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How Film Photography Can Help You Improve As a Photographer

How Film Photography Can Help You Improve As a Photographer

Today I want to talk to you about why I think film photography can help you be a better photographer in general. I'm a wedding photographer and Fujifilm X Photographer and I've been shooting weddings for 5 years now. One thing I love to do to help me get better at photography, keep me trained up, and keep me learning is actually shooting film.

Why I Think Shooting Film can Help Improve you as a Photographer?

1. Time to think and understanding light

First off, it gives you more time to think. As we all know what film cameras, for the most part, they're slower than our digital counterparts. Because of this, and the fact that usually we only have 36 shots or less, it gives us a lot more time to stop and think about the shot we're going to take.

Having that extra time to really stop and say is this shot important? And should I be taking it? And how do I want to compose it? Is huge. It also will help you on your digital camera, not just spray and pray all the time, and actually think about your shots such as you're not taking too many shots for no real reason.

Obviously, there is a time and place to shoot a lot of photos, but for the most part, film will teach you to slow down and think about each shot and how they look. With this extra time gained, this can help us to understand light. Now, one thing I learned from being a musician in my time at Berkeley College of Music is lots of ear training, and if you're not familiar with ear training, that's just basically ways to be able to hear notes in intervals or even frequencies of sound and identify them just by being able to hear it.

So from that method of thinking, I like to do eye training as well. The more you shoot and the more light you see, it's easier to know where your shutter and f-stop should be at just by the way the light looks. Also when you review other photographers' photos, make sure to pay attention to the focal lengths as well. If you do a bunch of eye training, you'll notice over time, you're able to actually see what focal length is being used in a shot.

Now, the reason this is huge as well is because everyone always runs around asking what your settings were for a photo but that doesn't matter as much as knowing what the focal length was, seeing the light, and if you know the settings, knowing why the settings were used. The settings by themselves are kind of pointless.

So again, with this eye training and using film photography, yes, you can meter everything, but what I love to do is just go in blindly and use eye training to see the light and make sure I'm shooting the right thing, and honestly, since the film is so forgiving as long as you're not underexposing it, this is a great way to just kind of learn what the light looks like and see if you're overexposing or not.

When you do this method, however, make sure you're writing down what your settings were for each frame and which frame it was you took so that when you get your film back, you can actually look at the specific photo and say, "Okay, I shot it like this and my settings were off." And learn from there.

2. Focus on composition and exposure

Just the same as the last two, film makes us really think about what we're doing with our photos. Instead of just shooting the photo quick and easy, lining everything up and getting that perfect composition is huge. Also, if you're using a full manual film camera, you're going to be doing the focus yourself. So that's really gonna make you stop and think about your composition, and what's happening.

Again with exposure, you can do your eye training and learn that way, or you can use meters. You can use the meter inside of your camera or buy a small meter, like the one I have here, but again, I found when you focus on your exposure and your composition when you go back to digital, you'll approach everything much differently.

3. Becoming one with the photo process

So one thing I absolutely love about analog media is that it is capturing real analog data. Obviously, with digital, we're turning everything into one and zeros and then reconverting it again, but I love listening to live music, listening to vinyls, looking at prints and taking film photography, and really capturing that light onto a real physical piece of film. Just like with anything analog or cooking on a grill or just using fire, you have to be a part of that process.

I feel like digital really gets us away from the process and we get focused too much on settings and just doing certain things by the book rather than being a part of what is happening, and once you start taking the time to be a part of what is actually happening, it's going to help you dramatically on your photography and how you approach taking photos. I know it can be a kind of abstract idea but honestly, I think it is the best reason to shoot a film is to really be a part of the process.

Really look at the light, really look at the composition, and take the time to focus and get the shot that you want.

So those are the reasons I absolutely love shooting film and I've been shooting it for a couple of years now. I love to share knowledge and everyone reading, I want us to be a community and just kind of learn together about what we can do and best practices of film.

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