Film photography is very much art, there’s lots to see and learn: with time, effort and dedication a photographer can create some amazing images that tell a story. With film photography the saying ‘pictures speak a thousand words’ really becomes a truth.
Today, Ronan Guillou a photographer from France tells us about his experiences with film photography, shares some of his images and offers us some great hints and tips to get the most out of shooting film.
Enjoy, Lars Fiedler
Shooting film by Ronan Guillou, France
I’ve been shooting with Kodak negative colour films since I started working as a professional photographer in 1997. Using film doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t want to go with digital. I consider both mediums have their place in photography, depending on the fields of application. For my commissioned works, clients expect an immediate view of what is being shot. Fair enough: digital photography is great for this use. It also allows me and the team I work with to check quickly if what we’ve been doing sticks with the brief.
As for the artistic work, I don’t need to instantly see what I just shot. I believe photographers know what they do at the very moment they take a photograph. Above all, what I aim at is high flexibility and freedom in the way I work. The camera I’ve been using for years is a medium format Hasselblad 501cm, mounted with an 80mm lens. My favourite film is Kodak Portra 400/120. That film is just great; it fits perfectly with my expectations.
What I like about using film with a medium format camera, especially Kodak Portra 400/120:
– Photographing with film doesn’t require any batteries or connections whatsoever with the camera I use. That particular point gives unlimited autonomy on my trips, which I definitely appreciate. The only battery needed for my work is for the light-meter travelling with me.
– I don’t have to upload pictures daily on a computer, then on a second back-up hard-drive.
– If needed, I can shoot fast without constraint.
– Using medium-format films provides very high resolution results.
– You can speed up Kodak Portra 400 to 800 or 1600 ISO.
– Film is stable, flexible and has great latitudes. In case of wrong exposures, you still have a chance to save your shots.
– Kodak Portra gives consistent and accurate colours, with beautiful and almost invisible grain when it comes to large prints.
– Once they’ve been processed, films are easy to keep safe and easy to archive, with an infinite lifetime.
– They can handle very high or very low outdoor temperatures.
– You don’t want to waste films, which means you need to keep focused on what you do and shoot only when your soul or instinct tell you to do so.
– Exposed correctly, films capture highlight and shadow details in some situations that digital struggles with.
– I think the rendering of the depth of field with film looks great.
Few tips on using film:
– Most of the time, I use Kodak Portra 400 at its standard rating. Then I ask the lab to push the film at plus one half stop in the process. It brings a slight contrast to the film and makes it a little punchier.
– Or you could rate the Portra 400 at 250 ISO, and process it “normal” at the lab.
– If you have enough room in your fridge, I recommend you store your films in it so they can live a bit longer than the expiration dates.
– It’s better being on the over-exposed than on the under-exposed side.
– Just as for digital, I recommend you organise a back-up with scanning the negatives of your main photographs (in case of unfortunate accidents such as fire or robbery).
– Find a good lab to process your films, and then find a good printing lab. As I live in Paris, Publimod is processing my negatives, and Mupson Lab is doing the prints on the enlarger. I get my films scanned at Picto or Dupon. I believe it’s important to have a close relationship with your lab(s).
– I try to keep in mind the number of frames I have left in the film back.
– Though I know it’s riskless, I always ask my films to be hand-checked instead of going through the X-rays before boarding on a plane.
– Once in a while, I check my camera gear on slow speeds before loading a new roll, so I know if my equipment works properly (speed and f shutters). I had a bad experience one day – the speed shutter was jammed, and I kept shooting for one week without knowing about it – and I don’t want it to happen again!
– Lastly, I’d say taking a good photograph is not related with the ability to see it right after you shot it!