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Think First, Then Shoot.

Updated: Jun 13, 2021

A blog post by Darkroom 8 Team

There was a time when film photography was considered as a dying art form. Digital was the future and photographers were migrating from analog to digital. It was hard to say no to something so convenient and groundbreaking at that time.

For me, I was born in the 90’s era. I remember seeing or using film cameras and VHS tapes while growing up. Like most of the people around my age, I started my photography journey with a DSLR during college. As I progressed, my interest and curiosity for film photography grew and I finally gave it a try in late 2017. It all started with a simple Fujifilm disposable camera and I’ve not looked back ever since.

You might’ve heard about the approach of “don’t think, just shoot” when it comes to film photography. It’s a common saying as one of the main factors behind this reasoning was the price point for film rolls back then. However, times have changed. Now is the time for us to rethink our photographic approach and be a smart consumer as well as a photographer.

Film photography is a long and rewarding process which is why we need to think first before we shoot. In my view, it breaks down into 3 stages - Before (Preparation prior to taking photos), During (Process of taking photos), After (Results from the developed roll).


From understanding your camera to planning your photoshoot concept beforehand, preparation is key. Knowing what your camera is capable of and the characteristics of the film rolls (brand, ISO, expiry date, source) will greatly benefit you in achieving your desired concept or results. Furthermore, having an inspiration board will help you visualize your ideas better too.

For example, if I’m planning to take a series of daylight photos focused on landscapes while travelling on the road, I’ll do some research of the location first and check how the weather is like. I’ll bring two 35mm SLR cameras (Nikon F4 and Nikon F2) along with a number of Kodak Portra (ISO400) color film rolls and Kodak Tri-X (ISO400) black & white film rolls. I’ll then load one camera with Kodak Portra and the other with Kodak Tri-X for versatility purposes. I rather prepare for more instead of missing out a shot hence the two SLR cameras. In addition, both of it will fit nicely into a bag that I can carry around easily. As for the fresh film rolls, it’s all just personal preference and ISO400 will be enough for daylight shooting.


Now this is the part that most of us enjoy the most - the photo shooting process. We all use different formats and cameras but the same workflow applies when taking a photo. So what is there to think first before shooting? To me there are 3 main points to keep in mind - Observing, Framing, and Metering.

Observing - Look around you and see what catches your eyes. Walk around to explore the sights or the people in that area. Most importantly, it’s as simple as enjoying the moment of being there.

Framing - Now that you’ve found an interesting subject or beautiful landscape to take photos of. It’s time to frame your shot. There are no rules to how you should frame a photo but there are simple guidelines for beginners such as centre composition, symmetrical composition, rule of thirds, and many more. A general rule of thumb would be to imagine how the photo would look first rather than looking into the viewfinder and searching for the right frame.

Metering - Last but not least, the final step would be to meter the right exposure using an internal or external light meter. There are ways to estimate exposure without using any tools such as the Sunny 16 rule. However, the most accurate way based on my liking would be using an external light meter because it will provide the correct shutter speed and aperture needed.


Now that your film rolls are developed and the photos are sent back from the film lab, what will you do with it? Majority of the people would upload to Instagram and call it a day. Try asking yourself - “What do I like and dislike about these photos? How can I make it better?”. Take notes while you think about it and analyze your results. If you want to improve your photography skills, you’ll need to critique your own work. Celebrate small successes but also be prepared for more challenges.

In conclusion when it comes to film photography, we should all think first then shoot. Some of your greatest photos come with patience. Every single frame counts so don’t rush and most importantly remember to enjoy the process.

Lastly, if you have any questions or photos to share with us, join us on Discord where our community members are actively exchanging ideas and connecting with each other. See you there!


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