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Lessons From Film and How to Apply Them to Digital Photography

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.



I shot film for well over thirty years and only very recently have begun using digital since one of my daughters got tired of waiting for the family pictures to be developed and surprised me with a Canon EOS 50 D.S.L.R digital 35mm camera.

Since all my old EF lenses do work on this new digital camera my transition has been rather smooth.

Besides the memory card not reading every few shots the pictures do come out real well and I do see the advantage of looking at the results on the spot and make any corrections right there and then.

With that said film taught me a lot. For one thing I had to push myself to make the next shot better, and the next one even better than the first one.

This in itself gave me the self confidence that I needed to know that every consecutive shot was made the best way that I possibly could.

So because I could not (like I do with digital) look at every shot after I pressed the shutter I had to rely on my knowledge and experience for every single shot.

Recognizing your skills and trusting in your ability can be transferred to your digital photography thus reducing the need or urge to constantly look at the LCD screen.

This saves time and effort plus lets you get ready for the next shot almost immediately, like I did when shooting film and still do every so often with my Canon EOS film camera.

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Another lesson I learned from shooting film was to get to understand my gear inside and out. I knew what I wanted to accomplish and once I decided on the settings I could recreate them over and over for every single shot.

Knowing you D.S.L.R well and knowing all that it is capable of achieving can lead to you recreate shots with your digital camera the same way as you do or did with film.

I knew what shutter speed I needed, what ISO or ASA was required and how to read the light even before I took the first shot. Rarely did I relied on the auto setting.

Instead, most of my shots were taken using the manual setting and this can also be used when shooting in a digital format. No need to constantly change settings or fiddle with the meter. Just set it and take your shot.

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CC0 Public Domain

By lacking the ability of seeing results on the spot I had to continually keep pushing myself to do better, not self doubting what I did, but how to do it better on the next shot and so on.

Even if I thought that my first shots were good, I kept on shooting ever striving to do better with each following image.

This can be applied to digital by not looking at the LCD after each shot. Instead focus on taking different images from different angles and using different perspectives. Be confident in what you are doing and try to improve each consecutive shot.

Make each count as if you did not know of the others ones you took before turned out.

The limitations of a film strip which commonly run up to 36 images per roll forced me to think before each shot and mentally do a composition to get what I wanted plus since each roll costs about $6.00 I had to also content with their cost plus the added expense of the developing. Most memory cards hold thousands of images so it literally cost you nothing to take as many pictures as you can.

Using film teaches one discipline. You plan each shot and account for everything since you cannot afford to be wasteful.

By trying to use a small memory card you apply the same concept as if you were using film. You learn not to be wasteful and you develop a more conscious approach to your picture taking experience. In other words you start to be more intentional.



Finally the best lesson that I have learned from film is to shoot more. I was never content to get a few shots of my subject and move on.

This was more often than not because I knew that I had done everything that I needed to do to get a great shot but there was always that "just in case" shot.

This did not mean that I took ten shots of the same subject from the same angle with the same lens.

This does mean that I tried every lens I possibly could, assumed every single position that I could think and "mentally " looked at my subject from every single imaginable perspective until I was satisfied I had photographed it every single conceivable way.

In other words I did not leave a shoot with a few pictures of the same subject in the same or very similar way. I left when I had more than ten pictures of the subject in various different ways thus assuring that at least some of my pictures would be uniquely satisfying.

When you are taking photos for someone who is paying you to take these pictures, you now face a challenge; do everything to satisfy the client or you might not get that client to hire you again. The costs of taking extra shots that you might not ever use is much less than the fees usually paid to a photographer for his or her work.

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CC0 Public Domain

© 2016 Luis E Gonzalez


Luis E Gonzalez (author) from Miami, Florida on July 20, 2016:

Mike: Don't really know what you mean by lense. But lens can either be written as lens or lense depending on where you live. If you mean do film lenses fit on digital cameras, on Canon they do. All the lenses I have now are EF which are the lenses that were made by Canon to be used in their film cameras and they work great on my digital gear. Canon seems to have developed their digital cameras with this in mind.

Mike on July 20, 2016: