One thing I like about film photography is how it’s slowed me down while I’m out shooting. However, one thing I don’t like is how it’s slowed me down in producing blog posts for this site.
Not wanting to waste shots and rolls not only makes me more cautious when I’m out but also makes me not want to go out if the light is less than stellar.
I was lucky enough to have a nice and bright morning recently and so took the Yashica Electro 35 out. The main aim was to use up the Kodak ColorPlus 200 that I’d half-shot on this spot of UrBex so I had something to post on here.
And now I find myself without a great deal to say about the photos themselves. So we may as well explore how they were made. I think that could be useful whether you want to shoot something similar or not.
Light first, object second
The most memorable piece of advice I ever heard about photography was the subject of a photograph is always the light. You might not agree and that’s fine. But let’s at least explore why.
I’m talking here with the idea the subject of your photograph is like its theme. It’s the thing you want people to notice the most. You’ll have physical objects too. But the light is always the subject.
You could be shooting the most mundane physical objects. I’ve seen lots of apples in my lifetime. Plenty of hills. Countless human faces. And you can still make fantastic photographs of them all with good light.
Conversely, you’ll struggle to make a great photograph of the most interesting object in the world, whatever that may be, if the light is bad.
Put simply, an average object in good light usually makes for a more aesthetically-pleasing photograph than an interesting object in poor light.
This means it’s good to look for the light first and the physical object second.
Going fishing on the street
There’s a way of shooting street photography that’s been around since the days of the genre’s originators. It’s known as the fishing technique.
You may already do this. If you’re anything like me, you may be doing it without knowing about it. By the time I found out it was a time-honoured way of shooting, I’d already just been doing it anyway. Because of this, I know it must be a simple concept, and also one that works.
You’ll often see people talk about hunting in regards to their street photography. If you’re doing some candid street portraits and only care about the faces, that’s a fine way to look at it. Bruce Gilden has done better for himself than I will.
Personally though, I like to go fishing. To set a hook or net and let the subjects come to me. I’m not saying it’s better. It’s just a stylistic thing. I prefer this process and the results I get from it.
In street photography terms, fishing means framing a scene, ensuring you have a good background and foreground, waiting for your subject to enter it, and then shooting.
That’s what I did for these photographs, with the first step being to find that good light. If you’re fishing, you have time to do that, so try your best to do so.
Find well-lit scenes, frame your shots ahead of time, and wait for people to enter them.
Aim for the eye contact
Once you’ve found your light, framed a good scene, and have someone actually in it, when should you shoot?
When I was doing my #leesixtyfive project with a digital camera, the answer to that was pretty much until they’ve gone. And then to wait for the next person to come and shoot them until they’ve gone too. And to repeat until I had a few to choose the best from later.
The best, which is subjective, was almost always one with eye contact. But because I don’t want to impose myself on anybody in the street or call out to get their attention, getting eye contact means waiting until someone is curious enough to look at you.
When you’re shooting film, you don’t have the luxury of continuous shooting. Not unless you want to burn through rolls and rolls (of cash as well as film). So you have to be patient, selective, and ready to shoot when someone does look.
Like it or not, you also need to have a slice of luck. When it happens though, the eye contact is the final piece in the process of my favourite shots from this half a roll of ColorPlus 200.
The ones posted already didn’t have it. The ones below do. I’ll let you decide which you prefer. You might not like any.
Remember you won’t make every shot
It’s also important to remember that not every shot will work.
The final two here didn’t. Not for me, anyway. Showing photographs that are below par isn’t the most fun thing to do but it might help you in some way to see that shots don’t always work.
Coming back with a few duds is all part of going out and shooting so don’t feel bad when it happens to you. Remember this, though. Coming back with 18 keepers and 18 in your recycle bin is better than having 36 still unexposed on your roll.
I tried to work with the row of red signs on the first of mine here and thought the red background with the light and shadow could give something to the second. Neither came off, in my opinion.
The umbrella one is pretty terrible actually. With eye contact, maybe they would have been better. But then again, maybe not.
Using the process to be productive
This felt like one of the most productive sessions I’ve had shooting film.
When I was shooting for that aforementioned #leesixtyfive project, I was concerned with the quality not dropping too much throughout the year and bringing the whole thing down. This made me more selective in what I’d consider worth shooting.
Previous film street photography sessions also took me longer to get through the film, as I was being more cautious. This single roll was shot over three whole days, if I remember correctly.
With the shots in this post, I had neither the pressure of them contributing to a larger project nor the overarching story of a trip essay to tell. I could shoot them free and easy. That meant I just followed the process outlined earlier to keep things as simple as possible.
Look for the light first. Then frame a shot and wait for someone to enter it (and the light). If you’re lucky enough to get eye contact, shoot.
Not every shot will come off, but remember it’s better to have a few that did than none shot at all.
It’s worth saying this too… that I realise you might not even do street photography. If not, think how you can apply this post to whatever it is you do shoot.
The pecking order of light –> composition –> physical object is always worth knowing. You can employ it with plenty of styles of photography, with whatever it is you shoot.
- 4 rolls of Kodak color plus 200 Asa 36 exposure
- 35mm film
If you enjoyed that post on using the light first, why not take a look at these others to stay inspired or learn more about the Kodak Colorplus 200 film I used here:
- Comprehensive review of this inexpensive Kodak film
- Shooting some more colour film street shots
- What I shot with the first half of this film roll
And if you think others will enjoy this post too, why not help them find it by giving it a share? 😀