The Case For Film Photography
Overwhelmed. That’s the first word that comes to mind when people ask me how I feel. But that’s not the answer I give them. I say “oh, I’m so busy” or “business is doing great.” I hide my sense of fear from the world and I don’t let anyone see how unbelievably overwhelmed I feel sometimes. The past two hours, before I sat to write this article, were spent answering emails and going over my schedule for the week. That’s two hours of my life that I spent in front of a screen today. When I think about it. This is the one life I have, and I’m spending most of it behind a desk editing, or in front of a screen working on social media. And no matter how much I do, there is never, ever, ever enough time to finish it all. At no point is my calendar free. At no point can I just pick up my kayak and go to the beach for the afternoon. Sometimes I just want to escape because I feel bombarded from all directions with emails. I loose my breath and I feel like I’m stuck underwater too long. Like when a wave has crashed over my head and I can’t swim to the surface. I need air. But I don’t know how swim up. I don’t know how to pull myself out of this tidal barrage of work related tasks. I desperately need something to grab onto firmly and pull myself out of this wave of never ending appointments and emails. I know this must feel very familiar to you. I’m here to tell you I have found something that helps. Something true, genuine and magical in a cynical fast paced world. Keep reading and I will hopefully enlighten your views on how to swim out of that crashing wave.
I’m here to tell you to stop trying to swim against that rip tide. I’m your conscience telling you to go with the flow of your own natural pace. I’m your sixth sense. I’m your gut feeling telling you to. Just. Stop. Now. I’m here to remind you why you got into photography in the first place. Why you loved it and why you decided to do this for the rest of your life. I’m here to tell you that you can photograph a family with less effort and more enjoyment then you ever thought possible. I’m here to open your mind on how you can live your life again.
Think back to when you were a new photographer. Think back to when you were at a point in your life when you sat around wishing and hoping for emails, appointments and lots of clients. Try to recall memories of wanting to photograph everyone and everything for any price at any time. Got those memories in your mind? Now dig even deeper for those memories of clicking away at weddings and family sessions thinking that the more photos you took the better the final result would be. Remember looking into the back of that camera for the instant gratification. Do you recall that feeling? Well, unfortunately it’s that feeling that has lead me (and possibly you) to were I am right now. Underwater. Holding my breath for yet another week where I hope and wish to have enough time to do everything I have to do. And leaving everything I want to do behind.
Now, you may ask yourself were I am going with this. You might even be thinking that you get it already. You are thinking that I am about to tell you that you work too hard and you need to slow down. You are thinking I’m going to tell you we are all glued to our screens too much.
It may surprise you, but, I am not here to suggest that you to slow down. I am here to suggest that you need to speed up. Speed up your life in the correct way. Living in the moment and enjoying life is more then just a cliché motto. It’s a daily activity that starts with how you approach your art, your mind, and your soul. It starts with the medium that you choose to express yourself and how this medium affects you in ways that don’t really understand until you take a step back and analyze. It’s not your fault though, how can you have the time to take a step back and realize what’s missing when you don’t have the time to get away from the emails, tasks and appointments which keep you underwater and breathless.
I am here to tell you to speed up your life and live it. Truly, deeply, madly and intensely live it.
Now, you may ask: How am I going to do this? Weirdly enough, by being the most cliché of all trendy words right now. Authentic. Ugh. I hate even writing that word. It’s the most overused word in the industry right now. Along with swooning, it’s one of those words that when I read on Instagram I immediately want to send that person back to 2013 because that’s when those words had any real meaning to the industry. They are now unfortunately diluted. However, to me, authentic is still very much a powerful word. Being authentic scares me to death. It means making a lot of choices that make me very worried about my future. It scares me because it invites me to slow down my professional life so that I can speed up my real life. So far the best way I have found to slow down and be my authentic self is to shoot film. Photographing a family or wedding on film truly is a magical thing.
The first time I photographed a beach session on film was scary and nerve racking and everything in my mind told me to shoot digital. But I ignored that fear. I pushed it way down and cranked up the tunes in my car, rolled the windows down and drove to Hilton Head Island with nothing but my Contax 645 with my 80mm and a few rolls of Portra 400. I knew that if I brought my digital camera that I would chicken out and use it, so I didn’t give myself that chance. The results were (in my opinion) some of my best work ever. The client was over the moon but I was over, over, over the moon. I was somewhere near Jupiter. I saw in my images that I had captured the essence of those human beings. I had seen them as they truly were and captured that for all time. Perhaps someday, one hundred years from now, someone in that family will pick up a print from my shoot and will say “this photo of grandma as a child at the beach is one of the most important family heirlooms I have.”
For me, my real personality and my real love for life are only translated when I shoot film. It’s not just because it looks better then digital when I am photographing a family beach session for example. It’s because I slow down my work. My mind. My intention. My soul. Slowing down one’s soul might be the healthiest thing one can do in life. And when I slow down. I connect. Not only with the smiling family in front of me, but also with the sand between my toes. And to the salty breeze slowly working it’s ways into my lungs. And to the sun blushing my cheeks. And to the sound of the waves as they kiss the shore. Basically, I feel more alive then ever when I am slowing down to shoot with film. Inversely, if shooting with film makes me more alive then shooting digital must be killing me. Ever so slowly, with each click of that shutter.
Now, this is not literal. My Mark III isn’t killing me. However, it’s killing my creativity and my connection with the outside world. I’m stuck constantly looking at that 3” LCD screen to find my creativity. But that’s not were it resides. My creativity is in my soul. And like any living thing, if I don’t feed my creative soul. It dies.
Now, connecting with your clients and to the earth and all this other hippie talk sounds good and all, but we all still need to pay bills, raise kids, eat and save for retirement so how is all his “authentic” mambo-jumbo going to affect your bottom line? It’s simple. Connecting to the world around you makes you a better photographer, and connecting with the people that you photograph can make you an astoundingly insightful photographer. Both of those translate to better photos, which hopefully leads to higher profitability and best of all, your clients receive better photos. And isn’t this what our profession is all about? Delivering the absolute best product we can? I like to think so.
Isn’t it funny how being a happier and more ‘well rounded’ human being by spending less time working can lead to better things professionally? Happiness shows in all aspects of out lives, especially in the work we create as family photographers. So remember to live with purpose, and to “drink life to the lees.”
Thanks for reading my The Case For Film Photography blog post! Check out my other articles for photographers like Why Photographers Need A PDF Pricing Guide, Contax 645 Tutorial #3 | Camera Settings, Film Choices, Metering, and Posing, Contax 645 Tutorial #2 | Camera Accessories, Film Loading and More, Contax 645 Tutorial #1 | Hybrid Wedding Photography Equipment, and many more in our Journal page.
Also go check some of my wedding photos to see some of my work at The Market At Grelen Wedding | Virginia Wedding Photos, Delta Plantation Wedding Photos, Belmond Maroma Cancun Wedding, Aldrich Mansion Wedding | Providence, RI to name a few. Don’t forget to check out my homepage for my newest wedding photography work.