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The following tutorial on how shooting film can help you improve your digital photography was submitted by James Kerr of Sweet As Photography. An avid digital shooter he has recently been experimenting with film photography to help improve his results.
Taking time out of your digital photography to shoot a couple of rolls of film can be a liberating and educational experience. Below are a few ways that digging out that old film camera from the attic can help you to improve the quality of the digital photographs you take as well as some of the benefits shooting film can bring to your photography.
Every few months digital memory cards get both bigger in capacity and cheaper in price. When shooting digitally we rarely have to worry about running out of memory. As a result it is easy to slip into the habit of taking (and keeping) many poor or below standard shots. In effect we can become lazy and fall into the mind set that if you take enough shots you’ll eventually get a good one.
When shooting with a film camera however you are restricted by the amount of frames in your film (typically 24 or 36 exposures). In addition you’ll want to avoid taking more than one shot of a particular composition due to the processing costs associated with film photography. As a result you will immediately start thinking much more before pressing the shutter release button.
Of course you may decide to shoot a few rolls with an old SLR camera however it is best to use an auto exposure 35mm compact camera. Such cameras usually only require the user to select maybe one of three focus zones (according to how far your subject is from the camera) and maybe the ISO.
Using a simple automatic film camera removes the need for you to make decisions before every shot about things such as white balance, aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation etc. By being freed from such technical decisions you can focus all of your attention on two things: selecting a truly interesting subject and ensuring the composition is the most compelling.
By taking just one frame of each scene you photograph, when you get the prints back you will of course end up with some poor shots among the good ones. When sorting through vast quantities of digital images it is easy to forget to think about what went wrong with each of the rejected images as you continue to hunt for a better one of the same subject. Only having one frame for each composition forces you to think longer and harder about why the shot didn’t work or what you could have done better to improve the photograph.
Shooting digitally you can quickly start amassing thousands of poor quality or reject photographs, that will never be hung up on your wall and will probably never escape from the depths of your computers hard drive. As a result of shooting film you’ll be taking fewer shots (hopefully of a much higher standard) meaning you should have less need for huge amounts of hard disk space.
As discussed above shooting with film should help you increase your ‘keep rate’, ensuring more of your images are perfect straight out of the camera. Perhaps the key benefit of this is that you will have to spend less time improving your digital photographs during post production.
When shooting film it is easy to forget all of the photographs you took on a film. Unlike digital cameras you can not immediately review your shots on the back of the camera. There is nothing quite like the excitement of picking up your film from the developing lab and having that first look through the prints. It is also nice to have physical prints of your photographs, something we as digital photographers rarely do.