Medium Format... An intimate affair.

How shooting film has made me a better photographer. Tips, Film Type and why film will never die!

This year I discovered the joy of shooting medium format film, and it has completely rejuvenated my interest in photography as a whole. Lets start by going over what makes medium format so attractive. I have been shooting photography since 2004 when I first picked up my brand new Nikon D100. At the time this 6 something megapixel camera was at the top tier for semi pro and pro shooters alike. In collage I never took any film classes, and really just wrote film off as, oh it takes forever to get developed, I can never see what I'm shooting, and it's just slow. Fast forward to today with over 13 years of photography experience, several digital bodies and lenses later and my favorite camera to shoot... My newly acquired 1979 Hasselblad 500cm. 

Until I bought my Hasselblad I really didn't know much about film as I mentioned above, yet alone the word that is medium format. I didn't know what 120 film was, or the 6x6/645 lingo until a photo friend started to show off his Mamiya 645 camera.  Lets just say it it peeked my interest. I started the long and grueling internet search for medium format cameras. I looked at photographers, bloggers, reviews, brands and so on. I was immersed in this new found love, it became an intimate affair. 

After I settled that I wanted a Hasselblad, mainly for it's iconic look and heritage I found a perfect example on Ebay and took the plunge. It arrived a few days later as anxiously awaited the USP driver like a little kid on Christmas morning. I opened the box and I was infatuated with the cameras purity. I snagged some film and started shooting.  

1979 Hasselblad 500cm with a few of my favorite rolls of 120 Film.

1979 Hasselblad 500cm with a few of my favorite rolls of 120 Film.

Slides of film are tangible... You can touch them, they aren't something lost on a hard drive.

Slides of film are tangible... You can touch them, they aren't something lost on a hard drive.

Wait so your'e saying it shoots a square photo? Like Instagram? Sure you can say that, although this is OG and timeless. At first I didn't know how I would like the square look. It takes a lot more thought and time to really compose an image because well for one, the rule of thirds it a bit thrown off, it's hard to lead your subject, and square proportions usually leaves a little less of a desired look. 

I was hesitant at first and sort of unsure how to approach photography, something I've been great at for the past decade. However, the rudimentary shape of a square quickly became somewhat of an obsession and a challenge. It makes one look at a photo, a portrait or a landscape in a whole new manor. 

Loading a roll of film takes time, patience, and a certain meticulous care. With a medium format camera one doesn't just turn on the camera and blast away at 14 frames a second. Remember with 6x6 you only get 12 shots so make them count, and the old saying can be applied, measure twice and cut once...except expose twice or three times and shoot once. 

When I shoot a roll of film I might not finish a roll in a day, week or even two weeks. Sometimes I forget even what is on the roll once I get it developed. I plan my shots, I wait for the moment and capture something sensational on a tangible format. Once you start shooting film it almost becomes an extension of yourself. When I shoot film, I'm in no rush, I think about my shot before I even compose the exposure and then I think about it some more. I can't Photoshop the image after or crop someone out it's there forever engraved into a piece of transparent plastic. 

I encourage everyone especially these days to explore film if they can. Maybe not jump into medium format right away, but 35mm cameras can be had for some great prices. Explore different film types, some are high contrast some are grainy or smooth. Slow down your shooting, explore new mediums and don't limit yourself the the digital world.