Tab Guide: Taking Photos with Film

Natalia Molina-Harno teaches you how to use film cameras. Properly.

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In the digitalized era we live in, everything seems to be happening so quickly.

Trains zoom by, deadlines loom closer and before you know it, it’s that time of year again and the sun is setting at four o’clock. In a world of such pace sometimes we need to remember to stop and smell the roses. Nowhere more so then when you’re looking through your camera’s viewfinder.

Instinct nowadays seems to be to capture everything; every moment, every detail, every pixel. Film offers an alternative to the rush and technology of digital cameras: it doesn’t expect anything from you; no batteries, barely any maintenance, only that once in a while you pick it up and see the world through it’s eye. Here are ten of my ideas for what to look for through your film camera.

1. Capture movement


Stand in a busy roundabout and watch people go by. This picture was taken in the place de la Bastille in Paris, one of the busiest in the city, on a summery afternoon. I love the girl biking in the foreground; confident and dynamic and above all, so Parisian.

2. Get up close and personal

A mailbox, an everyday object, yet one which few people stop to consider when sending their post. The red seems so vibrant in this close up, it makes the object come to life.

3. Visit forgotten places

I took this in the abandoned Tempelhof airport in Berlin, once used for airlifting supplies to Berliners, now a large park where families have weekend picnics and rollerbladers wiz by you, the sound of German techno blasting in their ears.

4. Try other kinds of cameras

I tend to prefer my Pentax 35mm camera with no zoom because it takes such high quality and at the same time forces you to adjust your angle to take the picture. But this year I started trying out a Fisheye: though it may not be the perfect camera for every occasion it is really fun to experiment with.

5. Snap people in the moment

People photography is an art (and level of bravery) that I haven’t quite mastered yet. But no matter; taking pictures of unsuspecting muses is just as exciting. Subtlety is key, and since there’s no on/off button on a film camera you’ve already got a head start.

6. Explore the play of light through the camera


I am a big fan of sunlight rays popping up in my pictures and whenever I get a roll developed they’re is a very high chance at least 60% of the pictures will involve some form of this. But grabbing the sun on film and getting those wonderful specters of light across your picture is so hit-and-miss it’s (almost) adrenaline-inducing and highly irresistible.

7. Give different kinds of film a shot

Like trying new kinds of cameras, except cheaper. They’re is no commitment when it comes to film (“Yay!” I hear you commitment phobes shout), you can change film from roll to roll. I once tried this greeny film which gave really cool pictures but required a lot of light. There are also many chrome purple ones or infrared which require special treatment. Black and white is also an interesting one to work with as you really have to try and picture what the picture will look like-a tricky mission.

8. Bring things in and out of focus


Another favourite for me, as pictures with no focus can seem very flat so using focus to your advantage is big. This photography is one of my favorites and really accentuates the use of focus, bringing the perfectly flawed beauty of the rose into the foreground, though it can also be really interesting to use it more subtly.

9. Look down


With everything going on around you, don’t forget to be different and look down. Amid the dirt and grime you might just find a flash of color and note of beauty.

10. Photograph the observer instead of what’s being observed


Again, enjoying a film camera is all about finding the interesting shot. It isn’t about photographing every second of what every one is photographing every single second of: it’s about seeing what no one else is seeing. This was taken on the steps in from of Sacré Coeur while everyone was watching a performance artist climb up a lamp post.

When using film, you have to make every picture count. Open your eyes to a world full of pictures just waiting to be seen. And most importantly, try to put a bit of yourself in your pictures, it makes all the difference.