for the love of film: roll one

Some of you may have seen on Facebook or Instagram that I just got a film camera. You may have wondered why – I know I certainly did when I first realized how many photographers still shoot film. Why shoot film when digital is so much better? Well, because of this. And this.  And….this. Basically, despite all the advances in digital photography gear, digital simply cannot do what film does with color. I’ve been spending hours trying to refine my “processing style” – trying to get skin tones just so, trying to get the creamy pastel colors I see in my head. I can come close, but I can’t quite get it. So after pouring over the work of film photographers like Elizabeth Messina and Jose Villa and Marta Locklear for months, I decided that rather than spend time defining my vision and style on digital and never quite getting it where I want it to be, why not just learn film NOW, at the beginning of defining my vision.

So I bit the bullet and ordered the Contax 645 – the camera I noticed all of my favorite film photographers were using to get the look I’ve fallen in love with. I’ve shot 4 rolls of film and am still waiting to get three of them back, but I picked up one this afternoon from the local Penn Camera. The beauty of film processing depends a lot on the quality of the lab, and Penn is far from being a great lab, but the $5 fee to just check exposures and focus can’t be beat. Here are a few of my favorite shots from my first roll. These photos are SOOC – straight-out-of-camera, no extra processing. Film used is Kodak Portra 400. I got a bunch of Fuji 400H rolls because from what I’ve observed, that seems to be the film stock that will get me the colors I want. But I got ONE Portra roll just to try it out. These colors are a little cool for my taste, and the manual focus is going to take some time to really nail, but I was pretty pleased with my exposures for my first roll.

And the last reason I think I’m going to love shooting film….it makes me slow down and actually compose. There’s too much temptation with digital to just “spray and pray” – take tons of shots and hope some of them are good. When each frame costs you money, you’re going to be a lot more thoughtful about what you’re shooting. Just a few rolls in, I’ve already noticed that I’m really thinking. Really seeing. 

Give me six months or so, and I think this is absolutely going to transform my photography.