Hi Laurence. Your posts on film over the past couple years have inspired me to get a Contax 645. I love it! I’m wondering though, if you think shooting film professionally is a good idea?
I’ve written a lot about film this past couple years. In fact, I went through a period of 6 months shooting nothing but film.
There’s no question that there are a lot of things to like about film. However, I find myself questioning the wisdom of using film for professional work.
Contax 645, Zeiss 80mm, Fuji Pro400h, Richard Photo Lab
My answer: it depends. No, I’m not trying to weasel out of giving an answer. I’ll try to make this very clear.
If film is part of your identity as a photographer, then by all means shoot film for your professional work. Make sure your entire portfolio is filled with images shot on film and film only. Make film part of your branding. Go “all-in” on film.
However, in my opinion there is no reason whatsoever to shoot film professionally unless you’re going all-in. Shooting a little bit of film here and there will do nothing for your business and only drain your bank account.
The biggest drawback from shooting film (aside from the inconvenience) is the cost. It’s easy to ring up a few hundred dollars worth of film, processing and shipping costs with every shoot. Now it really irritates me when I hear this response: “Who cares? Just charge accordingly”. Okay, I get it – charge an extra $250 for that portrait session to cover the cost of shooting film and keep your profits the same as if you shot digital. What’s wrong with that answer? Well, if you can get your clients to pay $250 more, then just raise your prices by $250, shoot digital, and put that extra $250 in your pocket! If we agree that the purpose of a paid shoot is to….well….get paid, then why wouldn’t you have charged the extra $$ in the first place if you can get it? It doesn’t make sense.
The bottom line is that if your portfolio is filled with both digital and film and if you’re shooting film for profession work here and there on a whim, you’re losing money.
However, if you’re a film-only shooter and film is part of your brand, then that’s another story. In that case, the cost of shooting film might be worth it, if it has truly turned into a profitable niche for you. You might become known in your town as that quirky film shooter who uses old-time craftsmanship (whatever that means).
But if you just like to shoot film here-and-there for fun, then save it for your personal work.
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