When I actually sit down to think about why I started shooting film the number one word that comes to mind is authenticity. There is something so true and pure about film; about using a medium that was used by my grandmother and her grandmother. When I go to capture my children, film makes me slow down, look at the available light, the way it hits my subject, and wait for the moment to happen. Film photographs are so authentic to the moment, as I am sure digital could be too, but I am such an overshooter when it comes to my digital work that I just shoot and pray instead of waiting and creating. You can see in this session with my kids that I did just that – I let them be. I waited for their genuine laughs, captured them eating the berries, and didn’t force any moment to happen – I just waited for them to. I try and not pose them a lot, and just let them be kids. Capturing them in the moment, remembering every little detail of an event in their childhood is something I strive to do.
Another thing I love about film is color. The colors of film can’t be matched. My two favorites to shoot are Ektar 100. Which is very vibrant in color, especially reds, and super punchy. I also love Porta 160 which is also a very vibrant film and the greens are just divine. I don’t really edit a lot on my scans, because there is really no need to. If film is metered correctly the colors come out absolutely beautiful.
I went through a time right when spring started that I hated my work and I wasn’t quit sure if I wanted to continue photography. I know we all experience that as artists and I feel like shooting film has breathed life back into my photography. It has given me a dream and a vision again and reminded me of why I fell in love with photography to begin with. I want my work to be authentic, a true representation of each child and who they were during that time in their lives. I want my work to have emotion, capturing connections between families and sharing in peoples love and joy. Film has given me a way to do all of this and so much more. Film has challenged me to strive to capture moments and not poses. To really wait, and be present, and not push for perfection.
Here are a few tips if you are new to shooting film, or if you have an old film camera sitting around somewhere that you’d like to brush the dust off of.
- First, start small. You can buy a perfectly good 35mm off eBay in mint condition for a reasonable price. Practice makes perfect. I still get some rolls back that aren’t correctly metered or have a slight color cast. Keep it up, it will be so worth it when you open your inbox to scans that you are in love with.
- Secondly, do your research. There are so many books you can read on film, one of them being the manual to your film camera. Learn how to work and use your camera. YouTube is also a great resource. You can learn how to load your film, store film, and how to ship your film off there. I am also a part of some film groups on Facebook. If I see photos I love I will ask what stock they shot, what time of day it was, what the lighting conditions were. I keep a little note book to help me remember, and to know what I should shoot and rate my film at.
- And lastly, wait for the moment. One of my mentors, Ashley Crawford, once told me, “you can take a good photograph anywhere” and that has really stuck with me. A good photograph evokes an emotion, a feeling – it’s less about surroundings and more about connection. Shooting film has made me slow down and wait/create moments & memories. I am so passionate about what I do, and shooting film has made me a better photographer. Do what you love, and do it with all your heart.
Mary Beth Johnson, of Mary Beth Photography, located in northwest Indiana, is a natural light digital & film family photographer. Mary Beth loves Jesus, her babies, Alabama football, bright running shoes, sweet tea, and a good book. She just started her film journey this spring and has fallen in love all over again with color. Mary Beth truly believes that if you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.