Film Photography for Digital Shooters #1

(Re-)Introducing: Film Photography

We live in a world of instant gratification. From blogs to social networks to photo-sharing websites, we are continually inventing ways to share our humor, frustrations and artistic endeavors at the click of a button. In the process of embracing our relatively newfound roles as documentarians of our own lives, however, it seems like we’ve forgotten about another kind of click: the crisp and satisfying snap of the shutter being fired on a film camera.

To us here at Project Basho, however, film photography is far from a being a thing of the past. Yes, every phone on the market is equipped with its own camera (some better than others,) but to deny yourself the experience of shooting with film is to refuse your own entry into a world of enormously exciting possibilities. From superstores with a virtual and physical presence like B&H in New York to your neighborhood Walgreens or your local camera shop, the tools you’ll need to start shooting are more accessible than you may think. Of course, once you realize the options that you have, the real question emerges: “Where do I start?”

Plastic and Other Automatic Cameras: Point, Shoot, & Go!

“Point-and-shoots” like toy cameras and thrift store finds with plastic lenses are inexpensive, accessible and more similar to what many have come to think of as the modern photographic experience. The name says it all: you simply look through the viewfinder, point and shoot.

The cameras are typically fixed focus, meaning you don’t have to make any adjustments to focus the image you’re trying to capture, so essentially, what you see through the viewfinder is the image you end up with, with some notable exceptions.

Companies like Austrian-based Lomography Society produce cameras with specialized lenses and filters to create distorted images (fisheye, panorama, color saturations, etc). These variations can produce striking images and prints of non-traditional shapes and sizes (more on this later).

In short, these cameras are a quick, cheap, and easy way to experiment with film photography for those looking to have some fun.

For Image Makers: Manually-Controlled Cameras are Best

Manual/adjustable focus cameras require a few more steps in the shooting process. In these models you have control over the focus, and depending on what lens you have, you can blur some aspects of the image while keeping others sharp. Some cameras use a prism system where the image you are framing is reflected and refracted through the lens, allowing you to see your image move from blurry to sharp as you make your adjustments. Others have a small area in an otherwise focused frame that displays a double image when the shot is out of focus, merging the images as the shot moves towards clarity.

These cameras also give you control over the exposure. By manually adjusting the aperture (size) of the lens and the shutter speed, you can regulate how much light enters the camera to control the light balance and tonality of your final image.

So, if you want to have control over the exposure and depth-of-field of your images, you’ll definitely want to look for a manually controlled camera.

What About Film?

Perhaps the most important factor to consider when picking your camera is the size of the film that it uses. Different films have different advantages, and it’s important to find the film type that’s right for you. Tune in to our next blog post for a detailed overview of the most commonly used film types and the pros and cons of working with each of them.

Lomography Constructor on Vimeo.

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