If you’ve poked around my blog over the past few months, you’ll know I’ve been playing around with film! It’s been such a trip- I’ve learned way more than I ever knew possible. I’ve learned that Fuji 400H is my favorite film stock, that trying to shoot seriously without a light meter doesn’t really work for me, that medium format is my long lost sister, etc. etc. As I was working to integrate film more and more into my workflow with engagement sessions and weddings, it was causing quite a bit of… well, stress. I LOVED the images I was getting back from RPL, no doubt about it. But because I was editing my digital images immediately after a wedding or session, I was having to wait the additional 2-3 weeks to get my film back before I could deliver those images. And then there was the issue of the fact that my digital images and film images looked NOTHING alike. As it should be- they’re two totally different mediums. So I was either faced with giving my couples two different sets of images, throwing out the film ones, or going back and trying to re-edit the digital images to look more like the film ones.
I started playing around with the VSCO presets, actions for LightRoom that mimic the look of film for your digital images. I think I did alright for a while there, but something one day pulled me up short. I was looking back over my notes from WTAW and saw where I’d scribbled a few words describing my work- “organic, intimate, authentic, classic.” Those words are meant to be a litmus test for any decisions I make for my business- if I’m not sure whether or not to do whatever I’m considering, hold it up to those words. If it matches, I should be ok. If it doesn’t? It’s time to reconsider.
Film itself is organic, authentic, and classic, and my portrait style remains intimate. But me spending countless hours manipulating my digital images in post production to make them look like something else? To me, that’s not organic at all. When I describe my work as “organic,” what I mean is that I do minimal touch-ups to my images- that they’re clean, ready to be viewed without any heavy-handed editing. And as much as I love the look of film, unless I was ready to leave my digital work behind and go 100% film? It wasn’t allowing me to stay true to what I already loved so much about my work. Not to say that there’s anything at all wrong with editing your images with a little more of a heavy hand- for some people, that really works! But it doesn’t work for ME. I found that I was taking images that were beautiful in and of themselves and felt like I was ruining them with all of the processing I was putting them through. I managed to seriously stress myself out over it. “Matt: do you like this edited version of the photo? Or this one? A… or B? A… or B? One more time, A…” I really felt like I was having an identity crisis when it came to my work.
After months (and hundreds of dollars [and a lot of agonizing over photo edit A or B]), I think I’ve finally decided to keep film as my personal project. Because there’s no doubt about the fact that I absolutely love shooting it- it truly keeps me inspired, and I’ve loved every frame I’ve shot over the past few months! I certainly don’t count any of this time as wasted- I invested a lot of energy into something I grew to fall in love with, eventually came to decide shooting both isn’t the direction I want to take my business, and I truly believe I’ve come out as a better photographer. So while I most definitely won’t be selling my film equipment or giving away the boxes of film in my fridge, I am going to scale back to keeping it for personal work and the occasional inspiration session. Because frankly? I don’t think my clients deserve anything less than my best, and I know that now I’ll really be able to focus on giving that to them.