Stick With A Format

I recently worked on a portrait project where, in the course of discussions with the subject, it was decided that I would shoot on both film and digital formats. I will never agree to that again.


When I’m shooting portraits, I like to get into a groove and be in the moment, focusing on my subject, the lighting, etc. - anything other than my equipment. To do so requires that I know the settings on my camera at all times and make adjustments to those settings to ensure accurate exposure for the look I seek. Those changes, because I know my camera well, are almost second nature, requiring little thought. It’s almost muscle memory and the equipment just fades away while I focus on the subject. It’s a lot like when I ski deep powder; my skis become simply an extension of my feet as I slightly shift my weight without even thinking about it.

I blew that whole concept up when I agreed to shoot both film and digital in the same shoot. It may have even been my idea. If so, I’m an idiot. By switching between formats throughout the shoot, I became focused on my equipment. There’s quite a difference between a Fuji X-Pro1 and a Mamiya TLR with manual controls. Perspective is different. I have to accomodate for ISO differences. Aperture settings are vastly different between 6x6 medium format and an APS-C digital sensor. Now which film is loaded - Fuji Pro400h or Kodak Portra?

My focus was pulled away from the subject of my photograph and onto my cameras. As a result, the photographs are “meh”. The people I photographed like them enough, but I can’t stand them. I can tell they are lacking in “vision” and don’t flow together.

Next time, I’m going to focus on one format - film or digital. I’m not going to switch between formats for each pose, but instead will stick to one for extended periods of time or - even better - for the entire shoot.