If you’ve been following my blog this year, you’ve noticed I’ve been chatting about film photography more and more. The more I’ve explored this medium, the more I’ve fallen head over heels in love with it. I love trying different cameras and I love slowing down to enjoy a new photographic process. It’s a welcome change of pace, and it’s no secret that one of my goals is to switch to film photography by 2014.
However, the question at hand is, how? How will I make this transition smart, smooth, and sensible for my business and my clients? I feel like there are a handful of photographers who are also asking this question–ready to switch, but aren’t sure how to go about changing things up so drastically. Resources for starting a photography business are readily available–but there’s not much on the topic of transitioning an already established business. I also feel like it’s important to share this journey with my current and future clients.
Today, I want to share my switch-to-film process, how it’s going, and where I am in the process.
Step 1: EXPLORE // For me, this happened last summer. I got my hands on a medium format film camera (specifically, a Mamiya 645) and I quietly began trying film, reading about film, and comparing film to digital. The point of this step was to see if I even liked working with film. If it wasn’t fun or fulfilling to me, I knew I’d just stick with digital. However, I fell in love with film! Bring on step 2.
Step 2: ANALYZE THE COST // Late last year, I began working out the cost of shooting and developing film for weddings. Honestly? It was an overwhelming number. Film is expensive, y’all. I realized it was time to get real about how film fits into my business. From this information, I decided that it’s best if I take a blended approach, 3/4 film + 1/4 digital. This brought the cost to a realistic place, and from there, I drew up a new business budget and new pricing. Since weddings are usually booked 6-12 months in advance, it was vital that I have this pricing guide ready to send as those 2014 inquiries start coming in.
Step 3: PRACTICE WITH FILM // This is where I’ve been since January (although steps 3-5 are pretty much all happening at the same time). I’m currently dedicating time to learning, reading, practicing, and honing my technique. There’s so much to explore! Lighting situations, different films, different cameras, etc. I’ve decided to spend about a year on this step, so that I can have a super strong foundation underneath me. I’m photographing lots of wedding styled shoots, personal work, and friends–and having so much fun doing it! SUPER IMPORTANT: A client’s session or wedding is NOT the time to experiment. However, this brings us to step 4…
Step 4: SHARE THE EXPERIENCE WITH CLIENTS // This may seem to contradict my last sentence, but I love bringing my clients into my creative process as much as possible, and sharing that excitement with them. Once I got basic film technique down, I started asking permission to shoot just a roll or two of film throughout their session. I started doing this at the end of last month, and it’s been so fun! Of course, I’m treating the film images as bonus photos–not the main product. And while I’m incorporating a little bit of film into their experience, my clients can still feel secure, knowing that they’ll get the digital service they booked me for. No way would I just spring something new on them after a contract was signed.
Step 5: CLEARLY COMMUNICATE THE SWITCH // As I mentioned before, I wouldn’t even dream of switching things up on a client who has already signed a contract. That’s just not right. So, it’s really important that future inquiries know what to expect from me–without a shadow of a doubt. I’ve simplified it down to this: 2013 = digital, 2014 = film. I’ve made sure there’s a clear line defining when digital ends and film begins, and I’m communicating it clearly, based on the date of each wedding inquiry. So now you know what to expect too, here on the blog! I’ll be posting more film images as the year goes on, but for the most part, the images you’ll see on the blog will be digital until 2014. :)
I hope this glimpse into my process has helped answer some questions you may have had. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to start discussing in the comments section. Thanks for coming on this journey with me! :)