How To Do a Film Photoshoot From Start to Finish
Come with me to get a behind-the-scenes look at how I approach a photoshoot from finding models, crafting the scene, editing, & everything in between.
I've been able to knit since I was a child, but it's only in the last year that it has become a hobby that occupies me almost daily. Knitting awakens many of the senses that please me — it is calming, creative, warm, and something I get better at the more I practice.
This has led to many homemade sweater vests in my home, which I cannot keep. Forever a fan of putting my things to use, I thought, what better way to 'use' these sweaters than by having a photoshoot?
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What Is the Setting of This Shoot?
For the shoot, I also brought a dress I purchased from Mabel Made – Mabel is 18 years old and designs dresses in her home in Missouri. She is mind-blowingly talented.
I chose a cozy, retro setting for my photoshoot concept centered around handmade clothing. Finding the ideal home for it proved to be a challenge. Fortunately, through Peerspace, I found a loft described as "unique, retro, and futuristic," which seemed perfect after viewing the photos. Additionally, I could rent lighting through the booking, which alleviated the unpredictability of lighting in a home compared to a studio.
What Camera Did I Use?
I used a Hasselblad 500C and a Canon 5D Mark III for this shoot. I shot with Kodak Portra 160 in color and Ilford HP5 400 in black and white. Working with film and digital gives me extra flexibility in editing since I can't always tell which will look better until after the fact. A bonus of shooting with color film is that if it doesn't scan well, I can rescan it in black and white, which often looks nicer. Some film photographers would take offense at this suggestion, but it doesn't interfere with my workflow.
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I am fortunate to have my sister Annabelle nearby in college, and her friends offered to assist me with modeling. In particular, Dawsey stepped up and presented herself as our model, while Annabelle used her artistic skills and makeup experimentation to create amazing behind-the-scenes photos of the photoshoot. She's genuinely talented in makeup, combining artistry and a passion for exploration.
Our team was small - only three of us - so the shoot day went smoothly. I had booked two hours at the location, which I knew would be enough for me as I tend to work quickly (for better or worse). The space host let us in when I met Annabelle and Dawsey at the location. We took a quick look around and then got straight to the photoshoot.
Dawsey and I had never met before, so we got to know each other a bit. She was comfortable in front of the camera, making my job easy. To my surprise, there was ample light around the space, so I could take the shoot with only natural lighting instead of relying on rented equipment.
For Dawsey's shoot, I tried out a variety of looks in different locations. Sometimes portrait shoots can be intimidating because creating something exciting and unique is hard. But creating variation is easy if you move your subject around the space and give them different clothes, angles, and sitting positions. We moved all around the apartment, taking wide and tight shots, giving us plenty of variety.
The next day, I developed the film in my bathroom. I've written an article about creating at home – it's linked here. It took me a while as I only had one small tank and could only develop one roll at a time. Since the ISO was low for shooting indoors (160), I had to push both colors to make it a one-stop process. After an extended length of development, the photos turned out well.
I'm becoming increasingly comfortable with developing, so I watched TV while doing it. I've recently been watching season 2 of "You," and it's truly something else. I'm late to this show's game, but I highly recommend it if you're into spooky stuff. This show is perfect for me since I'm a complete wimp – if you want to get the thrill of a horror show without the risk of being unable to sleep afterward, this is a great option. Thankfully, I haven't had any nightmares yet. But I digress!
While waiting for the film to dry, I edited my digital photos. I do this through Bridge (for culling) and Lightroom (for color correcting and cropping).
Is It Cheating To Edit Your Film Photos?
Hot take: editing your film photos shouldn't be frowned upon! Reheat your afternoon cup of coffee for a little film chat.
Once I had exported the photos and written this article, my film was just about dry. I use an Epson V600 scanner at home for scanning. There are better scanners, but it does their job well and is reasonably priced. Although scanning is quite a chore, I could be more meticulous when handling my negatives. Model scanners are very careful during manipulation, as they always wear gloves and use canned air to remove dust particles from the scanner and negatives. As for me, I use my bare hands and deal with any dust in Lightroom afterward. When I worked in a lab, I was always very cautious with customers' negatives, but I'm much more relaxed with my own.
The software Silverfast is excellent for scanning. Scanning takes a bit of time, and some people like to mess with the tones within Silverfast, but I typically save that for afterward in Lightroom.
After transferring my images to my computer, I imported them into Lightroom. I began editing, including toning, cropping, and dust spot correcting — a process that typically takes me the longest out of all the steps involved in a photoshoot. It is pretty tedious, especially spot-correcting, and I strive for perfection with each Image. I took considerable time to edit the photos from this shoot before narrowing down my selection of ~50 edited images to my favorite shots. The collection consists of black-and-white film shots, color film shots, and digital shots.