Why I’m Shooting Film Again

For the past 8 years as a photographer, I’ve always shot digital.  First I was using a Pentax K10D, and then I eventually switched to a Nikon system.  And I’ve loved every minute of it!  Digital photography makes a lot of sense – you get immediate results and feedback, you can reuse your materials so that there’s no continued cost of developing the images, and there’s room for incredible creativity in post production.  I love shooting digital and don’t plan to stop.

In recent years, film photography has made a bit of a comeback.  I think this is partially due to some photographers getting bored with digital and looking for new challenges, but the main reason I hear again and again is that there’s just nothing quite like film.  The image quality and color produced are the result of chemical development processes that are incredibly difficult to replicate using digital methods.  There are entire post-production companies dedicated to replicating the look of film using digital images!  That’s how much photographers long for that authentic film look.   This trend towards loving the look of film has grown quite a bit in the photography world, and it got me curious.  I have been following a few photographers on Instagram who either shot everything using film, or were hybrid shooters (some film, some digital) and I’ve been so impressed by their images.  They are just stunning!

Out of nowhere, I decided to give film a try.  It was slightly spur of the moment, but it had been in the back of my mind for a while.  In college, I had taken a film black and white photography course, shooting on a 35 mm Pentax.  My husband has an old Pentax K1000 that I thought I might mess around with, but what I really wanted to jump into was medium format film shooting.  The difference between medium format and 35mm is the size (and therefore, quality) of the image – medium format is bigger.  I knew if I wanted to shoot film for weddings or client sessions, I would want higher quality, so I started researching my medium format options.

My first bit of research led me to asking a few photographer friends about their film gear of choice, and then ultimately to a few film photographer Facebook groups.  I asked some questions and did a little digging around, and ultimately settled on shooting with the Pentax 645n and 75mm AF lens.  I had originally been planning to try out the Contax system since it is so highly recommended by wedding photographers, but it’s no longer in production, and due to increasing demand, purchasing the gear on eBay put it out of my budget!  Plus, I have a soft spot for Pentax since it’s what I started my photography journey using, so my decision was made.  I found a used set of gear on eBay and from another photographer and found myself eagerly awaiting their arrival along with my first rolls of film.  I was so so excited, but also nervous!

Now that I’m a month into my film adventure, I can say without a doubt that I love it!  I haven’t shot very many rolls yet, because I still want to be confident I can deliver consistent results to my clients, and therefore I’m mostly shooting digital with a few frames of film thrown in for fun here and there.  But when I do shoot film, it’s sort of like the build up to Christmas morning.  You know it’s going to be good, but you’re not quite sure exactly what to expect!  There’s always a bit of hopefulness after I click the shutter 🙂

When I got my first scans back from the lab (I use the Find Lab) from my first 3 rolls, I was ecstatic!  Frankly, some of the images absolutely sucked.  The exposure was all wrong or I had botched the focus completely (which turned out to be an issue for about half a roll of film…bummer!)   But some of the images were fabulous!  And that just made me want to shoot more.  And more…and more.  It’s totally addictive!

Here’s just a few film and digital images from my last wedding of 2015, and one of my recent senior shoots just so you can see – I love it!  For all of these comparisons, the digital is on the left, and the film is on the right.

All of these film shots from Rylee’s session have not had any skin retouching, whereas the digital ones have had a bit of retouching done already.  The biggest difference I see is just the color – I love the color in the film images!

All film images were shot using my Pentax 645n and 75mm AF lens, with Fuji Pro 400H film developed by the Find Lab.  All the digital images were shot using my Nikon gear (either D750 or D800, and most likely my 85mm f1.4 or 70-200mm f2.8).

One thing I didn’t really know when I started shooting film is that even though many scans you receive back are perfectly fine as is, most film scans still need a bit of editing using Lightroom.  I had no idea!  My first set of scans were a tad flat (partially because I wasn’t shooting overexposed quite enough) so they needed a fair amount of work.  As I continue to learn and tweak how I shoot with film, I think my editing time will be cut down quite a bit!

I’m hoping to continue incorporating film into my weddings and portrait shoots.  I don’t plan to abandon digital completely, but I’d love to do a few all-film shoots for sure 🙂  I can’t wait to do more!

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