Why do I shoot film?

Often times when I tell people I shoot film they think that I am referring to video.  However, I am actually referring to the act of still image film photography; think rolls of film, developing in dark rooms, prints, etc.  The process has changed a little since the 90's when people would drop their film off at the 1 hour processing centers at Walgreens.  Now days, there are labs that do developing and then use computerized scanners to scan the developed film and turn it into digital files.  I use a lab in Utah called The Find Lab. I absolutely love these guys! They know my work, my style, and my preferences and they always make sure that my film scans (that's what we call the digital files) come back perfect every time.  

boiseweddingphotographer

So now that you know the "what" let's dig into the "why".  When I started photography, I surrounded myself with inspiration from several well known photographers.  I saw all types of styles- dark and moody, light and airy, flash vs. natural light, studio vs. on location, and many more! Photography is an art, and like all types of art there are rules and those rules are often meant to be broken.  Every photographer that picks up a camera seems to follow the same steps. We have to try everything to find our niche and then use all that built up knowledge to develop our own brand.  A brand is built of many attributes like our personality, our taste, our draw of inspiration, and ultimately that all creates our style.  The goal is to find clients who are drawn to that style, thus creating a successful business. 

boiseweddingphotographer
boiseweddingphotographer

So how did this all lead to film? I knew what style I was immediately drawn to, and I knew what I wanted my final images to look like. The problem was getting my images to look like those of the photographers I admired so much.  I tried every Photoshop trick I possibly could. I spent hundreds of dollars on presets for my editing software that promised me I'd have images that looked like film, but ultimately it never got there.  So I took a leap and purchased a 1980's full manual film camera off of Craigslist.  I went to Walmart and purchased some film and I just started playing.  I took a film course in high school, so I knew the basics of film photography.  My images came out horrible. Yep, horrible.  However, this didn't stop me one bit! I started doing more research, which lead to classes and classes lead to more studying.  Education is such a powerful tool and when I am passionate about something, I love to do as much research as I can.  I learned that the film you buy at Walmart is not professional grade film and does not have consistent colors or tones.  I also learned that while my camera was really cool and vintage, there are a lot better solutions for cameras available on the market.  I also learned that film is a respected art and only photographers who are truly confident in their skills are successful at. Knowing all of this, I took a second stab at it and purchased a Nikon F100 35mm film camera and some Portra 400 (professional grade) film and tried again.  I was confident in my skills of knowing how to work a fully manual camera, so my second roll of film turned out much better.  In fact, so much better that I kept shooting and that's where my love affair began.  I have since purchased a medium format film camera and several lenses.  The images in this thread are my medium format film camera. 

boiseweddingphotographer

You might still be wondering, "Still, why? I still don't understand why you would use film when there are so many digital cameras on the market." I want you to read a quote from one of the most famous film photographers, Erich McVey. 

Most of us would all agree that when we look at an amazing film image, there's just something special about it.  Film possesses an indescribable something that cannot be quantified.  You can't always put your finger on it, but you know it when you see it.  It's the grain in those black & white images that has so much heart and character.  It's the perfect skin tones that seem to make every subject look flawlessly beautiful.  It's the focus that seems to be simultaneously sharp and soft in all the right places.  It's the otherworldly colors that you can't quite replicate with digital images.  I love film. I love it because it helps me capture reality in the most beautiful way possible.  It's not a fad. It's not a trend. It is timeless, and will never go out of style.  For me, film portrays the most classic, honest, and beautiful depiction of a moment in time.  

 I want to show you some examples so that you can truly see why I am so drawn to film.  The next two images show you a comparison of two images that are very similar, one taken on my film camera and the other taken on digital.  In these images, no editing has been done.  These are both straight from the camera, or as us photographers call it SOOC (straight out of camera).  Digital is on the left and film is on the right. 

 Specifically look at the tones and the colors. Also, look at the skin tones and the softness in the skin, while still being sharp in other areas of the image.

Specifically look at the tones and the colors. Also, look at the skin tones and the softness in the skin, while still being sharp in other areas of the image.

 The reason I love the film image in this comparison is how well it softened the veil while keeping the shoes so crisp.  I also love the tones and colors.  

The reason I love the film image in this comparison is how well it softened the veil while keeping the shoes so crisp.  I also love the tones and colors.  

So now let's talk about my process as a hybrid photographer.  I am hybrid because I actually always shoot film & digital at my sessions.  Think of it like an insurance.  Film is always my first choice, and I almost always prefer my film images over digital.  Just look at the images above if you want to see why! However, when I shoot film I cannot look at the back of the camera and see how the image turned out instantaneously while shooting.  I have to send the film to Utah and then have them develop, scan, and send it back to see how they turned out.  Therefore, I carry both digital and film and capture on both mediums.  Film also has its limitations. Without going into too much photography jargon, certain rolls of film can only be photographed in certain lighting situations.  I cannot shoot my normal film stock in a dark reception that is only candle lit.  In these situations I go fully digital for color and black and white film.  Then, once I get the film back from the lab, I pull the images up side-by-side and I match the film as closely as possible to the digital file to provide a seamless final gallery.  In the end, I have found this is the best possible way to give gorgeous film images, while not compromising any moments on the wedding day! 

 The far left image is SOOC, the middle is my edit on the digital file, and the right is the actual film. 

The far left image is SOOC, the middle is my edit on the digital file, and the right is the actual film. 

In the end, my ultimate goal is to provide beautiful images to my clients.  The medium that I use to achieve that is part of who I am and part of the Brie Thomason Photography brand.  Those who identify with my brand will appreciate the art of film.  

If you have any questions on this please let me know in the comments and I will be in touch! I love to help others understand my art and educating others on film.  

Portraits of me by photographed on film by Liza James Photography