MERCED -- Film, remember that stuff? Many of you that are under 25 have probably never even used a film camera.
I am here today to tell you that if you are serious about photography, learning to use a simple 35 mm SLR film camera on manual exposure mode could help you to become a much better digital photographer.
Film forces you to slow down and think about what you are doing to make a good exposure, which is one of the cornerstones of great photography. Film also teaches you to make a better connection with your subject as you can spend time concentrating on them instead of your camera monitor.
With film you don't have the crutch of looking at the monitor on the back of the digital camera each time that you make an image.
A lot of digital photographers just shoot and look. If it looks too dark or too light on the monitor, they just spin the dials for the F stop and shutter speed until it looks right on the monitor.
There are several big problems shooting this way. First, if you shoot four images of the same thing, say a portrait, to get one good exposure, sure enough the three bad exposures will always be the ones with the best expressions. In the one good exposure, the person's eyes will be closed.
It happens every time. But if you have learned to make a perfect exposure every time that you press the shutter release, you will have doubled or tripled your chance of making a great portrait.
The second problem with looking at your monitor each time you take a picture is that you are taking your eyes off of your subject and not shooting.
I recently attended a performance by some young people. There was a person there taking pictures and he moved the camera away from his eye with every shot to have a look. Each time that he did that, he possibly missed a great expression or moment that will never happen again. By knowing that you have made a correct exposure, you can keep shooting and not miss a thing.
The third problem with relying on the monitor and not your skill is that the monitor is not always accurate.
If you are in a dimly lit area photographing the image on the monitor will look bright but in reality you could be underexposed. On the flip side, if you are outdoors on a bright day, the monitor may look dark leading you to believe that you need to increase your exposure when in fact it might have been perfect.
I know a lot of new photographers don't worry much about creating good exposures with the thought that "I can fix it later in Photoshop."
Let's take photographing a wedding as an example of that mindset. I will shoot anywhere from 700 to 800 images at a typical five-hour shoot. If my exposures are off, that is a lot of time sitting at my computer fixing them. If my exposures are way off, they won't ever look good no matter how much time I put into working on them.
Now I am not advocating that you sell your digital camera and revert back to film. Digital capture is awesome and there are many benefits of digital over film.
But you can buy an inexpensive used film camera for as little as $50. If you really want to have some fun, shoot black and white film. Nothing beats the look of black and white prints from film.
Locally the Merced Multicultural Art Center has a black and white film group that meets once a month. The art center also has a very nice darkroom. Call (209) 388-1090 for more information.
Merced College also offers two or three basic photography classes a semester using black and white film.
As an alternative to shooting with film, you can tape a piece of black paper over the monitor on your digital camera. Then force yourself not to peek until you are done shooting. That will force you to hone your basic photography skills.
Contact Jay Sousa at firstname.lastname@example.org.