It’s no secret that film has been making a major resurgence in the world of fashion photography over the last few years. Digital cameras may have been one of the great equalizers, providing whole teams with an instant look at what we were shooting and cutting down on “limitations” like frames per roll and development cost, but with more and more labs closing and more film stocks being discontinued, film is still coming back in a big way. The fact is, even our clients are beginning to ask if we shoot film and can possibly incorporate that into their shoots. And we couldn’t be happier to say yes.
Our roots are in film. Photography became a meaningful form of self-expression for us in the few years right before digital cameras became mass produced and available to people who didn’t have bottomless bank accounts. So what is it about film that has people so excited? For us, it’s truly a process. From making a specific selection on film stock to choosing a camera — 35mm, medium format, or even large format — these “limitations” inform how the look and work will progress. It refines our vision, which is a critical step for us as we ask “why” we’re creating something and what the mood and story attached is meant to convey.
Each time you look through the view finder, aware that you’re about to expose one frame to the light and environment in front of you, and knowing you won’t be able to see it immediately, a shift happens. You slow down in a meaningful way. You pay attention to the borders of your frame, you double check the background for annoying clutter, you triple check your model’s expression and the way her garments might be falling across her form, all things that you now acutely know need to be perfected before the shutter trips and the moment is physically recorded. Also, that little voice in the back of your head telling you how much it’ll cost to have a missed or flawed shot developed will make you try to get everything as in place as possible.
With film, we find that we tap into what it means to be photographers more and more. We slow down, we refine, we perfect — all habits that occasionally need to be reinforced as artists. Plus, nothing beats the excitement of pulling out a contact sheet to see a series of successful shots. Something that downloading from a memory card just can’t match.