If you've ever played a sport or an instrument before, you'll know that the one thing in common with both things is....PRACTICE! As working photographers, we can sometimes get caught up in our job so much that practice falls to the wayside. We start sliding by with the same old shots over and over again and we forget to practice along the way. We get bored, burnt out, and just plain over it. I know I'm guilty of this. I'm ashamed to admit that I go for months at a time without using my camera to experiment with new films or techniques, or to just shoot things that aren't a job.Read More
Do you ever find yourself frustrated that you've lost a stop or two in light, and that puts your shutter speed at a rate you just can't reliably handhold? It can get really difficult to handhold at 1/15 all the time, but in some parts of the country (raise your hands east coasters!) we deal with lower light all the time. Adding just a little bit of extra light to your scene to gain that extra stop or two is so easy and totally doable for absolutely everyone. You don't have to be a lighting guru, have a team of assistants, or even more than one simple flash.
I wrote another blog post about using lighting with photos and how I had posted them in a Facebook group where people tried to guess whether the photos had artificial or natural light. What I learned from that experiment was that many people assume that artificial light has "a look" and natural light looks completely different. This is only true if you're either not intending to make the artificial light look like natural light or if you simply don't know how to. In the comparison below, one is natural light and one is with a flash and soft box to mimic natural light. I've edited them both.
Can you tell which is which?
Artificial lighting is used when you're shooting in a place that doesn't have a lot of light or you're trying to craft a certain look that you can't get with natural light. Using lighting with film and digital cameras is no different, it simply takes getting to know the cameras you're working with, understanding what you want out of your light source, and experimenting with different films to see what you like about each one. You can use a strobe, LED lights, flashes, or any other lighting gear to achieve the look you want. We don't always have perfect light to shoot in, so learning how to use lighting gear is essential to being able to present professional, high quality images to your clients.
In this particular situation, I took a natural light photo first and then took a few photos that were exposed differently to get a silhouetted photo of the two of them. I specifically used lighting to light just the flowers while they stayed silhouetted. I also used lighting to get the same photo I had taken in natural light after the light had gone down by about a stop. I like to work with as little gear as possible, and I never have a team with me, so the less gear and more simple the setup the better. This was shot on my Contax 645, Fuji 400h rated at 200, Phottix trigger, Canon 580 EXII flash and a medium sized soft box.
At our big workshop, we focus on teaching all aspects of film and most specifically how to shoot in ANY lighting situation. We'll be using a variety of lighting gear and you'll be shooting in situations that are difficult to hone your skills. We believe you don't excel at anything if you stay in your comfort zone, and we've seen tremendous growth with past attendees from following this simple rule.
-Sarah Collier, Founder
If you're a Fuji lover and haven't tried Fuji Superia 1600 yet, get yourself a few rolls immediately! This is a film that does quite well with lower light. It only comes in 35mm format and is also called Natura in Japan. These photographs were taken with my Canon 1v and 70-200mm lens rated at 800. I only had to slightly edit these scans to balance color and add a little bit of contrast.
The grain on this film is really nice, especially considering that it's 35mm. My biggest concern when photographing people and flowers is maintaining accurate colors, which is why I generally overexpose Fuji films by 1 stop, and this film did not disappoint in that category. It was not overly green, the color was much more accurate than I anticipated, and the shadows are maintained nicely. This seems to be a very versatile film that I will certainly be shooting more of.
-Sarah Collier - Founder
We had a little one day workshop all about shooting flowers on film in Philadelphia recently and are absolutely loving the photos we're seeing from attendees! These photos are by P. Thien Photography and they are just stunning. Here's what she had to say about the workshop...
This workshop was specifically about photographing flowers on film, how to get accurate color and take incredible photos of flowers that florists will love you for. We also practiced using lighting with a softbox and discussed metering and a few other topics. We hope to bring these fun little workshops around the country and are working on other cities to hold them in. If you want to see us come to your city, let us know!
Many thanks to our amazing creative team who we couldn't have done this without:
I've seen many people say in Facebook groups that they've been told that "film doesn't like backlight". This could not be farther from the truth. Film is just a tool, you only need to learn how to use that tool to get what you want from it. If you've ever thought this or heard someone say this, remember that film has been around for a very long time, and people have been taking jaw dropping photos on film for a whole lot longer than digital cameras have been around.
The limitations I see photographers experience with film shooting are not because film is limiting them, but because the photographers are limiting themselves and their photography skills.
Below are images taken in strong backlight, sometimes so strong I could barely see to focus the lens. There are a few things I do to make sure my images are lit the way I want them to, and I choose techniques based on what I want the image to feel like. My most used technique is to use a reflector if I don't have enough light bouncing onto my subject's face already. There's sometimes a several stop difference between the shadow and light side of my subject and I don't always want to completely blow the background out, so in that case I'll use a reflector and average my exposures between the readings I take from both sides of my subject.
At our big workshop we talk about shooting in all kinds of light, including backlight, and show different kinds of techniques you can use to get stunning images no matter what the light looks like.
-Sarah Collier, Founder
I recently posted a few photos in a film photography group to see how people would analyze whether they thought the photos were artificial or natural light. I was very surprised with the answers! There are a lot of interesting thoughts about what natural light and artificial light canned should look like. Many people thought that natural light is more diffused and artificial light is harsher, therefore when they saw harsher highlights they thought it was artificial light.
The look of highlights has nothing to do with whether it is natural or artificial light, but everything to do with how the light is diffused.
Natural light is often very harsh and unforgiving and can be difficult to diffuse properly. Artificial light is much easier to control, which makes it easier to soften highlights. In the photos below, many of the natural light photos have harsh and uneven highlights because they are natural light.
The main thing film photographers need to keep in mind is that film is not better in natural light, nor is natural light the only or best way to go with film. Different kinds of light can be used with film just exactly like they are used with digital. The most well known and highest paid photographers in the world use lighting equipment to perfect their images and always have. Natural light is unpredictable, not always available, and sometimes impossible to control, which is why all professional photographers need to learn how to use lighting equipment.
Below are the photos I posted in the Facebook group with the explanations of each along with some comparisons.
Left image is natural light, right image is lit by a flash in a soft box. Most people thought the image on the right was artificial and several thought the same about the left. They assumed that the right image was artificial because of the catch lights, but the catch lights are actually identical in each photo. Windows can create catch lights that look exactly like soft boxes. The subject in the image on the left is quite far from a wall of windows and is surrounded by light yellow walls, which is why the light is so well diffused. Had window light been used with the photo on the right, the highlights would have been much harsher unless diffusion was used. So the assumption about the right image being artificial was correct, but the reasons for that assumption weren't necessarily true.
Many people thought that the right image was artificial because they thought the falloff of light was harsher than natural light would have been and that the highlights were harsher than natural light would have been, but this is a great comparison to point out that it is actually the complete opposite.
Most people thought the image on the left is artificial. Both photos are natural light. Again, the harsh highlights are actually a giveaway that it is natural light. Falloff of light has to do with many factors such as the colors around the subject, and does not mean an image is naturally or artificially lit.
Almost everyone thought that the right image is artificially lit and many thought the left one is artificially lit too. Both are natural light. Again, these were judged to be artificial because of the harsh highlights and light falloff, but that has nothing to do with what kind of lighting is used, rather it has to do with the surroundings of the subject.
Most correctly guessed that there was some kind of lighting used here. A flash bounced off of a small reflector was used to highlight the subject's face since the lighting in the forest is absolutely terrible and tinted very green in this particular scene. You can see in the image below that a natural light photo doesn't look very professional since her face has deep shadows and she doesn't stand out from the background. As professional photographers, our images need to stand out from those taken by amateurs, which is why it's so important to use lighting when the scene calls for it.
These were taken at the same spot. The image on the left is medium format on Fuji 400h, the image on the right is 35mm on Portra 400, which is why the coloring looks different and why the one on the right is slightly darker. I'll let you guess which has lighting and which is all natural light!
Knowing how to use lighting with film significantly increases your worth and expertise as a film photographer, and sets you apart in the oversaturated market of photographers. We'll be focusing on using different types of lighting in adverse lighting situations (including the dark) at our workshop in April. You'll walk away with beautiful portfolio images, but most importantly you'll walk away with knowledge and ability to create beautiful images on film no matter what the natural lighting situation is!
-Sarah Collier, Founder
I'm so excited to be offering one on one mentoring sessions as part of our wholistic approach to teaching film photography! Sometimes a workshop or online videos just aren't enough, and the one on one time can help break through barriers and move to the next level. Workshop attendee Heather Anderson joined me in Seattle recently to work on her film skills and take things to the next level with shooting in less than perfect light. She lives in Southern California, so she rarely has to deal with anything but great light, but knowing how to shoot in any light is still important as she transitions quickly to film in her client work and sometimes has tricky lighting situations after dark. We spent 2 days in 2 very different locations talking about all kinds of lighting situations and using limited gear on the fly in Mt. Rainier forest. I firmly believe that you won't learn anything if you stay in your comfort zone, so you won't find yourself shooting a boring styled shoot in perfect lighting with me. My mentoring sessions are less about styled shoots and more about actually learning how to shoot film in a beautiful and personal way. You can do a styled shoot any time, what you can't always do is slow down and think through each step of the way out loud.
The forest was an extremely challenging lighting situation, perfect for learning how to solve difficult lighting problems with very little gear. I'll share my photos in this post and Heather's at a later date. We shot all 120 film and used a flash bounced off a small reflector, all handheld by the person who wasn't shooting, and the Promaster VL800D that was a game changer for me. We used Portra 400 and Fuji 400h. I kept it simple with one model so we could focus more on technique than anything else.
For our shoot with an adorable real couple, we used mostly natural light and brought out the LED and reflector when needed.
-Sarah Collier, Founder
There are too many photography workshops! I know it's a bit bold to proclaim that as a newer workshop, but that's actually precisely why I started it. Sometimes the fact that there are a lot of options for something doesn't necessarily mean those options are all great. Calling yourself a photographer is easy. Being a good photographer is difficult. Being a great photographer is extremely difficult and takes a lifetime of dedication to achieve. I think it's safe to say that very few people in the photography world are great, and that's ok! There are a lot of really good photographers, but there are far more people simply calling themselves photographers.
There will always be people at all stages of the journey in whatever craft they choose to pursue and many people, especially creatives, are hands-on, visual learners who benefit greatly from well done workshops. Almost every industry out there has workshops to teach people how to do something, it's a very common and effective way of learning.
Here are some good guidelines to keep in mind when trying to find a workshop that will help move you to the next level in your photography, and that won't leave you feeling like you wasted your time and money on someone who has no idea what they're talking about. Please keep in mind that this does NOT mean I think there is a perfect workshop out there that will fulfill all of your wildest fantasies and make you the best photographer that ever was. Workshops should be full of knowledge and practical application of that knowledge. You might even already know some of the things being taught, but ideally you will gain new insight and the benefit of being surrounded by others who you can continue to grow with together. Photography is an extremely difficult thing to be great at, it takes a lifetime of practice and hard work. No workshop will bring you there immediately, but a good one can help move you along.
SOME THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A WORKSHOP
1. Experienced teachers who have been shooting for many years, ten minimum years is a pretty ideal number in my mind, and who have FULL portfolios that show solid, consistent work. If in doubt, ask them for full galleries of work. A website gallery or Instagram feed is not a good way to judge anyone's work.
2. A range of technical topics being covered that you're interested in learning, and a list of them on the workshop website.
3. Testimonials from other attendees (unless of course it's the first workshop).
4. A leader who answers all your questions and communicates clearly about what will be happening at the workshop
WARNING SIGNS THAT A WORKSHOP PROBABLY WON'T MEET YOUR EXPECTATIONS
1. The workshop is only about one person who promises vaguely to teach you to be just like them and there is little to no info on the workshop website, or there is no workshop website at all.
2. The teacher or teachers have very few years of experience. Lots of Instagram followers does not equate actual experience and skill!
3. A heavy emphasis on styled shoots rather than technical knowledge. This is the number one thing that I see happening right now, and the countless testimonies of disappointment are coming from people who attend workshops because of the styled shoot promises.
4. There are no testimonies from previous attendees, or there are bad testimonies from previous attendees. If you don't see testimonies on the website, ask for them.
-Sarah Collier, Founder
You overexpose all film because once you heard somewhere that film needs to be overexposed, is "light hungry", and any time you ask in a photography Facebook group how to expose film, every single response tells you to just go ahead and overexpose. So you do. But do you know WHY you're overexposing? Like, can you explain to someone who doesn't know photography why you overexpose your film? What kind of result are you expecting by overexposing?
These are things you need to know, rather than simply overexposing because everyone says to. Here's a secret, some films, one in particular, is best for skin tones overexposed by one stop. Most of the others are perfect at box speed. There's a reason the manufacturers say they are the speed they put on the box. CAN you overexpose? Certainly. SHOULD you? Not necessarily. As a professional photographer, you should know WHY you do everything you do. Understanding your tools is essential to producing professional imagery. There's a lot of advice given out of ignorance going around, and lots of opinions on things that may or may not be best for your style or what you're shooting. Opinions are great, but they should be based in knowledge and experience and you should form them for your own work individually.
We go over metering in depth at the workshop and will be showing lots of examples of different films in different lights with different ratings. There are certainly enough charts on the internet, but I'm going a lot deeper with the examples, and will also be posting one here for the days to come with an explanation for the film I'll be posting, stay tuned!
All of these photos were shot at box speed, can you guess which film each one is?
-Sarah Collier, Founder
Our attendee spotlight today is on Heather Anderson. She shoots many gorgeous Temecula weddings every year and it's obvious through her social media posts that she cares deeply for her clients. She was an absolute delight to have at the workshop and we're looking forward to her helping out with future workshops! Here is her experience in her own words and some of her gorgeous photos from the workshop.
"This workshop was a game changer for me! When I first noticed this opportunity on my Instagram feed, I knew it was something I really wanted to do. I was slightly hesitant at first, however, because I wasn't sure if the investment would be worth it. I wanted to play with film to fuel my creativity, but I wasn't sure if it would change my business enough to justify the cost. I emailed back and forth with Sarah to learn more. When she shared her vision with me, I immediately knew it was something I wanted to be part of. It turns out that the workshop not only sparked my creativity but also changed my purpose as a photographer. It made me rethink my mission statement as a company. I realized I needed to shoot more passion projects and try new things (like double exposures, lighting tricks and film of course). This workshop was such an inspiration. I did not own a film camera or even know how to load film when I showed up my first day. Now, just a few months later, I am shooting hybrid weddings and engagements! I never leave my film camera behind and I prefer to shoot film. In fact, I will shoot entirely on film when my clients are willing to pay for it! This workshop pushed me in my craft and inspired me to be more creative.
Another gain that I didn't expect are the friendships I developed with so many other creatives. We really bonded as a group and I have done shoots with some of the people from the workshop. I love the FB group and reach out whenever I have questions. Everyone is great and I always get a lot of answers! I feel like Sarah really cares about our learning and growth after the workshop and she has been so helpful and easy to reach out to. If there is one thing that has helped my business this year it would be this workshop."
Heard at every wedding I shoot...."Why do you shoot film????" or "OMG YOU SHOOT FILM?!" These comments always puzzle me, because it wasn't THAT long ago that digital entered the market. After the comments of shock and dismay, I usually get something like "Oh but isn't that expensive?" and other similar expressions of skepticism.
One of the biggest struggles for film photographers today is how to charge enough to be profitable in a world oversatured with digital photographers charging rock bottom prices. Many people shoot "hybrid" in an attempt to save money and only show the images they take on film on their blogs. Some even walk away from film all together because they just aren't able to make it profitable.
Let me be completely honest, I too failed miserably at this for years. I have a right brained approach to life and automatically tend to want to make decisions based on emotion, so when a really nice couple shows up with an ill conceived budget that doesn't match my pricing with a story about how they're paying for themselves and an "I'm desperate for you to shoot my wedding" thrown in, I've caved more times than I'd even like to admit to myself. This has been a difficult thing for me to overcome in my almost 10 years of shooting weddings. It's like a constant battle in my emotion driven brain, the right side telling me I'm a horrible person for wanting to run an actual business. This is SO common for artistically minded people!
It is totally possible to make money shooting film. If you've ever felt like throwing your digital camera in a lake after you get an order of film in your inbox, or if you're desperately searching for that extra special something that makes your photography stand out from the ever increasing crowd, you really don't have to give up on film to make it work. Film really does bring a special quality to images that can't be matched on digital, and many photographers find that it makes them a better photographer for the simple reason that they have to slow down and think through things much more with film.
Here are three big things you can do to start seeing a shift in revenue:
1. Figuring out who your ideal clients are so you can effectively market to them
2. Figuring out how much you need to charge to make a profit by actually doing the numbers
3. Learning how to SELL to those target clients with confidence and excitement
These can be pretty loaded tasks and of course are not fully explained by a few bullet points. There are plenty of educators teaching these principles with expertise and grace, here are two I've personally learned from and highly recommend:
Spencer Lum, Ground Glass - Teaches sales for photographers in a relatable and deep way. His emails alone are worth signing up for because he is such an incredible story teller and writer. He spoke at our first workshop and we hope to have him in the future.
Marketog - Teaches finding your ideal client and how to survive in an oversaturated market.
We'll also be talking about pricing at the workshop and I'll tell you how I stopped losing money hand over fist and started charging appropriately to be a 100% film shooter.
-Sarah Collier, Founder
I've been talking to a few of our March attendees lately and I am so incredibly proud of the things they're telling me, of how the workshop helped them to become better photographers in the last few months! Kaytlyn Eggerding recently shot her VERY FIRST wedding....and she did it completely on film! Here are her words and photos.
"Here it is, my first all film wedding, which was exhilarating, freeing and terrifying. To be honest, I self proclaimed at one point that I wasn't that interested in weddings-- my main business is family photography and I love it. Sarah said something at the workshop that has stuck with me though, "What do you not trust?" When Emily inquired about shooting her wedding that was the real question I had to ask myself.
Emily and Paul were my ideal clients-- truly in love, a small intimate wedding with 70 of their family and friends and a boutique hotel with decor worth drooling over. So I decided to trust myself and the things I had learned/fine-tuned at the workshop.
The day was cloudy and the light was a bit all over the place, so using window light inside was the safest bet. One technique from the workshop I used was metering both sides of Emily or Paul's faces and meeting in the middle with my settings (especially with portraits). Because I used a lot of window light with light coming from one direction it helped even out my highlights and shadows, instead of having deep shadows on one side. As the sun started to go down the readings from my light meter started to show 1/30 and 1/60 of a second shutter speed, which at that point I couldn't hold still enough to get a sharp image. This is where technique number two came in handy. I switched to my black and white film (400 speed) and rated it at 1600-- this gave me a high enough shutter speed to shoot at.
Not only did the workshop give me essential techniques to use, but the confidence and community was worth it alone. The Facebook group was the first place I shared the images with and immediately received cheers and response from."
Film Stocks: Portra 400 and HP5 +2
Film Lab: The Find Lab
You arrive at your client's house to shoot their family session only to realize that the bright rooms they promised you are actually as dark as a church underground, and the walls are painted dark grey. The room is small, though stylishly furnished, but your meter gives you a reading of f1.4 and 1/15 at 400 ISO.
You sigh. If you're going to shoot film, your options are as follows:
A) Ducktape the kids to the couch and hold your breath while shooting....oh wait, your camera doesn't even go to f1.4 so you'll have to shoot at 1/8 and f2.0 and just deal with how blurry everyone's faces will be afterwards
B) Get a tripod, but the kids will still have to be ducktaped...oh, and the dog will be completely blurry
C) Go outside....but this client specifically asked for photos in their house, so you'll have to do some hard convincing there
D) Push the film, but you don't know how that will turn out exactly and you're pretty sure you remembered someone saying something about contrast getting even deeper in pushed film, which is no bueno because this room is DARK
Today won't be the day you shoot film. Too bad, you were really looking forward to it and you sold them on you being a film photographer. You'll just have to spend extra hours agonizingly editing those digital photos to look as close to film as possible.
Session is over, you've shot it all on digital and now you feel like you betrayed yourself and your client because it just wasn't as good as you knew it could be. But what could you do? There just wasn't any light.
But there was actually another option on the list:
D) Use lighting to either mimic natural light or to create a beautiful studio look
Using lighting with film has been done since the 1800's! It's incredibly easy, creates beautiful images, and there are a variety of ways to do it. My personal favorite lighting tool is this nifty light that can be either battery powered or corded and can be used with a variety of diffusers just like a strobe or flash. Here are a couple of examples of how I've used it:
Lighting can be scary for some photographers, but it doesn't have to be! It gives you the freedom to shoot when, where and how you want to without relying on your digital camera as a crutch when you really just wanted to shoot film. We go over multiple lighting techniques in depth at the workshop along with practice shoots where you can see the results from using them. If you love film, but feel stuck when shooting in less than ideal light, join us!
- Sarah Collier, Founder