52 Photo Tips 5 Dont Get Frustrated

52 Photo Tips 5 Dont Get Frustrated

This is the fifth article in a series in collaboration with Film’s Not Dead.

There’s no getting away from it – shooting film can be frustrating. If you’ve come from digital, where a shot can be tweaked and upgraded at the touch of a few buttons, the gap between what you see in your viewfinder and what turns up on the negatives can be dispiriting. Every film photographer has had that feeling; the expectation of an incredible shot that is punctured when the prints or scans come back from the lab – pics scratched, blurry, underexposed or poorly composed. Enough of those moments and it’s no wonder many think ‘what’s the point?’ and return to digital. You can’t blame them. Most of those frustrations are easily solved however. There’s a few things worth bearing in mind until they become second nature – the kind of thing that those of us who’ve been shooting on film for years do without even thinking.

They might be cheap, but they’ll need a clean (Pic: Pixabay)

Clean your camera: We’re not talking hours of polishing and rubbing. Open the back of the camera before you head out and give it a few gentle blasts from an air blower (you can pick these up for a few quid). Run a cloth to pick up any debris. This is how you prevent dirt, sand, dust and git getting stuck between the film transport and your film. Most people blame labs for scratchy negs. Most of the time it’s because their camera’s not clean.

Shooting on a 150mm lens needs a shutter speed of 1/250th or faster

Keep your shutter speed above your focal length: Blurry photos? Your shutter speed isn’t fast enough. The quickest, simplest way to avoid that – apart from using flash – is to keep your shutter speed “above” your focal length. Have a 50m lens on your camera? Shot at /60th or faster. A 135mm lens? Shoot at 1/250th or faster. If need be, load a faster film so you can use these speeds, or a lens with a wider aperture.

Use bright window light and you won’t need flash

Be aware of tungsten light: Most film is balanced for the colour of daylight – there were tungsten-balanced films available back in the golden days, but these are all now long gone. You might be lucky enough to find some on eBay occasionally, but these are likely to be well expired. Sometimes that orangey glow of light adds bags of atmosphere – think of the golden glow of candlelight and the feelings that can evoke. But the tungsten cast can be overpowering, especially for portraits. I tend to shoot indoor portraits black and white unless I can find a window, or I’m intentionally wanting to use that tungsten light.

Pushed black and white film adds bags of atmosphere under indoor lights

Be aware of tungsten light: Most film is balanced for the colour of daylight – there were tungsten-balanced films available back in the golden days, but these are all now long gone. You might be lucky enough to find some on eBay occasionally, but these are likely to be well expired. Sometimes that orangey glow of light adds bags of atmosphere – think of the golden glow of candlelight and the feelings that can evoke. But the tungsten cast can be overpowering, especially for portraits. I tend to shoot indoor portraits black and white unless I can find a window, or I’m intentionally wanting to use that tungsten light.

Get close – and then get closer again (Taken in Balat, Istanbul)

Get closer: Best piece of advice I ever got, from musician Chris Colbourn, who’s a cracking photographer – get closer. When you’re about to take a picture, stop – take a few steps closer, and recompose. That’s the single best piece of advice I’ve ever received. So many of my early shots were ruined by the vast amounts of empty space, and the point of the picture lost amongst it. Every time I go out to take pictures, it’s the piece of advice that still rings the loudest, wherever I am. I can’t guarantee that every pic is going to be a keeper if you keep to these rules, but they will help cut down on some of the common traps that it’s so easy to fall into. And shooting film should be fun, not frustrating.

 

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