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.

Happy Thursday!


Decisions on film

December 13, 2012

  1. Thank you for this post!!!! 🙂

  2. Rebekah Hoyt says:

    Abby, I love that you’ve been so open with your journey through film! It takes a strong person to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, what makes you the best as an artist and also what the best is that you can offer your clients. Thank you for sharing this with all of us! I am looking forward to seeing more personal projects and inspiration shoots on film 🙂

  3. Rachel Ziegler says:

    I love your work in film! So whenever you get the urge to play around with film I will whip up some flowers and you can bring out your film equipment and BAM you can shoot in film 😀

  4. Ali w says:

    What a cool process you went through! Adam Barnes shot my wedding and delivered a ton of different looks because he shot so many different kinds of film [and digital] and that is why I hired him. But he is an “artistic” wedding photographer. I expected to come out with pieces of art, not a catalog of images who’s style all matched. I can see why you came to this decision and it’s totally right for you! If you ever want to have a inspirational film shoot let me know – I’d love to play too!

  5. Jessica Fike says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I, too, started playing around with film this past summer because I love the idea and look of film. But it’s a lot of work and those images don’t at all match up with my digital images. So I was stuck. Continue with my film journey and try to include it in my business as best as possible? Or just keep it as something “fun” to do for myself and learning purposes? I think it’s clear that I need to go with the second option for very similar reasons that you’re experiencing. Hearing that you’re going through something similar is reassuring to me…so thanks. 🙂

  6. I, too, dabbled with the VSCO presets, but after editing an entire engagement session with them, they looked NOTHING like my normal work. I don’t have the guts to jump into film just yet (hopefully in the near future!), but like you, it would be a personal project.

  7. Michelle says:

    Thanks for sharing! I think all your images are stunning 🙂

  8. […] when I still felt like I was trying to nail the rhythm of my digital work/workflow. So I wrote this blog post to make it official- film was just going to be my personal […]

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