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Film, Not Digital, General Stuff, Theory n Technique, What Makes a Photograph

What Makes a Photograph #5


It’s been a while since my last post in this series! I started it out as a ‘weekly’ sort of thing…guess that didn’t quite work out, on schedule at least…but anyway, here’s the next shot up for discussion

This picture is one that I took on film, on one of the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. You don’t HAVE to use film to get a shot like this, but if you like everything about this shot…including the slightly grainy texture, the exact black and white tones, stuff like that…I find that film is the only way to get this look.

Ok, as I captured this on film, note that the photo shown here is exactly how it was shot i.e. no major editing or anything of the sort, as I find that to really defeat the purpose of going old-school with film. Not that you CAN’T edit film shots these days…once it’s scanned, it’s exactly like a RAW digital image…in fact, it then IS a RAW digital image…and you can edit it a fair deal…however, to keep with the old ways of film, I keep my film scan editing down to the basics, the stuff that was used even back in the old darkroom days i.e. contrast/exposure/color correction; and as my scanner is not one of the $50,000 ones, I need to sharpen the pictures a bit too. Anyway, I never overdo any of these, and I try to keep both the natural element of the original shot in there, as well as maintain the look of that particular brand of film

Yes, as I mentioned in my other post on Film Photography, using different brands of film can make a big difference to your results, as each has their own sort of look and feel…their signature, if you will. That makes a noticeable difference. This particular shot was taken on my all-time favorite black and white film: Fuji Neopan Acros 100. It’s got super fine grain, the grey tones are just beautiful…and, well…I can’t quite describe it in words but it just works great for me. Other films I’ve tried would have looked very different, and probably not as good, so yeah…using the right film really helps

Alright, I took this shot on my Nikon FM2n, and my old Nikkor 50mm f1.8 lens. I was about to mention the exposure settings I used, but I just realized that film doesn’t store EXIF data, and as my memory is not good enough to recall exposure settings for every single film shot I’ve taken, I’m afraid I have no idea. I usually shoot street photographs with an aperture of f4.0, and this was shot on ISO 100 film, so I definitely used a shutter speed that works with all that…but that’s about all I can mention on the exposure!

The shot itself is all about timing – it always is in street photography – timing is always key. A second earlier and the two people in the shot would’ve not yet left the sidewalk…a bit later and they would’ve been out of focus, probably…and a bit too close to the frame, cutting out the area of the street that I wanted to show…and even later than that and I would’ve missed them completely. Also, at that particular moment, the person on the left of the frame looked to her left for incoming traffic…and that really tells the story I wanted to tell with this shot. And as you just cannot predict or plan for that sort of thing, the timing in street photography is as much luck as it is anticipation and planning. You need luck

The composition is simple…basically Rule of Thirds, isn’t it? But here again, I want to mention how much the use of film cameras and prime lenses has taught me over the time I’ve been using them, and how it helps you make a better shot out of a scene like this. With prime lenses, you really have to work for your composition – and shooting on film, you never know what you’re going to get, so you always tend to concentrate (I always want to say ‘focus’, but that might be misleading) a lot more before pressing the shutter button. In this shot, I was on the other end of the fairly narrow street, so I had some empty space to work with. If I had a zoom, I would’ve got a closer crop, and maybe that would’ve worked better…but I think the way this shot uses the space, with the subject looking towards that end of the frame, and all that, just works. For me, at least. I also got down on my haunches to get a better perspective…the low angle works quite well too, and is far better than it would’ve looked if I took it at normal eye level

Apart from timing and composition, I find the side lighting works really well in this case – see how the light shines across the picture from left to right? It gives quite a bit of depth and texture to the shot – I’ll explain more about using light in your photographs very soon – and definitely adds interest

I also like the exposure, and how the bright space on the right side works with the darker tones of the subjects – and as I already mentioned, the way this Fuji film type depicts those tones are really fantastic

So I think that just about wraps it up. I had to go on a bit extra there as this was the first in the series that discusses a film photo, and as I know most of you probaby have never (or rarely) used film, I thought it’d be best to give a quick intro about it. If you want to know more about film photography, there’s another post on my blog all about it, check it out. But for this shot, that’s all…that’s it for #5 in this series. Have a nice day!

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By Heshan Jayakody
All content here is my own

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Discussion

5 Responses to “What Makes a Photograph #5”

  1. I really enjoy your posts. Love the fact you still shoot with film. There is certainly a look there that can’t be replicated.

    Posted by Paul Cahill | June 2, 2012, 18:45
  2. interesting post – i enjoy shooting film, this is a nice shot!

    Posted by Shane | August 30, 2012, 15:41

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