My Relationship with Film Photography

I only started using film in my photography when I did it for A – Level in 2014. Take what I say with a pinch of salt, this is only my opinion and experience.

That got me hooked immediately.

During the course, we had the opportunity to play around with and then develop our films and images. For me this was really special, since my Dad has always had a passion for photography so was really excited for me to learn the (now uncommon) technique.

There’s plenty of different elements to film photography that make it so sensational, I’ll talk about a couple of them to clarify.

My Camera

I have the Canon AV-1 for my film photography, which is basic but sturdy. I was given it by my grandfather, who used to use it but hadn’t for years and was more than happy to donate it to a good cause.

The camera is more than capable with what I’m using it for. It has aperture priority and bulb mode, no manual. The exposure is compensated through different ASA settings.

I have 3 lenses with this camera, a Canon 50mm, a Canon 28mm and a Bell & Howell 80 – 205mm Macro lens. I’m very lucky to have so many different lenses. These give me plenty of options with my images and lots of variety with the end result.

Canon AV-1 with 50mm lens

Prep

It was so complicated at first, due to the manual nature of using a film camera where you can’t just click auto and everything is set for you – at least not on my camera anyway. Every detail of the image has to be prepared, you have to check the aperture and work out the depth of field you want, change the shutter speed. It all has to be perfect.

There are different types of film you can use, with different amounts of exposures depending on how many images you want or are expecting to take. Basically, there’s 100 – 200 ASA film, which means you can take images in brighter situations, like daylight and bright rooms. There’s also 400 – 800 ASA film which is for use in darker situations like a low light room or studio and night time photos. Before going on a shoot make sure you know the light conditions and arrange your film accordingly.

Snaps

On any new camera, there is an unlimited space for images, anything you want. And when you decide which ones you don’t like, they can be deleted and forgotten about. This means people take multiple images of the exact same thing or something very similar, meaning there’s no excitement to the images. You just take as many as you want and decide which one is your favourite, if you take thousands, you’re bound to find a few that are decent. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have unlimited room and to just choose which one is best, but it isn’t half as fun as the mystery of film.

You can’t just ‘snap’ a picture with film. You have to take your time to prepare the shot you want. You also don’t want to waste an image. The most you can get on one film is 36 different exposures. Film isn’t cheap either so you don’t want to waste your few shots on rubbish images.

Visual

The only chance you get to see the image you’ve taken on film is as you take it, and when the film is developed and printed at the end. The fact that you can’t view your images as soon as you took them is really exciting to me, like you only get one shot and you can’t retake that image. That would waste another exposure.

It also means that when you do get to see and develop your final images, each one is special. Each one might remind you of a lovely day or perfect sunset, they all have individual meaning rather than hundreds of photos on the same day making the event far less significant to you.

Milk Water

Black and White VS Colour 

So you can choose to photograph your images using colour or black and white film, depending on your preference. During my A – Level course we only had the option to use black and white film, as that’s the only one we had the resources to develop.

I love black and white film for portraiture, it adds a really sultry look to the images and the light contrast really jumps out. In the studio the black and white film looks amazing because of the lights used, it adds a lot more to the image when a studio image is in black and white. Studio photography works better with a 400 ASA film roll. (I just love portraiture though and it looks great in B&W or colour!)

However, landscape photography is definitely aided by using colour film, which I have only started using in the last few weeks. The colours are enhanced yet softened at the same time and I love the ‘vintage’/warm tones that are added to a landscape when using a film camera rather than a digital one. Landscape photography in daylight requires a lower ASA film roll such as 125 or 200.

My Favourite

I’m definitely a portraiture girl. I love capturing people and working with people is what I do in my work. I also find it really fascinating to capture a person’s whole personality in one still image, it’s amazing to see a person in this way.

It’s also really fun to play around with a person’s face and the way they look in the developing room or during the shoot.

I recently photographed my sister locally to my home in Surrey. It was dusk and the sun was setting, so we went to watch it and photograph the light on her face. As I mentioned earlier, I love warm tones in photography, so ‘The Golden Hour’ is probably my favourite time to go out on a shoot. Luckily, my sister was willing!

Rosie at Sunset

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