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March 26, 2014
Belle Lumière is beyond excited to introduce Brittney Zambrowicz, owner and photographer of Smitten Imagery. She is a crazy talented, Texas-based photographer who specializes in creating simple, honest portraits full of light. Brittney also recently started a side blog called Little Strides, Happy Adventures on Film. Of course Belle Lumière fell in love with this project, not just because it has everything to do with film, but because she also includes a section on education and photography tips. I absolutely love when another photographers are open to sharing and helping. It makes me love that person that much more. Being the amazing person Brittney is, she was kind enough to put together an educational article for those of you who are just starting your film journey or just feel a little stuck in the process. I know from experience the tips Brittney shared with us below completely changed the way I shoot film and the results I have had in return.
“You know how to work it yet?” a friend asked, nodding to my freshly unpacked Mamiya 645.
I sat beaming amidst a heap of Styrofoam peanuts. “I’ve been doing my research.”
In this case, “doing my research” meant ogling beautiful film photos, skimming a few articles, and hoping my digital photography knowledge would be much more helpful than it turned out to be. I understood the obvious differences between film and digital photography, just not how much I would need to change my shooting style when ditching my DSLR to work with a medium format camera.
Even after exposing properly using my in-camera light meter, I received many dark frames from my first film roll. I quickly realized I needed to technically overexpose my film to achieve the bright, sun-kissed look I love. Whereas overexposure of digital photos causes loss of detail, film retains detail in highlights impressively well. Whether you hope to flatter the skin of your subject or simply love the look of creamy tones, you can achieve beautiful results by overexposing your color film.
To overexpose your film, I recommend two easy techniques:
1. Rate your film at a nonstandard ISO
Each roll of film is manufactured at a certain ISO rating, or sensitivity to light. The higher a film’s ISO rating, the more sensitive it is to light and the less light required to properly expose a frame.
When you rate your film at a lower ISO than it was manufactured at, you are exposing your frames as if your film is less light sensitive than it is in actuality. Technically, this means you’ll be overexposing your roll. Different film stocks look better exposed at different ISO ratings, so it’s helpful to run a few test rolls of difference stocks at different exposures to see what look you prefer. For example, I find Fuji 400H can be overexposed more than Kodak Portra and still look gorgeous.
2. Use a handheld meter to expose for a dark part of your frame
If you want to gain even more control of your exposure, you can also use a handheld light meter. To ensure darker portions of your image are overexposed, meter light on a dark part of your frame and use this reading to expose your image in manual mode.
If you’re not ready to buy a pricey professional grade light meter, there are smartphone applications that measure light fairly accurately. Investing in an application or professional light meter will hugely increase exposure consistency of your frames.
Keep in mind there are other factors that will affect the tones in your images and overexposure doesn’t invariably equal dreamy tones. Below are a few examples of other things that influence the coloring of your frames.
Struggling with getting the look you are aiming for?
Not sure where to start when it comes to film??
Well Belle Lumière has you covered!! If you are looking to jump into film and want to skip the cost of trial and error that comes with self teaching (trust me it gets expensive when film is involved) then you will want our film guide “Your Film Journey!”
And we have a special just for you, since you did the digging to find this article. You can grab up “Your Film Journey” and become the film photographer you were born to be. You can grab it up for only $47, normally $97 & less then the cost of three rolls shot, processed, and scanned. Which it will save you!!