She brushed my basket of Lara bars, travel conveniences and toiletries across the flashing scanner. “Going somewhere?” she asked. “Yep! I’m going on a mission trip to Thailand with my church!” I exclaimed, forever excited to talk to others about the awesome things God will do in your life if you just let him. “Sounds like fun! What church?” she wondered. “Inspire church in Waikele”, I again anxiously shared, I just love that church, “yeah, it’s fun” I exclaimed, “but a lot of work. Well, I probably shouldn’t call it work...” I debated outloud to the Target cashier on Friday as she pointed her finger to the sky “well, it’s work for Him“.
I smiled and graciously nodded.
It’s 12:14am. Tomorrow morning I board a plane headed to Thailand with a stopover in Korea where I will meet up with my sister, Sarah, who will have been traveling over 18 hours, to continue our journey to Chaing Mai (bless her heart! Literally!). But not before I stop by the bank to get brand new hundred dollar bills for a better exchange rate, and drop a package off at the USPS store that I forgot 3 times to mail. A quarter past midnight with about 13 things left on my to-do list. “Finish cleaning, clear iPhone (oh, I should do that now as I type…multi-task!), and of course…schedule blog posts. I’ve been meaning to for days, clients have long gotten their images and I am just dying to get their glossy onto my blog’s screen. But already I hear God talking, telling me what He has already urged: to stop for just one second Ashley topray today, and that’s to let some of it go. The house doesn’t have to be perfect in order for me to leave. Every email doesn’t have to be answered (okay it does, and they are), the freshly washed towels can stay in the laundry basket even if that DOES mean Napoleon will knock them over and make a cozy bed of it for the next week. And this blog will be a-okay if I don’t have posts scheduled for the 10 days I’m gone. Life won’t fall apart, business won’t come to a screeching halt and you will be able to do what you’re called to do, and that’s take a break from plugging away in your creative little cozy bubble of non-stop work for 10 days and focus on working for the Lord. That’s me, talking to myself.
September 2 thru September 13th I will be wandering Chaing Mai, Thailand with members from Inspire Church, taking photo (and video! Girlfriend got schooled this week!) on behalf of jeSUS! (You gotta say it geeeSUSSsss all gangsta like.) There won’t be any scheduled blog posts, because I didn’t set-up any, and the call of the dinging emails will not be answered until my return. All the while I’m praying to just pull and Elsa and let. it. go. Being unplugged feels real hard right now, but as my trip taught me last year it’s always always for the better.
So if you email, call, text or Facebook message me and don’t get a response, don’t panic. I will return your messages promptly upon my arrival except for your FB ones because you’re crazy if you think I’m dl-ing that new messenger ish. And when I return, expect to see a wholleeee lotta wedding + session + film friday goodness, like this one of Faunah + Zach in Kauai.
Everyone always asks, “Does film need to be edited?”. Truth be told, usually a little, yes. But that’s honestly based on your personal style. While you all know how much I love love loveeee film, it’s rare that you get back a batch of photos that don’t need to be touched by editing software at least a little. A lot of factors effect the end result of an untouched film scan, most being the lighting conditions + changes throughout the day, the natural reflectors creating colors casts around the subjects, the way you metered for the image, and lastly the eyeballs of the actual person sitting in front of a computer at the lab scanning your roll of negatives into the computer creating digital versions. For the most part I like to “clean up” film photos to make sure colors in the same lighting are consistent, they are nice and bright and sharp where they need to be. With a few quick edits of exposure, tint, sharpness and mayyybbeeeee curves and/or contrast, film scans are transformed into final presentable files. As I can’t speak for other shooters, I’m pretty confident that what we THINK we are looking at when we see bright, perfectly colors and exposed shots are images straight from Richard Photo Lab are in fact scans that have been given some love. At least a lil hug.
Everyone’s editing style is different, but here are the minor but helpful adjustments I make from original film scans resulting in final photo. So don’t be fooled, it’s rare to get all of your rolls back looking 110%. And if you do, then freaking BRAVO!
These photos are a mix of both Fuji 400h + Portra 800, shot on a Contax 645 at different times in the day.
ps: See all those lightroom actions on the left? Yeah, those. I have ALL the popular ones and STILL none of them I love. To me those all take WAY longer than this to get right with digital and still can’t compete. So, they just sit there. But that’s a post for a different day… ;)
pps: In editing the first photo I say “add a little bit of contrast” when I really meant exposure.
Carrying the water bottle you can always find her toting along we continued our conversation as we headed into the church’s sanctuary “…so you’re the artist then…” she concluded. If I was feeling frisky I would have poked at her correcting her grammar, “you mean the arteeeestttt“, but the truth was, compared to the options she had presented, I declared myself both the photographer AND the artist, but where I thrive most is as the creative. On our way to an extra service at church derived for entrepreneurs we had begun discussing business, in particular my business, and the trick to finding the balance between shooting for yourself and documenting for others when I explained to her that there are times I don’t even want to pick up my digital camera, not because I don’t like it’s quality, but because film makes me be the photographer I know I am. The photographer who instead of taking 25 photos of the same thing to decide she likes none of them to holding a film camera in front of my face, taking a moment to focus and recompose to figure I don’t really want to take that shot in the first place. Being pushed to only capture the good stuff means I don’t take my frames for granted and pause and think before I click. Henceforth, making my body of work a lot more curated and less “here’s a photo of everything, at every minute, at every angle, just in caseeeee!”. It relinquishes you of self-imposed obligations to get shots of every waking moment encouraging you to instead take a breath and look around, telling the story exactly how you see it. After all, your particular vision is why people hire you in the first place, so stand up for it!
Sometimes when you take your craft and make it into a business it’s hard to find the shift between what a client wants and what you love, after all, when first starting you’ve been shooting “4 your eyes only” all this time–obliging the desires of someone else isn’t what you realized you signed up for. But when it comes to a wedding day, it kinda sorta is. For most couples a wedding album wouldn’t be complete without formal photos of their friends and family, or simple + pretty images detailing their reception’s decorative elements. As an artist the formal and traditional factors may not be your thang but they’re apart of the deal. So is happily agreeing to photo of Aunt Carole and her brothers when she goes off your printed list to request it. It comes with the territory and is something I’d never in a million years miss, even when couples say “you know, we really don’t any photos of the details…” I know they’re crazy, I’d never want to risk them changing their minds in 10 years so even if it’s just a few, I make sure I get some of those beautiful but “standard” wedding detail photographs just in case.
Just as you’re the official photographer of the day, required to photograph typical moments and details of each event, it’s also just as important to know your strengths, focus on your personal style, and stand up for your business and time. Because if you don’t, who will? And we allll know every second of a wedding day is precious and allotted photography time is a rare commodity. When I first began shooting I’d find myself humoring every photo request at the beck and call of family members saying “Oh, did you get a shot of this? Where’s the photographer, she should get a photo of that. Are you sure this light is okay behind them?” finding my camera working hard to get the lackluster images that someone else was directing instead of seeking out beautiful moments myself. Even as a freelance newspaper photographer I’d let restaurant owners suggest how I set-up plated food when I KNEW that if, left to my own devices, my style would be more effective because, helloooo, I was a professional already. I was just too nice to say anything and took the photos they wanted before shooting what was actually needed, in turn often being rushed and deleting everything I had taken to accommodate them anyway. And WHY?!?! In efforts to be nice, really, but because I wasn’t confident enough to take ownership. I was letting what other people thought I should do dictate my shots and ultimately business. Having a pushy officiant asked the couple to face one another and jointly hold the bouquet in between them for the entirety of the ceremony for “the photographer” (?!?! Hi. THIS photographer requested nothing of the awkward sort), or an aunt hovering over as she pulled me away from photos of the rings to get shots of the groomsmen putting on their boutonnieres…all of them…one.by.one. Sure, it may seem like no harm no foul to take the shot and move on, and typically it’s not, but there comes a moment when as a business owner we need to step up and position ourselves as the Artists, or our creative spark may just get sucked right out like Dementors whisked along. Poof. Now you’re soulless.
Nowadays I feel completely confident in the balance I’ve found with being hired to document while still having absolute style and when a officiant hinting-ly (it’s a word, go with it), says “Oh, look, their foot prints in the sand make a great photo….” I have the courage to nicely smile and simply reply “awww, that’s sweet” without raising my camera an inch. Or to politely ask the waiter to remove the practically life-size bottle of champagne from the middle of my shot that he placed there just before I clicked because, I don’t know, I guess he though it would look great sitting right in front of the Bride + Groom’s chairs. “Thanks, I got a shot of that already, you can take it away now…or better yet just give it to me… ;)”. Because I believe in myself, my craft, my eye, know the must-have images and am always on the look-out for beautiful artistic shots throughout the day…and footprints in the sand ain’t one of um. All-in-all, choosing to be an artist first and foremost makes me a better photographer. And if politely smiling doesn’t work I always have the excuse “Oh, I only have a few shots, this is film“.
Nearly every time that I pop the back of my Contax 645 open and unhinge a roll of film in front of people who’ve never seen me shooting before I’m almost always met with wonderment “WOW. Real film…like, legit” sometimes proceeded with “haven’t seen that in a while…”. It makes me giggle and often times has me answering a slew of questions like “now tell me why FILM?”. Trust me, this girl could go on for hours (and sometimes have!) about how beautiful it is, how it may be significantly more expensive but ultimately saves me time, how the end result of colors just can’t be touched, how the bokeh (a.k.a background bubbles of blur) are just out of this world, how the framing and crop of a medium format camera is how my eyeballs see the world, and mainly how it slows me down — keeps me from shootingshootingshooting – resulting in getting THE shot not just a shot. But truthfully, it’s just simply beautiful, you can’t deny it. I’d never hate on digital because it does incredible things and in low-lit ceremonies it has saved my behind once or twice, but man, when it comes to film it has utterly stolen my heart. Sure, I still loop my Canon Mark3 (yes, I begrudging added it to my collection) around my neck for the in-between moments and darker times in the evening when digital is beneficial, snapping away in film but taking one or two in digital for good measure but I always always get my film scans back and swoon. I’m so happy that after years of watching from the sidelines I finally made the leap, not so much for my business or the defining factors, but really for my all things pretty loving soul.
For a better visual of film vs. digital, here are a few comparisons. I always give clients all the great shots from their wedding day, both film and digital (after all I’ve found an artist’s favorite is rarely the same as the couple’s!) but if I have an exact or nearly exact image in both digital and film I usually give preference to the film. Bonus points for hardly having to edit them. ;) All photos straight out of the camera with no (or very very little, like cropping) edits. Yes, the digital versions seen below could be edited to look more like their film counterparts (and some were in the client’s final gallery) but I wanted to showcase how the digital WOULD need to be edited (which takes for-ever) and frankly can never compare to the film shot, which takes very little edits, if any at all.
Left: Contax 645 + Fuji 400h w/ 80mm lens, trying to not fall into the fountain behind me | Right: Canon 6D SOOC w/ 35mm lens.
In this scene there was pink almost everywhere, resulting in a really muted but more magenta digital image. I edited the digital to closely match the film for the client, but much prefer the warmth of the film shot here .
With the digital it’s tough to expose properly for their skin without “blowing out” or not getting the detail of the ocean. Typically you have to make a choice, but not with the film shot! Bright, pretty skin AND details in the waves. WIN.
My digital image could have stood an additional stop of exposure, something in the emotion of the moment I had to leave to post processing. But then when I saw the film? No need! Plus, I like how the format of the Contax adds that little bit extra in the blanket + additional viewpoint.