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Why I Love Shooting Film

Each time I get a roll of film back is like waking up on Christmas morning all over again. Finally getting to see what I captured, even though I know I'll have a few terrible blinks, possibly some blurriness, light leaks, and superfluous grain. There’s nothing like it. It’s something you just can’t get while you’re shooting digital because no matter how hard you try, you’re just going to look at the back of the camera while you shoot because that’s the whole reason digital is so great. And if there’s a blink, heck… you’ve likely taken ten photos in one second anyway so one of them is bound to turn out fine. But film is something you take your time with; you perfect your exposure, you wait for the right moment, you anticipate movement, and then instead of snapping ten photos... you snap one, hope for the best, and move onto the next memory. Not only because film and developing are expensive these days, but because you want to make the most out of each print. Yes, I said print.

Back in middle school/early high school was when my parents made the switch from film to digital. My dad got us a digital camera we could play around with and encouraged us to use it. Besides while I was assisting them with weddings, I was just not into it. The element of surprise was what made photography so much fun for me. Plus I had a real affinity for disposable cameras, and at times I had 3 different ones going. I couldn’t wait to bring them to Walmart “One Hour Photo”, wait the hour, and then rip open the package of double prints to see what kinds of snaps were inside. Because I probably started taking photos on those cameras months prior and I had absolutely no idea what was going to be on them. I remember going to this party in high school and the cameras I had going ran out mid-party. This kid Josh left to run to the gas station and when he came back, he had what he needed plus two more disposable cameras for me. I nearly fell in love with him; I just looked at him in awe. It was as if he handed me diamond studs, or a BLT, or something equally as amazing. I still have the prints from those cameras today. I think my last hoorah with a film camera was in 2007 when my friend Lindsay and I went backpacking through Australia, for which my dad gave me an old automatic film camera with seven rolls to kill. Good times.

After that trip I started shooting weddings more often, turned completely to digital, and didn’t look back... until this past year. Digital really is amazing; it’s sharp, the exposures are beautiful, you can see your images instantly and start working on them right away. Once you have the necessary equipment, processing is virtually free and the post-processing options are endless. I picked up a film camera again toward the end of 2016. This time, it was a fully manual Nikkormat that my dad used to shoot weddings with back in the day. He let me borrow it, along with a 35mm lens, a 50, and a 70-200 with filters galore. This camera really, really made you stop and think before clicking that shutter.

split range finder tinashoots

You have to manually expose for every picture and it has a split image rangefinder for focusing (see drawing) which means you have to look through the viewfinder and match up two sides of a scene in order to be in focus. Trying to capture a sharp picture of my kid running around using a rangefinder and 200 speed film is quite the challenge (a big reason I only use film for personal photography right now) but how the heck did my dad capture a bride and groom walking back up the aisle, or dancing, without lens blur? How the heck did he make sure all was in focus without having to shoot at f/8 all the time? I mean, he used this camera for professional wedding work as did many photographers in the 90s and earlier. It’s a trip to think about now that we have digital cameras with program modes and incredibly sharp auto focus. 

Kodak Portra 800 Black and White Boudoir

35mm, Kodak Portra 800

Nikon D800 DSLR Black and white Boudoir

Nikon D800 DSLR

Not only do I love film because it makes me slow down and really think before I snap, but film images also have this incredible depth that you just don’t see with digital straight out of the camera. I used to love film simply because of the surprise each roll brought; now I love film because I actually know how to use a camera. I'm manually exposing for each image and the look I'm able to achieve is unparalleled. Even so, each time I send out a roll, I think things like, “Why do I spend the money on film and developing when I have an incredible digital camera and can develop those images for free?” or “Why do I bother gambling with bad exposures, the possibility of bad film, grain, and bad expressions when I will never miss a moment with digital?” It’s as if I feel guilt whenever I send out a roll of film, like, digital should be enough, why do I need to spend the money playing around with film? There’s a reason film is fading out and digital is everything these days. Then, my roll comes back and it gives me exactly the feeling I crave. It’s Christmas morning all over again. My love for shooting film is reaffirmed. The depth in the shadows is perfect, the lens blur is perfect, and there are virtually no repeat photos. Yeah, there might be movement in there because I had to bring my shutter speed down in order to let enough light in and I refuse to use a flash… but for some reason, movement within film images is less offensive to me than with digital. I can't get this stuff with digital right out of the camera; it's different. I pop a new roll in, and the adventure begins again. 

My dad just gave me his old medium format twin reflex YashicaMat on Christmas, so that’s what I’ll be using in 2018. Looking forward to sharing some of those with you guys throughout the year! 

Here are some of my favorite shots from 2017 taken with the Nikkormat 35mm.

Hammonasset Beach State Park Kodak Portra 800
Sam on bike with glasses and Stella
Sam and Dave at Hammonasset state park Kodak Portra 800
Sam and Stella hug Kodak Portra 800
Sam eating chex Kodak Portra 800
Mia rolling out dough black and white film
Bushnell Park Hartford Bench BW film
Sam and Dave Jay Peak VT AirBNB, Kodak Portra 800
Hartford CT Building BW film
Sam at Panthorn Park Southington Kodak Portra 800
Sam and Dave trying on Snowboard Christmas Morning Kodak Portra 800
Sam on stairs at Jay Peak VT Kodak Portra 800
Tree in Bushnell Park, Hartford CT Kodak Portra 800
Jay Peak AirBNB Kodak Portra 800
Sam eating Raisins on Christmas 2017 Kodak Portra 800
Sam Brushing his teeth with Elmo in Bathroom, BW film

What Kind of Photographer Am I, Really?

I can never get more than 10 pages into Click magazine before throwing it down and grabbing my camera. Today, it got me running for a pen and paper (...well, my laptop.) I now have a couple of bones to pick. One of them is regarding my most common type of client, and the other is ...what do you even call the photography that I do?

I started thinking on these topics this morning because while I sat down to read the newest issue of Click magazine, I came across a really lovely piece called “The Truth in You” written by a photographer out in Reunion Island named Emilie Iggiotti. In her article, she writes about helping clients break free from the traditional portrait sitting and bringing some real life feeling into her sessions. In her quest to find what she really loves in regards to her photography career, she made a point that really struck a note with me. Something I never really considered before, but is very real to me. She says-- 

“I made a list of things I did not like in the current photography market. First, it bothered me that women are photographed and celebrated only when they’re playing a specific role established by society. She’d be photographed as a “fiancee”, then as a “bride,” then as a “wife” in a boudoir shoot, then as a “mom to be”, and finally as the “mom” at family sessions. How about the women who don’t become fiancees or wives or mothers? Is there really no occasion to celebrate and photograph them in their own right?”

Now, Emilie sure is an amazing photographer (you can see her work on instagram @Emilieiggiotti) but she’s also onto something profound. Why is it that women feel the need to wait for defining moments such as “almost married,” “married,” “almost Mom,” and “Mom” to book a portrait? There are so many other turning points and crossroads that come before these moments; times in a woman's life when she feels the most… herself for once. 

Many of my clients tell me that their session with me was incredibly empowering and really brought their confidence and self awareness to a whole new level. I can just imagine how much more meaningful this session would be to a woman who is trying to find out who she is, what she wants in life, and is looking for someone to share it all with. I mean, why wait to do something so uplifting and enlightening until just before you’re about to give a big ol' chunk of yourself up to someone else? (Or are you actually just building a whole new unfamiliar part onto your self? ...thoughts for another day...) Anyway, the point is, you don’t need to be on the verge of mother or wife to feel worthy of a beautiful portrait of yourself.

On a whole different level, this article also really got me thinking about the work I do and if boudoir is really even the word I want to use to market my business. Excuse me as I ramble aloud to you all, but I’m in search for some clarity and even some input. Yes, I photograph intimate portraits of women, but a lot of what I shoot isn’t necessarily what most would consider boudoir. (And honestly I really kinda dislike the word boudoir.) Yes, sometimes I shoot in a bedroom scene with lingerie and lace... but sometimes it’s more fashion-y, or moody and in the middle of the woods with no lingerie in sight. I don't necessarily think all of my work is considered boudoir; my portraits of women do tend to have at least a tinge of intimacy though. 

Clients and onlookers have told me that what really speaks in my images is the evident connection I have with the women I photograph. This makes me really happy because that connection is what fuels my love for this style of photography and keeps me wanting more. I believe that the ability to form a bond like this with my client takes the knowledge and awareness that comes with also being female. Because here’s the thing... We are fickle, dynamic, passionate beings. I’ve never met a woman who knows exactly what she wants or who wants the same thing all of the time  ...But when she wants something, she wants it, and that doesn’t always need justification ...And women really just yearn to be understood in whichever state they’re in at that given moment. I sound like I’m talking about a child, don’t I? Ha. But in all seriousness, being a woman and sharing these understandings with my client makes session time that much more personal to both me and her. We share the connection we do because I understand where she’s coming from, wherever she’s coming from at that moment, and in photographing her I accept her in that form. We both grow personally during our time together, and that feeling of connection and mutual understanding is unparalleled. I shoot for truth; for candor. And when I find it, and she feels understood and seen, I’m reminded of why I love my kind of photography as much as I do.Enter your text here...

Told you I was going to ramble. This is also proof that baby brain never resolves itself either. I'll forever be scatterbrained. 

I did realize while typing this though that I even feel these kinds of connections with my senior portrait, headshot, and family portrait clients, just as I do with my boudoir clients. Because not only am I a woman, but I'm also a mom who has been away to college. And I'm not one of those photographers who just floats through a session with a flow of poses and meaningless banter; I'm the kind that gets excited with them and talks to them about their hopes, plans, and dreams and wishes them the best. When I'm shooting a senior, those feelings of nostalgia hit me and I get giddy with excitement just thinking about all the fun he/she's going to have discovering who she is away at college. I mean, college is where I broke away from the norms of my home life and realized how I want to live my own life. I met my amazing husband some of my closest friends while I was going through all of that transition. That was a huge time in my life ...A huge, great big time that I'm super thankful for and wouldn't be the same without. And when I photograph a new family, I immediately relate to the mother. Motherhood is my most favorite chapter in life so far. I think I could talk to any mom of small boys for hours just about the everyday antics that go on. Little boys are nuts! And such little loves. Big balls of never-ending energy. And soon I'll be able to relate to any "girl mom" too, because my little peanut Lana is growing up way too quickly and I'm convinced there are differences between girl moms and boy moms and moms of both.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand, I feel a re-branding coming on and all input/suggestions are welcome. Glad I got all of that off my chest! Thanks for listening, and thank you Click Mag for always keeping me inspired and intrigued.

We had kittens!

So this cat. She's this absolutely beautiful Calico that befriended us during the coldest CT nights this winter and little did we know she was a pregnant queen looking for a nesting place. She slept in our garden bed by night and watched our daily lives from the outside perch until we realized... This cat wants to be ours. She came inside and never left. So basically, we got got, but in the best way. I can't believe how these past few months have unfolded! So she hesitantly came in, super sweet with us, our toddler and our other obnoxious kitten Noodle. A little iffy with Stella the Pit but they're fine. She came in and literally doubled in size within a few weeks, and then tripled, and thank goodness she was pregnant and not just sickly expanding. It took us a while to admit to ourselves and each other that she was expecting, and it was finally confirmed for me about 5 nights ago when she snuggled up next to me on the couch purring, rolled over, and let me feel her babies kickin' around in her tummy. Being a fairly new mom myself and having felt my own baby within my body, it gave me these feelings of nostalgia and I melted with the thought of her having her own littles. What I didn't realize was that she would have them the next night, in the middle of the floor, while I was returning home at midnight from a very long day of photography seminars. BUT WE WERE!!!! I grabbed my Nikon (obviously), called a friend to come for support since Dave and Sam were up north for the weekend, and we stayed up with her til 2am cheering her on and helping keep the kittens warm. Over 1.5 hours of beautiful miracles happening before our eyes, our household went from having two to SEVEN kitties. Mama and babies are doing so well! Meet the five new babes, names TBD

Heart melted. Because of the sensitive situation of mama giving birth, I didn't want to get all up in her stuff with my obnoxiously big camera and turn the lights up so once I get some better light, you better believe I'll be posting some kitten glamour shots. Stay tuned! 

For the family stuff:

For the intimate side of things: