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10 Tips for Shooting with Film

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KurtBoomerPhotographyKurtBoomerPhoto6 KurtBoomerPhoto2 KurtBoomerPhoto7 KurtBoomerPhoto9 KurtBoomerPhoto8Today I’m excited to have Kurt Boomer sharing his tips on shooting with film for those of you interested in it! Kurt and I met many years ago  when we worked on a Southern Weddings shoot and I’ve been a fan of his work ever since. He’s an expert at shooting with film to capture beautiful moments from weddings to family portraits and travel. It’s an honor having him sharing tips and advantages with us today! Take it away Kurt…

Film is more than just a look. Its a process and unique way of capturing a moment in time. Today, as digital continues to be the main source of image capture, the art of photography seems to be lost. The fast, cheap and easy methods that brought the digital medium into the forefront have also hurt photography as a whole. Leading to a grossly saturated photographer market, prices for work dropping to near nothing and a mass of imagery flooding the web. In a world where everyone and their mother has bought a professional dslr and calls themselves a photographer, film is emerging as a way to weed out the mass of would-be pros and letting people with a passion for the art stand out. Film, off of life-support now, continues to regain ground and the best photographers in the world are finding themselves once again loading a superior medium into the backs of their cameras.

Here are some tips and advantages when shooting with film that I have found helpful:

1. Slow that roll! Shooting film is the complete opposite of the spray-and-pray method employed by many digital photographers. Because there is a cost involved, a photographer with a film camera in hand must think about every single shot before that shutter is released. This leads to more thoughtful images where lighting, composition and subject are observed much more carefully.

2. Highlights count! One of the major hurdles that digital has yet to conquer is capturing highlight detail. I can’t tell you how many digital shots of a bride in a wedding dress I have seen where all the highlight detail is completely blown out. Film seems to have limitless highlight range which is perfect for situations like weddings. Unlike digital, film has an infinite range between highlight and shadow. Something very important when it comes to a beautiful final image.

3. Beautiful skin-tones. Film is the master when it comes to natural looking skin-tones. Digital seems to never truly capture the way one looks. Often producing greyish tones in the face. It can be very tough to correct in post-processing too.

4. What is too sharp? While we are on the subject of skin, film too holds the advantage when it comes to giving people a more pleasant appearance. The softness of film tends to make complections buttery smooth. Something most of us can always use! Digitals ultra-sharp qualities tend to bring out imperfections like blemishes and fine-lines.

5. Grain vs Noise. The softness of film mentioned above is due to the subtle grain structure of the film. This is in stark contrast to what in digital is considered noise. Modern digital cameras have dealt with the noise issue very well. As a result, the images have become so sharp they tend to take on a hyper-real look.

6. No post! This one is for you photographers. Yep, no post-production. You heard that right. Gone are the days of soul-sucking hours, weeks or months staring at a monitor reworking every single image for a given wedding. Once you dial in your desired look with your film lab, you receive consistently beautiful images that are ready to be sent to your client!

7. Colors, colors. The beautiful colors of film can’t be denied. Whether is the gorgeous reds and greens of Fuji or the blues and yellows of Kodak. The dull saturation of digital just can’t compete. No editing tricks or Lightroom presets will get you the same looks.

8. So many options. While the digital world continues to wonder what’s next and anxiously awaiting the new camera that will make them an awesome photographer, film gear (for the most part) is dirt cheap and readily available. True, there are a few popular outfits (Contax 645) that are in such high demand that the prices have gone through the roof. However, there are almost endless amounts of cameras dating back decades that out-perform (image wise) even the latest and greatest the digital world has to offer. Add to that all of the amazing formats that film comes in ( large-format, 35mm, medium format, square etc etc) the fun never really stops.

9. The soul of tangible. It can be hard to exactly put into words the look of film. The best I can describe it is soul. There is just something about capturing an image on analog that makes it special. That soul transfers to high-quality prints as well. Film looks amazing when put to fine-art papers. Something your client will notice and appreciate.

10. Joining a movement. The most important aspect of film is the re-legitmization of the art of photography. After a decade of damage by the hoards of people calling themselves photographers simply by buying a camera, film has become a separation point for those that study and take seriously the art. Film will teach you how to see in a different way. To take only those shots that matter. Creating something meaningful.

There is a plethora of medium-format film cameras for as little as $75 dollars on sites like Ebay that create amazing images.

Start with some Fuji 400h film in 120 format. Overexpose every scene by 2 stops. Take it to Richard Photo Lab and have a chat with them about the look you want to achieve. Most of all, have fun!

All photos by Kurt Boomer 

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