One on one film photography mentoring session in Seattle

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, 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

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How to select a photography workshop

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

Changes

Dates and rates are changing for the workshop! It seems that many photographers across the country are struggling with bookings this year, which is making things like workshops difficult for a lot of people to justify. As a result, we're moving the dates of the big workshop to April to give people more time to save AND dropping the price significantly to $1995! We want you to come and learn, and we understand that it can be difficult to attend workshops when bookings are where you expect them to be for the year. Full disclosure because I know many people don't understand just how expensive it is to put on a good workshop and I don't want a price drop to come across the wrong way, this new price will barely enable me to break even, but I'm doing it because I sincerely want to help photographers get to a place of confidence and joy in their photography and I know how difficult it is to afford things like this when struggling with bookings.

We'll be holding several smaller, one day workshops in different cities around the country this fall as a pre-cursor to the big workshop. So far we are looking at NYC, New Orleans, Philadelphia, LA area, and San Francisco. Dates and locations for those will be announced soon, price will vary per workshop and it will include a half day of teaching by Robbie, Sarah and Ben, and an afternoon of a practice shoot involving lighting. Our goal with these small workshops is to give you a taste of the big workshop and also skills that you can immediately use to become more consistent in your film work. More details to come soon, stay tuned and follow our Instagram account to see updates.

-Sarah Collier, Founder

Overexposing Film

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

Attendee Spotlight | Heather Anderson Photography

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."

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Is film too much of a sacrifice?

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. 

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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

Attendee Spotlight | Kaytlyn Eggerding Photography

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."

Camera: Pentax645N
Film Stocks: Portra 400 and HP5 +2
Film Lab: The Find Lab

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I can only shoot in perfect light

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