Shake Up Your Photography, Shoot Film Now and Then

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I enjoy photographing a wide range of subjects. One afternoon I will be photographing a home for a realtor, and the next morning before sunrise I might find myself down at Reelfoot lake to shoot the sunrise, and later that afternoon I might be setting up for some portraits. But even with that kind of diverse subject matter I still find myself in the dreaded creative rut. The leading suggestion to spark creativity in your photography is to try something new. Well that’s a great idea, except that is about as specific as Chinese buffet fortune cookie.


So what I suggest is trying to shoot a roll of film… or five. I know most photographers are dedicated digital shooters these days. You almost 

Film photography increases thoughtful composition and can shake loose creativity.

have to be if your business is photography. But film will do a few things for you as far as developing your photography. Number one, you will be more deliberate in what you shoot. There will be a nagging feeling in the back of your head telling you that there are only 36 exposures on that roll of film. Make them count. This tiny itch in your brain will lead to the second thing that will happen.


You will have fewer wasted images. You will think about the composition in your photo. Instead of shooting twenty images of the same subject like a photographer would do in the digital world, you might fire off two, three if the subject really strikes your fancy. But you will spend more time using you eyes to check that the horizon is level, the shadow is where you want it, your angle is perfect, etc. Waste not, want not.


Recently, to get out of a digital funk, I learned to shoot a Speed Graphic mini (think 1940’s era press photographer camera)which shoots an obscure sheet film. The film is 2.25×3.25 and extremely limited in production. This camera jewel is very time consuming to shoot. The image is composed on a ground glass back. Think 19th century photographer focusing under a blanket. With this camera I have six shots. That’s it. I have spent all day out and about with this camera trying to find the perfect six shots. I don’t get six awesome shots every time, obviously. But when I nail one, I get that warm fuzzy feeling. I’m sure you know the one. I wouldn’t recommend this camera for film beginners. And knowing I did it with film makes it even more rewarding.

Multiple exposure shot with 2×3 sheet film. ISO 400 pushed to 800.

If you have no experience with film, get a 35mm camera. They can be point and shoot cameras or SLR rigs.These cameras can be found in a junk stores, antique shops and on ebay for less than $20. If you don’t want to spend the cash, I don’t blame you. It’s very likely that you know someone with a film camera that they want to part with. People don’t want to throw out a camera so they give them away. I acquired several Mostly through well meaning “donations”. Kind of like an animal shelter. People can’t keep these cameras for different reasons and want to see them go to good homes. Put a call out on your Facebook page. Ask if anyone wants to get rid of a film camera. You’ll find one, probably in less than 24 hours and if your not picky, it will be just what you need for a creative experiment.


A roll of film and some unique props should boost your creativity.

Color film can still be purchased at Walmart. Color and black and white film can be purchased online, from places like Amazon, Adorama, B&H and The Film Photography Project. I process my own film at home, but there are some good labs out there that can develop and scan your negatives for you. The Darkroom is a great lab, I recommend them if you need your film processed for you. Many digital shooters have worked with Mpix for photography products but they also offer film processing services.  If you aren’t too worried about precision processing, Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS will still send your film out and do a reasonably good job.


It really doesn’t matter what you shoot, walk around on Main Street and photograph people hurrying to and fro.. Go to a park and try shooting landscapes or wildflowers. Call a friend and do a photoshoot. Set up some still lifes. But whatever you do, leave your digital camera behind. You don’t want a crutch for this excursion. And your digital camera will still be there waiting for you to come back refreshed and ready.

Categories: Film Inspiration

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