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.
The photographers I'm most in awe of all spend a lot of time practicing and experimenting. They take a lot of bad photos, and constantly pursue new knowledge. Practicing your craft goes so much more beyond copying techniques or poses from someone you admire, it means pursuing a path that will satisfy you as an artist, but more importantly it means being willing take a bunch of garbage photos so that you can find those few that make you tear up when you first see them.
One of the great things about film is that it can be experimented with endlessly and used to get so many beautiful results. Digital can be a bit limited in a lot of areas that film shines in. Here are five tips to experimenting with film:
1. Buy a notepad to keep notes on your experimenting sessions
2. Rather than asking to see other people's examples of what film stocks look like, buy them and shoot them at different settings and ratings and in different lighting situations. The reason asking others to see image examples won't necessarily work for you is because scanning and editing can dramatically change the way a photo looks. It's always best to find your own groove with a particular film.
3. Get a few different types of cameras to play around with. I mainly use a Contax 645, but I also have a Canon ae-1, a Rolleiflex, a Holga, and a Canon 1v. They all do things differently, and they all challenge me in different ways. There are SO many film cameras available at really cheap prices, collect them all!
4. Don't stick to one "style" of photo all the time. Experiment with different kinds of lighting, rating, metering.
5. This is a big one for me. Don't think you have to show everything on your website and Instagram. If you shot something that doesn't look like your Instagram feed, but you love it, that's what matters. Instagram feed curation can be a real killer of creativity sometimes.
I'm obsessed with shooting flowers, and have become somewhat a floral designer myself because of my love for flowers. I took several hours recently to make several arrangements and shoot them on a new black backdrop I got in my house. I don't normally do this because it takes me time to set it all up, but I've resolved to start practicing more myself this year to force myself outside of my comfort zone and to see things from a different perspective.