“Learning how to use different formats has made me a better photographer. When I started working in medium format, it made me a better 35 mm photographer. When I started working in 4×5, it made me a better medium-format photographer.” — Mary Ellen Mark
While much of what I shoot today is with mirrorless and digital SLRs, I still have several film cameras, including a Leica M6, Hasselblad XPan, Zeiss SW and a medium format Seagull TLR that Mary gave me as a birthday gift several years ago. These days shooting film seems to be as much about having fun as shooting image. And isn’t that why we all got into photography in the first place? And while I really enjoy making images using digital SLRs can mirrorless cameras, there’s still a few things that I miss about shooting film.
- Surprise. If you read “A Photographer’s Three Phases of Development” you know that Phase One occurs shortly after a new shooter purchases their first “good” camera and discover photography’s potential for fun and creativity. During this time, novice shooters are fearless and enthusiastically explore their world creating images that look much better than they could have ever imagined. You still get that with film.
- Travel. When traveling, in addition to all the normal photo stuff, I’ll also take a laptop and an external drive to back-up images. Laptops are just one more airport hassle and I’ve spent far too many nights, while on the road sorting and backing up images when I should have been out soaking up the local culture.
- Time. Digital imaging takes lots of time. In the old days I’d drop film off at the lab and come back in a day and pick up slides, negatives or proof sheets. If they didn’t look good, I’d yell at the lab and make them do it over. Nowadays we’re the lab and it doesn’t look good then all I can do is yell at myself.
Will I go back to exclusively shooting film? No. But there’s no reason I can’t just shoot film and have my film scanned staying firmly in the digital realm as far as post-production goes. Digital imaging software let me do a better job in less than an hour and I wouldn’t have to spend all that time working in the dark with smelly chemicals.
If you’re interested in how I use cameras, lenses and lighting, please pick up a copy of “Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from your favorite book or camera stores as well as Amazon.com, where your purchase helps this blog.