How Shooting Film is Helping Me Improve My Photography

Why film? This year I hit a point in my photography where I had learned a great deal, but I realized that I needed something to challenge me. After seeing Chris Gampat shoot film and reading about the form, I finally decided to take the plunge. It felt like a fine way to refine my photography. The first roll, which recently got developed, came out better than expected. The camera, a used Nikon N2020 from B&H, worked much better than expected. It was an interesting learning experience. Film is not dead. It has been re-purposed for shooting when I want to slow down and wander the city looking for arty images. Which one do I prefer? For speed, convenience, and cost, digital. For getting back to the roots of photography, film.

On the camera I chose

I first thought about shooting medium format, but then decided to work with gear compatible with my digital gear. The Nikon N2020/F501 SLR is something I bought because of its features. It works with the F mounts lenses I use with my Nikon D90. When it originally came out, the Nikon N2020 was a decently priced entry-level film camera with dual auto focus. Since it isn’t too advanced, the was familiar enough for me as a digital user to get the hang of it.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D

For my first foray in to SLR film photography, I chose the 50mm because I am comfortable with it, and I have only used it digitally. The Nikon 50mm 1.8D has an aperture ring, which I needed for this camera. It was amazing on the N2020.

Shooting & Developing

I took my time with the Kodak Gold 200 because I did not want to waste any frames. From research, I knew this Kodak film would give me great color and sharpness. The camera and film worked well together. I tried to shoot almost everything that I would with my DSLR: landscapes, street shots, plants, and even a cup of coffee. This all helped me to get a good feel for the gear. Frankly, I did not decide on a proper film developer though as I went to a basic local printer. Prints in hand, I was amazed all the images developed. I questioned my knowledge and found it tough not being able to look at the image right away.

Digital spoils you with that ability.

What I have learned from film

The slower you proceed, the more you see. I worried about: what to shoot, what I actually wanted to shoot, and the cost of it all if I messed up. The slightest mistake will waste a frame. Film forced me to put more thought into my shots; I couldn’t go shutter-crazy. My inability to see the shots immediately drove me mad at times. I remember a story by Art Wolf on when he was in the Himalayan Mountains and had to wait until he got home to see what he shot. This made me want to get everything right in camera the first time. This inspired me to do this more with my digital photography as well. Film teaches patience which gave me the ability to really observe the grandeur of the world around you.

Here are some more film shots.

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Gevon Servo

Gevon Servo aka @GServo is an eclectic, NJ/NY Photographer. He’s a Nikon shooter, by choice nevertheless, will always test any piece of photography equipment. He believes that like ‘Photography’, ‘Coffee’,’Beer’ and ‘Comics Books’ and other things ‘Geek’ “You must try everything once to discover what you want to try again.