Recently, I started playing with film again. I think my curiosity came from listening to this interview with Wim Wenders. Wim Wenders is not only an outstanding movie director, but also a respectable photographer. Shortly after that, I bought my first spool of film in years and did some test shots with my old Canon T90. I wasn’t sure on how well this camera still would function and the results encouraged me to do some more experimental shots.
I even included the camera in a portrait session as additional camera with surprising results. You will be able to see those images, once my client has received her pictures. Here are some of my lessons lessons learnt.
There is no LCD screen
This sounds obvious, but I caught myself more than once wanting to check the outcome of the picture. I am learning to make sure that before I press the shutter to be happy with composition and exposure. Previsualisation is the key. I am getting there, again.
When the first autofocus cameras were sold, I really thought that this would be ridiculous. A good photographer would be able to focus faster than autofocus would. How wrong I was! Autofocus came a long way and is a sophisticated technology built into most modern cameras. Over the years, I lost my speed in manual focusing. Is this a disadvantage? On the first it is, but there is more to it.
My old Canon lenses have markers of the available aperture settings engraved. Those markers help you to define (!) the depth of field of your image with any given aperture. It is a wonderful and straight forward to use tool. I miss this tool on my autofocus lenses for my DSLR.
This has been the most interesting experience for me. After shooting a spool of film, you need to get it processed in a lab. Actually, I found it exciting to wait to see the results. There is something unknown to it, when you can’t control what you shot immediately.
Luckily, labs not only develop your film, but also offer scanning of the film. You still get your digital experience out of it.
There are two lessons I learnt.
Go to a professional lab for the developing
For my first spool, I used the lab in the area, where I live. Big mistake. The lab mishandled the film, added scratches and I found chemical residue on the film. The next spools, I got developed and processed at my standard professional lab. That worked well. Chemicals age and if a lab does not have a high enough turnover, the chemicals might not be the freshest when they touch your film, resulting and not perfect processing.
High Resolution Scan does not equal always High Resolution Scan
For the first spool, I used the same lab to scan the images with a scan full of dust spots. The lab scanned the film again for free and got it right the second time around. My next spools, I got processed and scanned at the above mentioned professional lab with better results on the dust front (though not perfect). When I looked at the most recent scan, I thought to myself that this is not the best possible scan as it seemed to lack resolution and it did. Time to test another lab for scanning and what a difference it made. There was almost no dust, and resolution was so much better. The image file had a lower compression as well. Colour and resolution are great, though I have the feeling that there is more potential.
Look at these two images. Both of them are scans from the same negative!
This first scan lacks vibrancy and looks dull. It feels like an old DSLR using a too high ISO setting. Looking at that scan, I wouldn’t want to touch any film again.
Then there is scan 2 with vibrant colors and good contrast. Just beautiful. The difference in quality is even more pronounced in the portraits. This was not the last spool of film, I used. Shooting film helps me to get better results in camera, even when I shoot digital.