Love at First Click

I self-taught using digital cameras, and until last month hadn’t held a film camera in my hand since high school. And I don’t count those pictures as a true film experience because I would buy them at Walmart, point in the general direction of something, click, and get them developed. I didn’t have any control over the image except what I placed in the frame. I’ve been thinking about learning to shoot film for a long time, but felt a bit overwhelmed by the process. I’ve been taking notes as I learn so I can later write up a tutorial post to help anyone else who might like to make the jump from digital to analog but doesn’t know where to begin.

I bought a Canon Ae-1 and a 50mm lens, and one roll each of color and b&w film. Each time I heard the click of the camera and advanced the film my heart would pound and a rush of excitement would come over me. It’s a strangely euphoric experience and has reinvigorated my love of photography.  The film camera is like a magical box, full of secrets and hope. I attended a party on Saturday evening and met another photographer who pointed out that shooting film allows the creator to be more present in each moment, and that has held true for me. The cost of each image means that I’m not clicking the shutter 15 times for each moment. I’m forced to slow down and think about what I want to capture. I also take one picture, and then jump back into life in front of the camera, whereas with digital I will often chimp to make sure that I got just what I wanted.

I picked up my first developed images today, my heart pounding all the way home as I thought anxiously about what might be waiting on the CD. I was sad to find out that I had loaded the b&w roll incorrectly and none of the images turned out (there is one in particular that I’m mourning, with gorgeous light in the hallway and T1 hugging T2 tightly in his arms) but I’m delighted by several in the color set. I’m looking forward to a time when I can take a film course and learn more about the different film stocks, cameras, and how everything works in the developing room.

The first image is from my getaway with That Husband in Carmel over Christmas, thanks to the babysitting gifted to us by my family. The one of me leaning on the wall in Chinatown was set up by me, with my friend clicking the shutter. T2 up on her toes sucking on a bottle makes me laugh, because she loves to dig in that drawer and pull out all of the sippy cups kid’s plates.

that wife shooting film


Even the mistakes make me smile. With digital I throw everything out that is shaky or has less-than-perfect focus. But I find myself smiling at the image of T1 shading his eyes in front of the sea lions on Pier 39. And T2 snuggling with her daddy.

that wife shooting filmMy less-than-ideal images show that my exposure is decent, but I need to work on manual focus. I might force myself to shoot manual focus on my digital camera as well in order to hone my skills.

Have you made the jump from digital to film photography? What film stocks should I explore next? I’m interested to see how I like Fuji 160C, which is my favorite VSCO preset in lightroom.


11 thoughts on “Love at First Click

  1. I just inherited my Grandmother’s Canon Rebel film camera and I’m kind of curious to try putting film in it. I took it off my aunt’s hands because it came with two lenses that I can use with my Rebel DSLR, but I’m psyched to also have a way to shoot film. My grandfather’s basement is filled to the brim with old cameras, and my mother has a number as well. There is also an enlarger and some other development gear, which makes me wish there was any room in our tiny house for a darkroom and regret the years I spent in band instead of photography.

    Jenna Reply:

    My sister has my mom’s AE-1, so I thrifted my body and bought the lens from an online friend :). I’m a little bit sad that I don’t have a family story attached to mine, but after I use it for the next 30 years (look at me being so optimistic about film and how long it will last!) it will have its own story.

  2. do you wear glasses or contacts? since i started wearing glasses/contacts, i find that my ability to manually focus is nonexistent with or corrective lenses.

    Jenna Reply:

    I do wear contacts. Have had glasses/contacts since 4th grade. I struggle with the focus, but the thing in the middle that helps with focus (I can’t remember what it is called, it lines up properly when you look through the viewfinder and have the focus set up correctly?) I wish my dSLR had it too.

    Sara Reply:

    Your Canon DSLR should have the diopter adjustment as well, a little dial by the viewfinder? At any rate, I am truly awful at manual focus. My eyesight is really bad, and even with contacts or glasses it’s not perfect, so I just never know if I’m over- or under-correcting enough. I’m sure with a LOT of practice I could get to a place where I know what to do, but it doesn’t seem worth it to do all that work when my lenses can do it on the first try!

    Jenna Reply:

    I should just look in the manual, but I’m lazy. It’s something that splits the screen as you look through, and when the image lines up you know it is in focus. I bet I could get it installed in my dSLR if I really wanted.

  3. These photos are so beautiful! I took a few photography classes in high school, and I LOVED learning how to develop the prints myself, too. There is something really magical about film.

    Some random notes: I think that my bedroom is painted the same color as your living room, and I think that photo of you leaning against the wall is so beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing these!

  4. Film was how I started out. I still have all my film cameras and lens. You have inspired me! I think I break them out and use some film again!

  5. I love the first picture, so pretty!

    Have fun exploring with film. I took an after school class many moons ago and learned how to develop my own prints. It was cool but I don’t think I’d go back to experimenting. I like the ease and immediate benefit of digital, especially on vacations, I once took 11 rolls of film to Florida!

    I hope you will continue to share what you do/learn.

  6. Gorgeous photos! I absolutely love film photography, but don’t feature it much on my blog. I have some pictures from my Praktica LTL though, it’s my favourite film camera (the first picture of the oranges is my fave), it’s just so gorgeous and easy to use! I use it with a Helios lens – one thing’s for certain, the Russians made awesome lenses!

    C x
    Lux Life Blog

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