It’s been almost a year since I picked up a film camera after probably 10 years of organically shooting digital cameras and I “think” I’m starting to understand how it works.
I've shot a folder worth of rolls the past year and fell in love with the whole process. In fact it has opened avenues of photography that I had never fathomed before.
Film has helped me not only slow down, but understand the fundamentals which I always “thought” I had known, but had never really implemented before, simply due to the accessibility and convenience of technology in modern cameras which I was and still am lucky enough to be able to use.
In the past year, I have tried almost all popular Kodak film stocks, namely Portra 400, Portra 800, Trix 400, Kodak 160 and few more that I’ve ahot buit still haven’t developed. The above mentioned film stocks are one of the finest film stocks available and used by almost all professional photographers unlike myself. However, Kodak has consumer grade film stocks which are typically underrated and not very welcomed by professionals.
I wanted to try them not only out of curiosity of how they would result, but also because they cost alot cheaper! I picked up a few rolls of Kodak Ultra Max 400 and shot a test roll.
After I developed the photos and saw the negatives I was blown! The result turned out to be an unexpected series of one of my favourite photos on film so far!
For those curious, if any, the trick is to over expose the photos by two stops! Yes TWO STOPS!
This is not something that is spiritually revealed upon me, there are tonnes of blogs and videos and books about all of this but it is enlightening when the realization comes organically.
I used a Nikon F3 with a 28mm lens, and since the F3 is a semi-mechanical camera, it allows me to underexpose in two ways: (i) I set the ISO to 200 so that the light meter exposed for ISO 200 and (ii) set exposure composition to +1.
This means I told the light meter to read two stops slower than the correct reading, which would be according to ISO 400, in this case.
For example, I am shooting a scene at box speed (the film’s native ISO speed), ie. in this case ISO 400, the meter tells me that the correct exposure is F5.6 at 1/125th of a second.
Now if I change the ISO to 200 ,I am telling the meter to expose a stop slower, so it would assume that the correct exposure is F5.6 at 1/60 or F2.8 at 1/125.
So that’s one stop overexposed.
Likewise, if I set the exposure compensation to +1 it will futher slow down the meter reading, overexposing by 2 stops.
Now you can simple just set the ISO at 100 and achieve the same result, or if your camera allows, set the exposure compensation at +2 and achieve the same results.
I don’t know why I took the crooked way, but it has ingrained this concept in my brains.
Try it if you haven’t already. It might astonish you, like it did, me.
I won’t share the whole roll because it has photos of my family, but here are some of my personal shareable favourites!
Shot on the historical icon, Nikon F3.
Kodak Ultramax 400.