Shoot holidays on 35mm film? Pros and cons ... and honesty.
I have never told anyone about that but I have devoted 1 year of my life to 35mm and medium format film photography, be it home stuff (kids, family events, gatherings) or various trips and friends' photo shoots. I made this decision firstly to learn more about analogue photography and photography as such, secondly - to experiment how long I will survive without my professional digital gear. I used digital for weddings and fashion mostly but even there I mixed it with analog. However all my personal stuff was captured on a variety of film so I will be posting more articles about different experience and different film.
In 2019 me and my family decided to go to Bulgaria for family holiday and I was really battling myself: should I take my Sony a7iii or Canon 300v (film) camera? In the end I decided to stick to my experiment so I purchased around 10 Kodak Portra film reels (35mm), got myself a 50mm and 28mm F/1.8 lenses for Canon and felt like I am ready for this trip. Here are few thoughts on how it all went:
1. Feeling of shooting analogue: thinking about each shot, compositing better, thinking about light conditions better, etc.
2. Very light and cheap gear gives more possibilities: just drop the camera and 1 lens into any bag and go. No need to worry about bumps and scratches too much, no worries about sandy beaches or even water (I caught a splash and camera was wet but it survived with no problem).
3. I had enough film and I made a decision to use at least one roll per day. So sometimes I would be inspired to wake up earlier or stay longer and take some more interesting shots.
4. Shooting Kodak Portra was intentional: I could set my ISO to 100, 200, 400 - and all images would be OK, you basically cannot overexpose it.
5. If I wanted I could shoot it at ISO 800 or even 1600. I have no problem with pushing in post (my lab does it for extra 1-2 euros). I did not do that since there was nothing to take 36 shots of, so I would take 1-2 evening shots in the hotel area and that's it. Conclusion: I could use higher ISO but I did not because I did not need it.
6. Giving my camera to my 8-years-old daughter or my wife was no risk in case of damage - cheap 25 Euro camera, cheap 50 Euro lens... if it was my digital Sony - only me would operate it in dangerous locations.
7. Waiting for images, receiving them, unpacking zip, sorting and then fixing bits and pieces - sort of fun too. I enjoyed it.
1. Film is expensive, dev and scan is expensive. I spent around 160 Euros just on film+ lab.
2. No good autofocus (like Sony a7iii - I know!!!) and slower speed in the evenings would ruin quite good shots, shooting kids on film is very very hard job.
3. Inside, outside, inside, outside - ISO 400 is a big limit in such switch between locations. If I was rich, I would go for Portra 800, it is my beloved film and it would solve that problem, but I am not rich, so I had to constantly think if I do really want to take a shot inside or not.
4. One film - one colour pallet. When I received my shots I felt a bit bored: you cannot colorise and edit films shots like you would if it was raw digital file. Maximum achievement - nice B&W. The rest are pretty much in the same tonality shots. Which is good in general, but I felt bored by it on holidays. I was shooting in the rain, in sun, in fun times and some romantic times and all shots look very alike in colour. If I was editing that in digital raw I would use different moods in different locations but here I was stuck with Portra colours. They are lovely in sun, but not always in shadow.
5. Thinking about money. Yes, in some cases I was thinking if it is worth clicking shutter since I knew how much each shot will cost. My son was chasing around the fountain and I thought that would be a great shot if I caught him laughing. But I tried 4 times and none of the shots came back good. That would never happen in digital world. At least not in mine.
When I came back from holidays I felt really tired of film photography, Maybe because I spent more time thinking about all settings than enjoying my time on holidays, or maybe because it was my last project on 1 year with analog photography trip. I did not miss digital but I started getting tired even of the thought to shoot film again. I am very afraid of burning out and I was very close to it. It happened later and mainly to medium format but this is a different story which one day will come too.
So I would like to share with you the selected shots of my holidays to show you some of the pros and cons mentioned above. Here is technical information: Kodak Portra 400 (135), Canon 300v, Canon 50mm and 28mm, both F/1.8.
What I learned the most (I knew it before as well but sometimes you forget simple things) - 35mm day time film (ISO 100- 800) loves sun and light. In cloudy conditions shots turned out muddy and grainy, I did not like them even though some of you may say they are OK.
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