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Tag Archives: family portraits

Personal: Why Film?

long island wedding photographer

It’s been a while since I’ve done a personal post on the blog so I figured I would share my thoughts on something that has been important to me both personally and professionally….shooting film. If you’re reading this and you’re a Facebook friend, you’ve probably seen photos of my vast collection of film cameras (~ 25 or so at last count) along with the hundreds of film images I’ve posted there. If you’re not a Facebook friend you need to get on board, because you’re really missing out on some good stuff.

“Why film?”

That’s a question I get asked pretty often. Many people are surprised to hear that film still exists and are even more surprised to hear that there are people that still shoot it. I’m here to tell you that film is indeed still alive. Let’s face it: We live in a digital age where everything is instant. You can snap a photo with your phone and have it online for the world to see in a matter of seconds. I know, I’ve done it. Even though I use digital cameras for my professional work, I rarely leave home without taking at least one of my film cameras along for the ride. Just about all of my personal shooting is done on film. Whether it’s people or still life, I tend to shoot things that are vastly different from my wedding work.

“Why film?”

I can tell you that I practically grew up with it. I shot and developed my first roll of film when I was 11 or 12 years old in my 5th grade teacher’s darkroom. My teacher Mr. James Paley invited a few of his students and our parents over to his home.  We shot some film and developed it in his darkroom. We each made a darkroom print to take home with us (digital printing didn’t exist back in those days). That was my very first exposure to film developing. I have no idea where that print is now, but the feeling of being hands-on throughout the creative process has never left me. It’s followed me all of my life. I’ve always been a very hands-on person. I’ve built car engines from scratch. I’ve built computers from scratch. In fact, the computer I’m blogging from right now was built from scratch a couple of years ago. The aquarium system we have at home sits on a stand I built (from scratch) and is filtered by a filter system I built myself….yep, from scratch. You get the point. Shooting and developing my own film is as gratifying as anything I’ve done. To be hand-on with the process from the time the shot is taken to when the film is developed and the negatives are scanned is what excites me.

“Why film?”

I feel that shooting as much film as I do for personal projects has really helped change the way I shoot digital for my professional work. That’s a huge deal for me.  I tend to shoot less because I’m more confident of my ability to get the shot I want the first time around. I’m not using the unlimited “ammunition” of the digital camera as a crutch. I see things better and I’m more thoughtful about the subject matter and the timing of my shots. I don’t really waste shots, even though the option to do so is still there. My mindset has changed to the point where I see and approach things differently. I’ve honed my focus to look for and shoot things that are meaningful. That is the main focus when I shoot weddings and shooting film has played a big part in that.

Here’s a small sampling of some of the film images I’ve taken over the course of the past year or so. Every one of these images was shot by me and developed at home lab…..the kitchen sink.

Enjoy…

long island film photographer
long island film photography
long island film photographer
long island film photographer
long island film photography
long island film photographer

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The McGuirks – Family Portraits

I had the opportunity to spend some time with the McGuirks this past weekend when we got together for their family shoot. What a fun group of people to be around. With so much laughing and wise-cracking going on, it’s a wonder we got anything done. They eventually put on their game faces and settled down long enough to capture some really nice images of the family. 

long island photographer
long island photographer
long island wedding photographer
long island wedding photographer
long island photographer

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Fun With Film – Long Island Wedding Photographer

When I started in photography, everything was shot exclusively with film cameras. I guess part of the reason was the fact that there was no such thing as a digital camera…..they hadn’t been invented yet. Yep, we’re talking back in the Stone Age where people would actually get up and walk over to the television to change the channel. Imagine that! Film was all we had back then and that’s how I learned photography. I wasted a LOT of film making mistakes along the way, but I know it helped me to become a better photographer. Unlike digital photography where a bad photo just gets deleted, I had to pay to develop the entire roll, whether the photos turned out good or not. Since we didn’t have any fancy software like Photoshop to “fix” things, the emphasis was on getting it right in the camera. It took a while to get consistently good results, but the hard work paid off. That turned out to be the foundation for what I do today. I’m not one to shun technology…..I’ve embraced it as much as anyone. I just take pleasure in knowing I can use that same basic knowledge acquired years ago and apply it to today’s equipment.

The one thing I haven’t done since I was in high school was develop my own film. I didn’t have a darkroom or access to one, so I had to send the film out in mailers to get it developed or have it done at a local lab. Living in New York was great because there were plenty of places that developed film. It was a lot easier and much more cost effective have it developed than to rent out darkroom space, buy chemicals, and develop film. With the advent of digital cameras, I got away from shooting film. Even though I don’t need film anymore, there was something about it that I missed. Just like an audiophile that enjoys the sound of an album (yes, I have a turntable and albums too), I was missing the look, the grain, and the ‘feel’ of film. I would still shoot film from time to time, but something else was missing.

Just recently I got the itch to develop my own film at home. I discovered that it doesn’t require a fully equipped darkroom. There’s minimal equipment, minimal space, and a minimal amount of time needed for home developing. So what did I do now that I was armed with this information? I loaded up the camera with some film, picked up the necessary supplies, shot and developed my own film! I feel like a kid on Christmas Day. What’s changed is that I can now use modern technology to complete the process. Once the film is developed, I just use a scanner designed for film negatives and scan them onto the computer. At that point the images are completely digital and can be treated like any other digital file. I can process and edit the images just like a digital image produced by my digital camera bodies. Even though there’s a digital component, the ‘feel’ of the film is still there.

Here are the first images from my foray into developing film at home. I hope you like them…

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Joel Smith -

I miss film!!!