been tempted to shoot film?
Why, in this age of rapidly advancing technology, increasingly “smart” cameras, and the cost and convenience of digital are we still so drawn to film photography?
There really is something extraordinary about the tonality and color rendition of various film stocks — qualities some might suggest simply can’t be replicated digitally. But is there also something about the process of shooting with film itself that positively influences the creative approach?
Could it be that the cost, logistics, and timeline of film photography encourage a different mindset, even a different level of commitment, from the photographer behind the camera? Does the perception that every shot “counts” help us to produce better photos? Would we shoot more deliberately if the flexibility and instant gratification of digital photography were stripped away?
This month we are going to make a few changes to the way we shoot with our DSLRs in order to get a taste of the “film shooting” experience and explore how it may influence the images we produce.
Here are the Rules:
1. Set your white balance to Daylight or Tungsten.
When selecting color film, you have two color balance options: Daylight (D) or Tungsten film (T). We can approximate this on a DSLR as follows:
If choosing Daylight: Set your camera’s white balance to “Daylight” (sun icon) or 5500K
If choosing Tungsten: Set your camera’s white balance to “Tungsten” (lightbulb icon) or 3200K
In the spirit of paralleling the shooting approaches of film shooters, if you happen to have access to color filters and would like to use them, you are welcome to do so!
2. Commit to an ISO.
On a digital camera, we have the luxury of changing our ISO on a whim as lighting changes or our exposure needs evolve. Not so with film — it’s typically ill-advised to change your ISO setting mid-roll, so we will be sticking with one film speed for the entirety of this exercise as well. With this mind, select a single ISO based on standard consumer film speeds: ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400, or ISO 800.
Without the ability to adjust ISO, you may find yourself working with apertures or shutter speeds outside of your norm; rather than avoiding lighting that may not seem like a good “fit” for your ISO, be open to the opportunity to experiment with shutter speed and aperture in new ways!
3. Turn off your LCD preview.
Farewell, instant gratification. You won’t be able to zoom in to check your focus, check your histogram for exposure, or verify that you got “the shot.” Giving up the luxury of reviewing your shots will encourage you to be more careful when establishing your exposure, focus, and composition before you press the shutter button rather than correcting after the fact. You may find it especially helpful to spot meter (drawing on your knowledge of the Zone System) or to use a light meter, if you have one.
4. Take EXACTLY 36 shots.
No more, no less, and no do-overs. You’re working with a “roll” of 36 exposures, so there’s a cost to each shot now. You may find it helpful to turn off continuous (or “burst”) mode to be sure you don’t waste a precious shot. Press your shutter with care!
5. Wait at least 48 hours to view your photos.
Unless she has her own darkroom or uses a local lab, a film photographer typically waits several days (or weeks!) after sending off her finished roll before seeing the results. They say good things come to those who wait, and one of the benefits of the waiting period is that you may be able to view your images with fresh (and perhaps more objective) eyes if there is some distance between shooting and reviewing your images.
For the purposes of this exercise, set your card aside and wait at least two days before uploading the images.
Has it been 48 hours? Upload, process, and share!
You survived the waiting period, and it’s time to see what you’ve got! Upload your card, and process each of the 36 shots to your liking. What percentage are “keepers”? Does anything feel different about these images (individually or collectively) compared to what a normal set of 36 consecutive shots would look like when you shoot?
What’s the best way to improve your photography? Shoot thoughtfully and frequently! Try new things and embrace creative and technical challenges. Every month, Sarah Wilkerson posts a new tutorial and challenges our members to join in a new Creativity Exercise on the Clickin Moms photography forum. At the conclusion of the exercise, we select Editors’ Choice images from among the exercise submissions and share them here with you on the blog. Congratulations to the ladies whose photographs included in the exercise above were selected as this month’s Editors’ Choices, and thank you to everyone who participated in the exercise!
If you love these Creativity Exercises and the beautiful images they yield, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on Capture the Moment, our upcoming book from Amphoto Books (a division of Random House) in which Sarah has collaborated with over a hundred of our CMpros to produce a gorgeous, hardbound collection filled with inspiring imagery, prescriptive photo tips, and quick creativity exercises to keep those artistic juices flowing! Enter here to win a free copy, or just go ahead and place your preorder now; we’re donating 100% of royalties to Ronald McDonald House Charities. ♥
And be sure to participate in the next exercise! Visit the forum where Sarah has posted “ A Simple Guide to Breaking the Rules (and Making Stronger Photos).” We’d love to see your work!