Film doesn't have to be scary
Shooting with film intimidates many photographers, but Asher Gardner is here today to walk you through getting started. Just like you took the time to learn digital photography, there are steps you can take to learn more about film as well.
Asher recommends lots and lots of practice before you use film with your clients. But once you learn the ins and outs, nailing that perfect film photo is very rewarding!
How Asher got started with photography
Asher always had a disposable camera in her hand as a child. She joined the yearbook team in high school which allowed her to play around with digital cameras and learn to use a film camera and darkroom. In college she took some photography classes along with her psychology courses. One of her professors included film camera projects in the coursework and she learned more about the basics of film. Her camera of choice was still digital and so even as she worked after graduation, she shot digital images on the side. Asher spent one year working around the world on The World Race, and as she traveled, her camera was her constant companion. Two of the people on her trip ended up getting married and asked her to shoot their wedding. That first wedding was the start of her wedding photography business.
A hybrid photographer
Film and digital are both important to Asher and she considers herself a hybrid photographer. Your clients may not know the term “hybrid photographer”, so Asher recommends using the simpler terms of ‘film’ and ‘digital’ or ‘old school film’ because some clients may think you’re talking about movie film. It is important to remember that your clients don’t know all the insider lingo.
What is film?
Film is a tangible medium with physical pieces you can hold. It has a distinct look as well. The standard film camera size has a bigger image size than digital images. This gives you more boca and depth of field and has a higher compression. Film cameras can also hold the highlights in the images as well and won’t be quite as blown out. There is a technical learning that goes into working with film cameras.Asher recognizes that most clients don’t know why they love film images or even that they are looking at film. What these clients love is the feel these images invoke.
Start with a 35mm camera because they are typically more affordable and you get 6 images per click (36 total). Asher has purchased two of hers on eBay and she highly recommends doing this. When it comes to purchasing film, you can do it online or through a lab. When learning to work with film, you do have to be more aware of the type of film you’re using. The lighting styles are chosen by the film you purchase so pick film types that fit with your current shooting style. You can read so much online about the different tones and saturations each film has so do your research beforehand and then just play with different styles!
The photos taken with the different lenses also range in different sizes. Again with the 35mm you get the 36 frames that are a little more grainy. But with a medium format you only get a total of 15 frames, which means you've got to be more aware of the shots you're taking, especially on a wedding day. You can also purchase different lenses for your film cameras.
Getting the right shot
It can be overwhelming to wait to see your photos when working with film, but Asher loves the feeling she gets when the photo turns out just right. Practice as much as you can with film before you ever use it with clients. In order to learn more about film, Asher attended an in-person workshop and worked with her lab to understand more about her photos. Your lab can be a huge asset for you and your photos.
Benefits of shooting with film
The more you use film, the more your skills are refined and the less editing you have to deal with in the long run. It allows you to style and see lighting in a whole new way and it makes your digital worker stronger as well. You become more intentional with your clients and time behind the camera because you don't have to stop and look at every single photo on the back of the camera. If you're in a creative rut, Asher recommends picking up a film camera and pushing yourself to a new level.
Working with a lab
Because it can be Asher loves being a hybrid photographer because there is a sense of security in case a roll of film doesn't turn out right. She ships her film off to the FIND lab in Utah (use tracking if you do this!) and it takes about 7-10 days for them to process the film. Labs typically have different levels of how they can work with you and your photos. Your lab should be able to give you feedback on your photos and tips on editing as well. Be aware that there are ups and downs while learning to use film, but a really good lab can help you take your photos to the next level.
The labs will take your film to get the negative film and then send you the digital scans back. They even have different ways they can scan these to you for different editing styles. Depending on the package you choose, you can either do more editing yourself, or they can do it for you. Again, it is a process to find the right style and editor for your photos.
Other film details
Asher shoots about 10 rolls of film per wedding. She uses the film more for the getting ready shots, but wants to get better at the reception shots this year. Some photographers shoot 40-50 rolls per wedding, however, Asher uses film as bonus shots and not her main source of photos for her clients. Because some wedding guests requests candid photos, it is good to carry a digital camera with you so you don't run out of film. There are photographers who use film for family shots at weddings, but Asher keeps her digital on hand for these types of photos.
All of this may seem overwhelming, but take it one step at a time and it will be very rewarding!
Asher Gardner is a wedding photographer based in New York City. For the past five years, Asher has been privileged to share in celebrations of couples around the world. Utilizing both digital and film, she creates images that are renown for their natural, romantic spirit and timeless essence.