Do you know the secret ingredient when it comes to having photos with a gorgeous skin tone and beautiful aesthetics? The answer is film photography.
Yes, the old fashioned analogue film camera that we used back in our childhood and teen years. Well, you know what I am talking about if you were born before the 2000s.
But do you remember what photographing with film was like? Nowadays it is difficult to think back on a time when we did not have immediate access to the images we photograph in the back of the camera, or on our phones. Isn’t it? Back then we had to load a roll of film into the camera. Then, we needed to send that roll to the lab to be developed. And then, we would wait (sometimes anxiously) to pick up our photos. Unlike digital photography, film involves a process that requires patience and slowing down.
In this post, I’ll discuss why I combine film with digital during my family and baby photography sessions. Spoiler alert: because both of them combined will produce the best possible results when it comes to family photography, especially when working with little children.
When I was a kid, my dad got into photography. I remember his collection of lenses and professional cameras. He is a (retired) university professor of Geology, and at that time, he was using photography for his research work, especially during his field trips. Most of his photos were of rocks, occasionally of flowers. But he also loved to photograph our family. I remember playing with the film negatives for hours and hours. My dad had hundreds of them, neatly organized in his office. Once a year, he would borrow a projector, and we would have a photo night. Because he always saved the film negatives, he was able to project our photos on the wall. So we could watch our family story through photos taken over the years. Those photo nights are now one of my favorite childhood memories.
Growing up with professional camera gear, film negatives, and really nice photos of my childhood have instilled in me a love for film photography. There is something nostalgic about it that transports me back in time.
The reasons why film is so magical
Film produces a timeless aesthetic that digital cameras have not yet been able to fully reproduce. This means that your images will not only be beautiful now, but they will also be appreciated 50 years from now. This is especially true when it comes to colors.
Film yields a color palette with pastel hues that is simply stunning. And it captures skin tones in a very organic way. When it comes to color, the results with film are much more consistent than with digital. Also, film shines in good light. Film and natural light are a match made in heaven. It is like chocolate and strawberry, cake and a glass of champagne, sunshine and the beach. Film produces a luminous look to images. And it has more leeway in tricky light situations, such as full sun and backlighting. This allows more flexibility when it comes to shooting outdoors.
Film versus digital
I will give an example that compares the results from digital and film when the sun is bright and shining in the middle of the day. Image a child playing outdoor, with a full sun behind her. There is high contrast in light between the child’s face (shadow) and the sky (highlight). Although our eyes can perfectly see the details in both the child’s face AND the sky, cameras do not have the same capability.
When shooting with a digital camera, we need to choose whether to capture the child’s skin tone OR the blue sky. If we opt for capturing the sky color as it is, the child’s face will be dark. And if we choose to capture the child’s face (our usual option), the sky will lose all of its detail, and it will be white.
Film, in contrast, has a better capability of capturing both the skin and the sky. The resulting image looks truer to life than a digital image. Film gives more flexibility to shoot at any time of the day, regardless of how bright the day is. This is particularly helpful when photographing babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, because they are at their most happy and engaged in those hours where the sun is out and shinning.
Does this means that I only shoot film?
No. I decided to be what is called a “hybrid photographer”: shooting both film and digital.
Well, film is not perfect.
Film, in particular color film, is light hungry, which means that it performs very well when there is a lot of natural light available, but it struggles in low light situations, particularly indoors. Because my family and baby photo shoots take place mostly in the home, with short trips to the park or around the neighborhood, the use of a digital camera gives me the flexibility to capture moments that happen in low light without having to rely on flash.
To me, I don’t see film or digital as one is better than the other. I see them as complementary tools that allow me to capture family stories in a genuine and timeless way. So, during a family or baby photography sessions, I will have both my digital and film camera on me, and I will choose which one to use based on the light available and the type of moment that is unfolding in front of me.
Now, you might wonder how it would be possible for the images captured from a film and a digital camera to look similar, so the final set of images from a photoshoot look cohesive. Well, my refined, signature editing style allow me to match both nearly perfectly so you cannot tell them apart.
Here is the main takeaway
In the end, either film or digital cameras are merely tools that I use.
They are essential, yes. They play an important part in the aesthetics of my work, absolutely. But they are not everything. My work is more about storytelling and documenting families’ real love stories. It is about joy, love, adventure, connection, everyday life. And this part of the work has nothing to do with the gear, but everything to do with my values and beliefs, my personal experience as a mom and a wife, my technical ability to anticipate moments, to compose well, and to see the light. My ability to combine film with digital is simply the cherry on top of the cake, the added detail that allows my work to be unique and timeless.
The result to you? Natural skin tones, a stunning aesthetic to your images, and a one-of-a-kind photography experience.
Did I convince you to give film a try in your next family or baby photography session?