Saturday, January 29, 2011

Think Analog Shoot Digital

I'm sometimes asked about my thought process when I approach various shooting environments and the models who grace them. Apart from the usual considerations given to light, environment, the models themselves, plus a few more that are unique to digital, e.g., the ease in which one can blow out highlights shooting digital, my thought process, photographically speaking, hasn't changed much since the days I was shooting film. In other words, I'm still mostly thinking analog while shooting digital.

I realize many of you began your love affairs with photography after digital arrived. Nothing wrong with that! As such, of course, you probably aren't thinking analog simply because you've spent little to no time shooting analog. Many of you are digital-only in terms of your photography experience. Again, let me stress there's not a thing wrong with that. Photography is photography, analog or digital.

But shooting film (i.e., analog) is a bit different than shooting digital. First off, you don't get to see the results of your shots near instantaneously. (Unless you're snapping Polaroids.) Second, there's less room for error. Yeah, some film stocks are more forgiving than others, exposure-wise. But you're not shooting RAW when you're shooting film. What you snap is what you get. (Although there is a degree of latitude when shooting film.) Consequently, some of your mistakes aren't going to be so easily fixed in post. (Post either being a darkroom environment or, perhaps, a combination of darkroom/lab and digital adjustments made after scanning your images and working on them with your computer and appropriate software.)

One of the big pluses shooting film is it forces you to work harder at learning to get your images right in the camera. With that in mind, I have a suggestion for some of you who are truly interested in increasing your skills with the front-end of photography, that is, your actual photography skills: Get yourself a film camera and shoot some analog.

There are absolutely incredible deals on film cameras on eBay and Craigslist. If you're a digital-only photographer, I suggest you purchase a decent film camera, probably a good 35mm SLR from the 80s or early 90s, and try your hand at shooting film. I think doing so will be a great learning lesson for you. You'll be forced to really think your way through the technical stuff because you won't get any visual feedback on your work until whatever you shot comes back from the lab. And BTW, if you decide to follow my suggestion, I highly recommend you shoot in manual mode with that film camera. Doing so will further increase your skills. It will help to have a light meter but you can also use the light meter built into the camera. (You can use it in a manual sort of way.) Yeah, doing this is going to cost a few extra bucks to process your film but, in my opinion, what you will learn will translate beautifully to your digital work. It might even make a better digital photographer out of you!

The pretty girl at the top is Ash. I shot Ash last week in front of a white seamless at a location house. I used my Canon 5D with a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 shooting ISO 100, f/11 at 125th. The 28-75 was zoomed all the way in. I used three monolights plus a LumoPro Lite Panel, (opposite my main with silver-side out) to light her. My main light was modified with a 3' brolly box and my two kickers, either side from behind, were sporting small, shoot-thru umbrellas. Not much re-touching and/or processing other than the conversion. MUA was Kelly LaBanco.


Sheldon Photography said...

One will learn the most with analog when shooting manual in my opinion. Shooting in automatic takes too much of the thinking out of it.

jimmyd said...

@Sheldon Photography: damn! I meant to say that and forgot. I'm gonna revise. Thanks!

PBJ studios said...

Dang Jimmy...I still use my rich 35 mm film camera. I wholeheartedly agree with you. BTW love your e-books.

Jason said...

Any suggestions for a place to get film processed? Preferably a place that won't have a problem if I happen to catch a model less than fully dressed.

jimmyd said...

@Jason- Well, there's plenty of labs here in the Los Angeles area. Don't know about anywhere else or about on the web where it can be done by mail. I always used "The Darkroom" on Reseda Blvd, in Reseda, CA. They're still there as far as I know. I haven't shot any film in a few years altho it's on my mind to do so.