It’s always fun to watch my client’s faces when I take my Hasselblad out of my camera bag at their session. It looks like a big antique, and the shutter sound on the Hasselblad when you take a photograph…well, it’s rather dreamy. I love this camera so, so much. A few years ago, I attended a friend’s tour workshop on dreaming big things for your photography business. I wasn’t yet full time, and there were many things that when I think back to it really SHOULD have been on my list- but learning to photograph with film was the only dream I could muster out on paper. It was the loudest. It was what I then realized I wanted in my business more than anything else.
I came home and put it off for months, completely overwhelmed at not knowing anything about medium format film, or where to begin in camera shopping. But I began to feel discontent, and found myself coming back to it again and again. So I reached out to another photographer who was more familiar with different film gear options than I, and asked for advice. Medium format film cameras can range from a couple hundred to almost 4k in investment- so I wanted to know where I should start from someone much more experienced than myself.
The Hasselblad 500 c/m won my own search for a few different reasons:
• It creates a 6×6 negative- which means the photographs are already square. I have been creating exclusively square portraits for years now, so that was definitely a benefit I recognized right away.
• The Hasselblad doesn’t use any batteries. This is a small reason next to others, but having used it for quite some time now, and never having to worry about a charged battery has been wonderful.
• The value will hold. Probably one of the top reasons on the list, was that I was advised that if I use this camera for year or so and decide I don’t like it at all, I could turn right around and sell it back for how much I paid for it. Being brand new to the world of film, that was a big relief to me knowing that if I changed my mind, I wouldn’t lose a large investment.
Honestly it took me a long time to be comfortable with using film enough to bring it to my commissioned portrait sessions. It took building my confidence to know the images were worth slowing the session down to change out rolls of film, and get that manual focus sharp. In the beginning, I tried a lot of color film stocks such as Fuji 400H, which is a really popular film. I soon realized that a lot of my own frustration was in trying to get my work to look exactly like that of others.
So I began using more black and white film stocks, which of course fits my own style and vision much more so than pastel tones. Now black and white film is all I use outside of travel and landscape. Black and white film photography is what made me fall in love with this art medium as just a kid, so it makes so much sense to me that I would find the most fulfillment in using it today. Currently I bring a few rolls of film to every portrait session, and my clients get a mix of digital and black and white film. I love the film images, and they most always are my favorite of the entire collection.
My clients often ask my during a session why I use film, or what makes it better, or worth it, and truthfully it’s because it makes me feel more fulfilled as an artist. I get to be hands-on in the process of creating that image, outside of a digital workflow on my computer. The look of real film is nearly impossible to replicate, and the images I photograph on film have a deeper look to me than my digital work. Perhaps someday I will move in the direction of photographing entirely on film, but I have found the benefit of working with digital when it comes to photographing children- who move very quickly!
Using and learning film is definitely not an inexpensive venture. Bringing film into my commissioned portrait sessions was a big expense on my end, but it was worth it to me to provide more of the timeless black and white photographs that are such a strong signature of my work. I really strive to provide an entire experience that is unique for the families I work with, and now I can say that black and white film is a big part of it!
If you would like to see the difference that film makes in my photographs, a great post to bring up is My Top 20 Favorites of 2015, where I describe which medium each image was created with!