Here’s what I love about film: It’s SIMPLE.

As photographers, I believe we tend to overcomplicate things while shooting. We overthink our settings, our styling, our approach. One thing I’ve learned in my almost 10 years of being a professional photographer:

Simple is best.

So I’m going to boil it down for you: these 5 simple steps are really all you need to know when shooting in film!

Step One: Rate your film.

Make sure the film speed in your camera is properly set with your light meter settings BEFORE you begin shooting. Every film photographer does this differently, but here’s how we do it: we always cut our light meter ISO in half of the film speed. For example, when shooting with 400 Film, we set our light meter to 200. Why? It allows for the film to be slightly overexposed to get that bright and dreamy look! (PS. You don’t have to do anything with the ISO settings on your film camera. That is for the purpose of your internal camera’s light meter. Since we use an external light meter, we don’t even worry about the setting on our camera!)


Step Two: Use your light meter to determine your camera settings.

Hold the light meter right up against your subject, preferably in the shadiest spot, pointing the bulb directly at the spot you’ll be shooting. Click the button to meter, and you’ll be given the exact recipe that your camera needs for a perfect exposure! It will tell you how to set your shutter and aperture, and then you set your camera accordingly without putting any thought in it. You don’t need to change the settings again in your camera until the light changes, or your position changes. Your camera’s ready to go! This is wonderful because it takes the thinking completely out of it, and you can focus on your creativity.

Step Three: Frame up your composition.

Now that your camera is set and ready, look through the viewfinder and frame up the composition of your image.


Step Four: Focus.

This is a given, but I had to include it. Focusing with film can take some practice, especially when shooting at f2 or f2.8! Be sure you take a deep breath and take the time to focus your image.


Step Five: Take the shot!

This is the fun part where you hear that magical shutter click!


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What light meter do you use?

Sekonic L-385!

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