Shooting Film

Irina Ilichenko on Fujifilm Pro 400H. February 2019

Irina Ilichenko on Fujifilm Pro 400H. February 2019

“The best photographs have to be visualized before the shutter is pressed.”

Ansel Adams

My introduction to analog photography, and photography in general, began in the International Center of Photography in New York City in 2011. I was taking Photography I in Black-and-White: Camera and Darkroom for Beginners class. Luckily, I knew someone who owned a 35mm film camera that I eventually borrowed to use in my class. Till to date, it’s been my favorite camera to shoot with.

It wasn’t love at fist sight, though.

In class, I learnt my camera settings, how to load it, process B&W film, make my first contact sheet print in darkroom, and dry mount a print. I enjoyed every single step of the process except for the very fist one which was loading a film cassette onto a reel in complete darkness. God knows how many rolls of film I ruined because I was unable to wind them on the reel. It caused frustration and discouraged me to shoot film at all. Nevertheless, I kept pushing, and after completing the beginner level coarse, I signed up for the next one. My love-and-hate relationship with the medium continued.

Sabrina on Fujifilm Pro 400H. April 2018

Sabrina on Fujifilm Pro 400H. April 2018

Years later, I can easily spend hours sharing my excitement shooting film. There’s something about the aesthetic analog photography creates that its digital sister won’t be able to replicate. It’s sexier. Every time I look at a picture shot on film, it feels like there was no camera between a photographer and his subject. It’s timeless. It serves as a bridge to my past that I can be so nostalgic about at times.

I definitely get a sense of excitement every time I shoot film. The fact that there’s no LCD screen on the back of the camera that could reveal what has just been captured, keeps me wonder and makes me more patient. I’m totally fine with being unable to upload it instantly onto social media. That feeling of getting your developed film back and seeing you nailed it is absolutely worth the wait.

Jenna Dimartini on Fujifilm Pro 400H. December 2017

Jenna Dimartini on Fujifilm Pro 400H. December 2017

Another reason why I prefer film over digital is that it’s totally manual. Thus, it makes you think and forces you to slow down. The number of frames on a roll is limited. Needless to say, each shot costs money. “Is this photo worth taking?”. “Do I need to adjust my camera settings to get the right exposure?”. These are the questions we don’t have when we shoot with a digital camera. And no wonder. Our smartphones make all the judgments for us making us more dependent on them. We become sort of zombie photographers snapping hundreds of pictures at a time without thinking if we even need so many.

I can let myself leave my film camera at home when I have a paid shoot but it’s an absolute must-have when I travel and have a personal project. Most often, I shoot film and digital simultaneously. I would use my Canon instead of a light meter to set the exposure right in my film camera. Till to date, it’s been the best investment I ever made. I’m in absolute love relationship with it right now. No more frustration and ruined rolls of film. Having all my film processed and scanned professionally has been the only solution for me. Yes, it’s not inexpensive but totally worth the price I pay for being able to have all the 36 frames revealed and archived.

Never say never. I remember laughing at my fellow students in school who’d prefer film over digital. I just couldn’t understand why one would give up on digital if digital pictures look so perfect and sharp! I’m not sure when exactly my transition happened but all I know now is that for me, perfection is boring, and between sharpness and a better photograph, sharpness loses every time.

Working with a Dream Team, or One Man - No Man

We all start with something. And when we do, we are on our own trying to figure things out.

One of the most important things I’ve realized as a portrait photographer is that you have to be a people’s person. You have to love people and learn to collaborate and communicate with them. Sometimes it’s not an easy task to do, yet it’s essential.

So why do we need to work in a team and why one man doesn’t make one?

As a big perfectionist, I always strive for beautiful images. Like those from beauty and fashion magazines I used to collect as a child. When I just started out over a year ago, there were a few things I neglected. For example, make up and wardrobe of my subjects. Them being beautiful seemed enough for me until one day I was looking though the images I took and thought: “Oh, his shirt wasn’t pressed. How could I not see it before?” “I wish she was wearing makeup. I wouldn’t have to spend so much time in Photoshop right now.'‘

After having more and more thoughts like these after my photo shoots, it was time for me to consider bringing other creatives on board and building a team.

It might seem a bit intimidating at first, especially for those who have difficulties connecting with people. But if you’re truly passionate about what you do and really want to create beautiful work - you will be unstoppable.

As for me, I love reaching out to other talents and sharing my ideas with them. The fact that they might be not interested doesn’t discourage me. Either way, it’s always worth trying.

So far, I’ve been very lucky to work with amazing people who’ve been always ready to contribute their talent and skills to create beautiful work we can all be proud of. No more missing buttons, messy hair, unpressed shirts, etc.

So what does it take to have a successful collaboration with other professionals? How do we build a dream team?

First of all, I think it’s very important for me, as a photographer, to have a clear idea of what kind of image I want to make. I always try to pre-visualize it first to be able to find similar images on the internet and use them as a reference. Creating a mood board for your team members will save you time when it comes to sharing your ideas with them.

Second of all, having great communication skills is definitely a plus. There will be times when the idea you had won’t work and you’ll have to change things around. Be open for suggestions. I always let my team use their judgements when it comes to makeup and wardrobe ideas. They’re experts so it’s up to them to decide how to bring them to life.

Sets can get pretty chaotic at times. It’s very important to stay calm and cool under pressure. Be appreciative and stay human no matter what. Treat others as you want to be treated and you’ll be able to build a strong team you’ll be working with over and over again.