A few things I've learnt from a year (or so) of scanning my own negatives

I don't talk as much about my photography on my blog anymore - of how I feel and my process - I've said it before here - and its always a similar vain - I'm constantly searching for something.   My film photography process is a completely emotional and intuitive process - I love it and my results are as authentically me as I ever feel but I don't really think I can say it any better than in those previous posts. 

If you're not in the mood for rereading my old posts (I totally would if I was you but then I think I read them more than anyone else anyway ha) here is a highlight of how I feel about taking photos. I'm a sap I know...

To me, each photo I take is like falling in love - you're constantly search for it - everywhere you go - even if you aren't aware that you are... sometimes you can't see it, sometimes you find it in one step, sometimes you have to work a bit harder, perhaps challenge your preconceptions and break some of your own rules... but just like love - no one can tell you when you've found that perfect photo, you just know it... through and through!

Although this is still so very true for me, scanning my films has changed things and my perspective quite a bit... Not the process, not completely how I take photos but the process after that - its all completely different from before.

In 2011 I wrote that editing my photos riled me up - and it still does ha, don't get me wrong - but now its for a completely different reason.

In 2011 the company that developed my negatives scanned my photos - the final result was completely out of my hands and I was totally OK with that - it was quick, easy and I was getting results I loved. 

Now - 5 years later - I'm scanning my own photos... the control is completely mine and here's a few things I've learnt.

  • All my photos before I got my scanner were more than likely auto corrected and auto colour balanced. I have no idea how I feel about a lot of them now - or even about lot of the films I used. It feels like I'm starting everything all over again. This partly makes me want to cry and partly excites me.
  • Scanning colour film takes forever. Not just the physical scanner process - but setting the colours correctly once the preview has run and then trying to balance the colours once more once you've scanned the image. It doesn't help that I am turning into a perfectionist about it all either. If I don't feel like they look right - they don't look right and I can spend ages trying to find the photo I took within the image the scanner gives me.
  • Generally my exposure is pretty good (thank goodness for that). Having 6 years of film photography experience before scanning my own negatives has definitely been an advantage for my current photo results. Most of my editing is about the final look of colours - not brightness/contrast/exposure etc.
  • Dust is the devil. And so is my own laziness at wiping my negatives and scanner between each scan. I'm getting better at this definitely... wipe your scanner and negatives people!
  • In some ways - the type of film I'm using means less to me now - scanning my own colour films is helping me develop my own style of colour palette in more ways than I ever imagined it would. I had a vague idea before but now I'm getting a feel for what I like and don't like in a much more sensitive and aware way.
  • I DO NOT like green colour shifts (also why I'm not a huge fan of Lomo Xpro film). And a lot of my films from the last year I want to rescan because its honestly killing me that my photos aren't quite perfect.  I can see that I'm so close to the final image being how I want it - but I just can't get it right. Its infuriating. I'm starting to figure out curve editing which is resolving the green shift but still, argh!
  • Instagram is a surprisingly good colour editor - a slight tweak in warmth on their editing and boom, green shift gone - the results on my Instagram are much closer to how I want them to look than on here - and luckily thats where most people seem to see my photos ha. 
  • If I won the lottery theres a huge risk I would spend most of my days rescanning all my photos. Which would take a long time. But be totally worth it... (I'd also buy more cameras and film and take even more photos... man it would be amazing.)
  • Scanning my own photos has made me appreciate every single image so much more and also made me consider the final shot more before I take the photo. Knowing that each photo I take is going to take up a lot of my time after I've taken it in the scanning/editing process means that each one has to be a photo I really like and want to spend that time on. That has admittedly been a bit more challenging with my 366 project (some of them I've definitely phoned in) but over all, I take less photos now than I did a few years ago. I'm OK with that.
  • Despite colour film being so difficult to scan - I think that colour film is my favourite. I love black and white and use it more in the winter months, but gosh, I do love colours. My colour photos when scanned how I really want them to look provoke a feeling in me almost like a gut punch in the stomach - I feel a little like I can't quite catch my breath and I totally forget about everything other than how I'm feeling in that moment looking at my photo. 
  • Comparison is indeed the thief of joy. Whilst I was part of the Film Shooters Collective (sadly I'm not anymore due to time constraints - hopefully this isn't a long term situation - but I still highly recommend you check it out if you love film) it was an amazing resource for constant inspiration - however it was also quite intimidating to see other peoples photos they'd scanned themselves look SO perfect and well balanced.  Remembering that everyone, including me, is on their own journey was sometimes quite difficult.
  • I always knew that any creative process was just that - a process - but trying something new and a different way of doing things has totally cemented the idea that I am always going to be learning with my photography and I'm always going to be evolving and perfecting.

This post has ended up being huge - so I'll conclude on this final point which I think is the most important lesson. Photography is photograpy. Whatever you use - film or digital, your phone or a toy camera - it takes time, knowledge and understanding to create a photo you love. The level of commitment to any of those things is your choice and the tools you use is your choice as well. Maybe one day I'll try digital and find it represents me just as well as film, I'll definitely know how I want to edit my photos if I do ha. But right now, this is where I am - using film and scanning my own negatives - and I'm happy with that - green colour shifts and all.