Give Yourself a Kick Start


photograph by Johan Lindberg

In the last post I gave you some advice about choosing your camera, and what to look for. This time I will be helping you to get started, throw away any reservations you may have about shooting with film and to get stuck in! (Just in case you need any more convincing, take a look at this).

Let me start off by saying one of the main criticisms of film I hear is ‘oh, film is too expensive to buy and develop, that’s why I use a digital camera.’

Well I have to disagree. A secondhand vintage SLR camera is certainly cheaper, far more robust and will probably outlive a DSLR, minimal editing needs means no expensive photoshop or similar required plus no memory cards, rechargeable battery packs…

The next main gripe is that you will waste shots. With your digital camera you can shoot as many as you wish, right? Well let me help you rethink a little. By slowing down, really thinking about your picture taking, how you will compose and frame the shot, and getting the exposure right is a wonderful and totally absorbing art-making process. A discipline once learnt you can also take with you when you use a digital camera, and one that get easier the more you practise.

So now you want to go out and take some photographs. How do you either give yourself a kick start or break yourself out of your photographic rut?

Try some of these suggestions, depending on whether you are a film newbie or a re-visitor to this wonderful filmy world, but in all cases no flash or auto exposures allowed!

  • This is something I keep banging on about on my Shooting The Breeze e-workshops, and that is to stop looking for a reason or subject to take photos of, but just get out there and do it! Look at William Eggleston, he saw the beauty in the mundane and everyday, shooting everything from kid’s bikes and roadsigns to dogs. The whole world can be in your own backyard.

William Eggleston

  • Try shooting the same thing, landmark or object at different times of day and different weather conditions.
  • Step out of your comfort zone; If you usually take posed portraits, go do some street photography, stealthily snapping strangers. If you like a still life, take some action shots. If you take macros, try shooting architecture or if you shoot with a shallow depth of field (ahem, that’s me) try a smaller aperture. If your shots are always urban, get out in the countryside….see where I’m going with this?
  • Photograph yourself. Self timer, in the mirror, whatever. When you’ve had enough, go photograph your friends and family.

Self-portrait by Jay Kullman

  • Get a little notebook and jot down your apertures, shutter speeds and any other useful notes to refer back to.
  • Start a blog, join flickr, share what you have taken and connect with others, look at other photographers’ work. FIrstly it forces you to have to take pictures and keep learning and secondly it’s fun!
  • Create photo assignments for yourself, or shoot a project. For example, document a journey; take a sequence of related images that tell a story; or perhaps just a series of purple flowers, whatever grabs you
  • Edit nothing.
  • Practise, practise, practise. And then practise some more. Concern yourself with your ideas and not your gear. Don’t worry whether your any good or not, just keep on doing it. What’s good to some people is rubbish to someone else; art is subjective so just please yourself and ignore trends.

and above all remember this:

A technically perfect photograph can be the world’s most boring picture.

Andreas Feininger

Happy shooting!

– Suzie Chaney runs Shooting the Breeze film photography e-workshops, blogs at Black-eyed Angel and sells her film photographs on etsy. Her column, Shoot Film, runs bimonthly on Mondays.


  1. i just love suzie’s work and i read all her advice… having two film cameras makes me subscribe everything she wrote! film is magic!!!! 🙂 hugs for both of you! twiggs

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