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Category: Photography Ideas
5 Ways Using Film Made Me a Better Photographer
Photography Ideas
5 Ways Using Film Made Me a Better Photographer

When I decided to learn to shoot film, most people thought I was idiotic. “Film is not dead!” I would declare with a flair of hipster and an accent I claim to be British. My husband thought it was both ridiculous and wasteful seeing as I have thousands of dollars worth of digital equipment, but, as usual, I ignored him. I destroyed 7 rolls of film while trying to figure out how to load my hand-me-down minolta and 3 more rolls while trying to wind them up after shooting. I both confessed my love and hate for film, sometimes on the same photo. I am far from being the great shooter as some of the photographers I follow on social media, nor am I abandoning my digital BFF, but the following 5 things I learned from film have forever changed my shooting.

5 ways using film made me a better photographer by Ashley Manley via Click it Up a Notch

  • No.
    Patience Is A Virtue

    I’m going to say 2 words that might make some of you cry: manual focus. Yeah, I went there. It has taken me forever to try to kind of get the hang of manual focusing and I’ve gotten many scans back that look like some kind of crazy UFO sighting. Swear word, exhale, repeat. Other patience pushers for my high-strung soul? No digital preview and waiting weeks on scans. Such misery!! As frustrating as these things have been, it has made be slow down and appreciate the instant world of digital so very much more.


  • No.
    Be Deliberate

    If I load a roll of film correctly, I have 36 opportunities to capture something fabulous. Thirty-six. When I have a 1-hour family session, I take over 300 digital photos on average. 36? Like so many of us, I’m an over shooter…but 36?! Yes, I can load another roll of film, but it gets kind of expensive with a lead finger like myself. The solution? Get it right. Meter correctly, shoot deliberately, don’t be wasteful. How much easier is the culling process when you don’t don’t have a bazillion duplicates!?


  • No.
    Bend the Rules

    I learned photography from a very technically correct instructor. Tack-sharp photos, textbook composition, clean and vibrant editing, etc. He was fabulous but it made me hesitant to think outside of the photography box. Later, when I became interested in film, I looked at hundreds and hundreds of photos from history. They were grainy, softly focused, and deemed as beautiful. And the greens, reds, and skin tones?! Delightful! That’s what I wanted. After getting my first scans back, I challenged myself to be more film-like in my digital shooting. I now crank up the ISO when needed and embrace the noise it creates, I edit creatively with a splash of clean (currently loving the VSCO presets!), and I’m thrilled with a photo if it tells a lovely story but isn’t a marvel of technicalities.


  • No.
    Stuff Doesn’t Matter

    Stuff really doesn’t matter, people matter. More specifically to photography, the person holding the camera matters. I used to really think that camera gear is what made a photo great. Sick, I know. When I started in photography, I really thought I would be shunned if people knew I entry level gear (Yes, if you haven’t picked up on it, I can be a tad dramatic) But y’all, let’s be honest, stuff is great, but not great enough to act like a reality TV star. I shoot film with a Minolta X-370 and a 50mm 1.4 lens. I literally have no idea if this is considered a good camera or lens in the film world and I really don’t care. I love it and it does the job. I have no budget to spend on my 35mm gear so I’ve embraced what I have. While I have upgraded and make sure I have professional quality digital gear, I don’t get too wrapped up in the latest and greatest because I know there is so much more that goes into a great photo.


  • No.
    Never Stop Learning

    A few months ago I told my dad I was working on an assignment for a photography workshop I was taking. His response? “I thought by your age people were done learning new things.” Wow. Thanks dad. Maybe for some people at “my age” that’s true (for the record, it’s 30) but not for me. I have so many questions about the world I can’t even handle myself sometimes. I want to know more and do better at almost everything I try. Film was absolutely no different and turned into this wonderful and frustrating adventure. I took the time to ask the questions and really learn. I found wonderful people that would help and spent a good chunk of my time feeling like a moron. By acknowledging we don’t know everything, we open up so many doors to learn anything. (That’s probably the most insightful thing I’ve ever said!) Next on my list of things to learn? Photographing the night sky. :)


And just like that, I became a different and better photographer. While everyone won’t want to try film, I challenge you to try something different (different doesn’t have to equal expensive or fancy!) to help define who you are as a photographer. Remember, we all feel like idiots at first :)

{Note about the photos: All shot on a Minolta X370 with 50mm 1.4 lens; Black and White Photos shot on Kodak 400TX, developed and scanned by Indie Film Lab; Color photos Portra 400, developed and scanned by FIND lab.}