My Very First Film Session

I have come across a few people posting photos they’ve taken with film over the last several months, and though mildly impressed, I was a little confused as to WHY. Leave it to photographer Stephanie Bryan, who explained why she chose film during a Q&A at Insta Inspire Retreat, to convert the entire room in 5 minutes. I went home and bought a used Canon Rebel 2000 film camera on Amazon for $35 and some random rolls of film, and I was off! Little did I know there’s so much to learn about film stock, metering, rating, exposure, labs and how to choose one and communicate with them, etc! I was fairly certain my first two rolls I sent in were going to be either all white OR all black, and I wasn’t sure which! 

But the experience I had while TAKING this very first roll was worth it. I'll explain about that in a minute. 

When I finally got my scans back from Indie Film Lab, I might have shed a little tear. They were beautiful, despite my Fuji Superia 800 film 2 stops overexposed, my guessing without a light meter, and my not quite being sure how to focus my camera. I had just spent hours editing a session from a month before, and then these arrived and they were done. A couple needed straightening. I may have tried to get that 800 ISO grain under control a bit. But otherwise, no culling, no editing, no fretting. They were just...finished. 

I even find I LOVE photos I probably would have thrown away. There are some that might never have seen the light of day if I’d take 5 other almost identical shots, but I love them for their authenticity. 

Ok, so let's talk about that very first shoot. 

With digital, it’s not unusual for me to take hundreds of shots in just a few minutes, constantly looking at the back of the camera, trying to get the kids to do something again or something different. Then I am anxious to get inside, go through those hundreds of shots and find keepers. I’ll spend an hour or two editing and finally have 20-30 shots I love and will never do anything with besides post a few. In the meantime, I’ve missed my kids actually having fun and being kids. I do my best to just capture the moment and be there, but sometimes it’s just more about photography and that’s that.

So when Stephanie Bryan described this exact scenario and said it made her put down her camera for a long time, I think every mom in the room could relate. Then she explained how film fixed all of that.

I was skeptical, but I thought it would be a good challenge, so I jumped on board. Then one day when I was all set, and the light was beautiful and it was warm and summery, I threw some dresses on my girls and pulled their hair into messy ponytails and asked if they’d like to go to a meadow with me. We even decided to bring the dog.

What happened next was pure magic. When I saw something beautiful happening, I took a shot. One. I asked them to sit down for a bit and then just let them kind of talk and play and took a couple more. The dog ran around having the most fun and made them laugh. They hid in the long grass and enjoyed the summer air and being sisters. 

Then the roll (24 shots) was done. I didn’t have another camera—not even my phone. I couldn’t look at them or edit when i got home so there was no need to rush. So I sat, and they played, and I watched and played too. Magic, people. 

I sent in my film and waited (patience?!). When the scans arrived, they were beautiful. I didn’t wish there were more or that they were different. They were just “perfect.” Just like that. 

If that doesn’t make you want to try film, I don’t know what will. I’m not done with digital, but people, I’m pretty sold. Magic!!!