I still try to learn, as much as I can, as often as I can, especially in the world of photography. No matter how much more experience I manage to gain or how many people I get lucky enough to work with, I think I will always still feel like a beginner who is just learning the craft. I was fortunate enough to begin my adventures into photography with a great darkroom class. My experience behind the camera quite literally started with black and white film and using enlargers to bring my images to life.
Now that I am more experienced, with a slightly bigger budget for equipment, it is all too easy to jump straight to my digital formats and go nuts with shutter. Digital is easier, it's quicker, and there is a much larger room for error. The fact that you can literally look at the image you just took is one thing that completely changes the game. You don't have to double check your settings as much, you don't have to make the same intense calculations, and you don't have to be so selective with what and how you meter your subjects. It's simply the nature of the medium. Digital photography has changed the way that most people navigate photography. That's hardly a bad thing. Quite honestly, it's amazing to see how the advances in digital capabilities have expanded people's capacity for creativity.
The image above is one such shot where I forgot to double-check my settings before clicking that shutter. I don't really have a good excuse. My camera was mounted on a tripod, I had a cable release connected, and I had a light meter with me. I had adjusted my shutter speed to create a different effect with my image, but I had completely forgot to adjust my aperture and then to check my metering. With a roll of 36 exposures, the idea is to make every shot count, you are paying for every single shot. Every mistake literally costs money, and I ended up paying for this one. That my friends, is the whole point, it's a good reminder to me that I need to take each frame seriously and that my settings really do matter.
But, of course, there are always the shots that really come through on each roll of film. Those are the shots that I am truly proud of. I worked hard, for every single shot and the hard work payed off. For me, it is always a lesson in discipline. I don't have the time or money to shoot everything that I see. I have to pick and choose my subjects and I have to take the time to make sure that my composition is really something that I want to capture.
I am fairly surprised at how often people will come up to me and ask for advice on getting started with a career in photography. Again, I still feel like I'm barely scratching the surface of my own career as a photographer. To anyone who asks for such advice, I always tell them the exact same thing: I advise everyone to go grab a film camera and several rolls of film, do some reading about their camera and about shooting film, and then just go shoot film. I still shoot film as much as I can. I have found that taking the time to go and shoot film quite literally helps me be a better photographer whenever I get behind the digital camera again.
Shooting film forces you to think about your shots, to calculate your shots, and to pay the price when you fail to take in all considerations for the shots. That is precisely the reason that I encourage people, specifically those just starting their journey as a photographer, to give film a chance. It will help you gain a better understanding behind the mechanics of photography. It will also give you a deeper appreciation for the things that your digital camera is capable of.
Besides, all of that aside, film is just fun to work with! If feels real when you load it into the camera, when you wind that crank and finally press that shutter and feel the entire camera body vibrate when it captures your image. I highly recommend trying several types of film. Try shooting in black and white as well as in color. Pay attention to how light is transferred into the analog formats and see how the image transforms from what you saw in person to what your film captured.
You can check out eBay, Craigslist, and other online thrift websites as well as your local thrift stores to find good working film cameras. Personally, I like to buy all of my film from B&H Photo, they carry all the film stocks that I like to use and their shipping is quite fast. If you are brand new to working in film, I would recommend starting out using some faster speed films such as an ISO 200 or 400. Shooting at lower ISOs can be a little trickier until you get a good feel for how it is to shoot film.
Film can be daunting, but it can also be a lot of fun and incredibly rewarding. I like to take my film cameras with me wherever I take my digital cameras. Even if the session itself absolutely necessitates digital images, I like to sneak a few film ones in there just for fun and for the practice. Snagging a couple frames on film will not likely bother any of your clients; in fact, it might just impress them. I could talk about shooting film for days on end, but those are a few of my favorite reasons for keeping that format alive. I would also encourage any and all of you past and current film shooters to comment below with any other advice you have for those starting their adventure in film.