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The New Normal: How To Improve Your Film Photography Skills

Updated: Jun 13, 2021

A blog post by Darkroom 8 Team

The New Normal

Even though it’s been more than a year since the start of the global pandemic, it’s pretty clear that we’ll be living the new normal for the foreseeable future.

For fellow visual creatives that rely heavily on expressing themselves through photography, times can be tough as the outside world is our inspiration and playground. However, new challenges require new solutions. It’s time for us to look inwards and change our approach to how we create images.

Improving your film photography under the new normal will not be easy but with the right mindset, you’ll notice growth and improvement in a few months or so. “How?”, you may ask. Look no further as here are some recommendations for you below:

1) Indoor Photoshoots

No outdoor, no problem. Whether you’re a street or travel photographer, it’s time to try something new as long as you’re still taking photos.

Before the pandemic, I took my trusty Nikon F4 everywhere whether I was travelling locally abroad. During the pandemic, my interest for film photography grew even more and I finally dived into the world of medium format. However due to the current situation, I wasn’t able to practice medium format frequently outdoors. Hence, I started looking inwards and planned for indoor photoshoots instead using both medium format and 35mm. Here are some of the end results from my first studio photoshoot back in early May.

There are plenty of ways to practice film photography indoors. From still life to portraits, you can choose your subject of interest and kick start a mini project of yours. For example, self portrait is a great way to learn about posing and get comfortable being in front of the camera. Make sure that you have sufficient light whether it being natural or artificial light and you should be good to go!

2) Organise & Print

A tidy workspace is a tidy mind. When you’re not taking photos, you should definitely be organising and categorizing your film strips.

Film strips are basically the ‘hardcopy’ results and backup of your photos. It can be used for rescan purposes or photo enlarger printing in the future. Personally I keep all of my film strips in a cool and dry environment to make sure that they’re safe at all times. You can also store it in an archival binder which is the optimal choice. When you’re holding the film strip with bare hands, do keep in mind that any form of liquid such as sweat might degrade the film strip.

Now that you’ve organized the film strips, it’s time to tidy up your digital files. A quick tip would be to separate it according to year, cameras, and film stocks used. Backing up into cloud storage is always a good idea. A better way would be to print it out as physical copies as it’s a pleasant way to view your photos and keep it for memory. Remember the photo album that every family has and brings out during reunion? Yeap, it’s time to make your own too!

3) Read More, Watch More

Inspiration can be found anywhere, you just need to know where to look. To me, the biggest source of inspiration comes from photobooks and movies. They keep my eyes busy and creativity flowing especially during a tough time like this.

Whether the photobook is from a digital or film photographer, it’s the content that matters. The same goes to movies as long as you enjoy it. I collect photobooks and flip through them page by page when I’m in need of ideas. My personal favourite is a collectible box set of three photography books throughout the 25 years by famous Hong Konger photographer - Wing Shya. As a fan of Wong Kar-wai movies, it’s always a joy to look at Wing Shya’s work as he captured many still photographs during the filming of WKW cult classics such as In The Mood For Love (2000) and Happy Together (1997).

Other than photobooks, I also believe that watching more movies will greatly improve your sense of aesthetic. From framing to choice of colors, one can research and use it as a tool of reference in order to apply it on your own work. A great example would be that my interest for motion film stock only started to grow ever since I watched La La Land (2016) which was shot with Kodak Vision3 250D and 500T film stock. With that info in mind, I can also have a better understanding of how these film stocks perform under different lighting conditions.

La La Land color palette. (image courtesy of Pinterest)

4) Discord Discussions

As some of you might know, we have a Discord server and our members are always happy to share their photos and help each other whenever a question arises. From 35mm to large format, we have it all here. If you have anything in doubt, just ask away and learn from the community. By asking more, you'll eventually gain more knowledge too.

In addition, we also host a biweekly photo share session with a set theme that is voted by our community members. Feel free to join the conversation and stay inspired by our members from all over the world. Simply click this link to be a part of our community.


Take a step at a time, don’t rush yourself and you’ll improve before you even know it. Most importantly, stay safe and stay at home if you can. Health always comes first.


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