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My First Two Rolls of 35mm Film



I’m really excited to share my first two rolls of 35mm film with you today!

I was born in 1989 which makes me almost 32. Most my early childhood was still documented on film that my dad got developed at Price Club. I fondly remember disposable cameras. But my own first experience capturing images has always been on digital mediums.

My first camera was a Sony Cyber Shot. I got my first cell phone at age 17 which I believe had a camera, albeit awful compared to today’s standards. I was thrust into the age of digital everything, which has only dominated our current lives now.

Why shoot film?

I’ll address this right away, because everyone is asking like I am clearly crazy. I have a 42 Megapixel Sony full-frame DSLR with great lenses. One memory card usually yields me about 2000+ images. Is there a real reason for me to go back in time 40 years and work like I’m in the dark ages? No, of course not. I know my current camera system is professional level. I’m not turning to film in hopes of becoming a professional film photographer (but I’ll never say never).

The entire draw to film is that, well, I never had the opportunity to learn. I’ve heard many seasoned photographers say that film really helped them appreciate photography more and truly understand ISO and exposure. Instead of 2000 photos, you get 36. And chances are a few of them aren’t going to turn out right. You also can’t see the photos you take right way, which is a huge contrast in how I normally operate.

Olympus OM-1 35mm film camera

My dad mentioned to me that he still had his Olympus OM-1 35mm film camera from when he was in high school. I said I might be interested in it. He had no idea if it even still worked. He gifted it to me for my 31st birthday, which happened to be two weeks into the pandemic.

woman holding old camera up to her eye with orange tree behind her

In short, film was the perfect pandemic project for me. I was stuck at home with no client work while my business was shut down for two months. I finally had the time and I was with my kids all day, who are fun to photograph. At the end of the day, I want to understand as much as I can about photography. So even if film is just for me, it’s one way I can stay current, learn as an industry professional, and grow as a photographer.

The 35mm Photos

These were shot on Kodak Gold 200. I know very little about actual film stocks, but this type is common, cheap and came recommended. These were developed from The FIND Lab. Click on any photo to see it larger and click back in your browser to go back to the gallery here.

Overall, these photos don’t look a lot like “my work” too much or do much story telling. These aren’t all of the photos (I spared you of underexposed ones and naked kids). I have always loved taking still life photos, so I took lots of images of flowers and just “stuff.” I’m happy to see some images of my daughters didn’t come out too blurry with movement. I really went into this virtually no/very low expectations, so I’m glad that these turned out.

Some Problems

There are light leaks in some photos, like this.

field with a light leak from film | 35mm film

It was on both rolls of film, so it’s likely the camera itself which is common of technology that’s 47 years old. I don’t know why it’s on some photos and not others.

Both rolls of film I also thought I was ready to take a shot, but the film wasn’t quite advanced all the way, so the first “shot” both came out as half shots, like this.

weird shot of 35mm film

I did not meter for these photos, which means using a light meter to tell you how to properly shoot the film for the correct exposure.

Overall, I learned that I was able to expose things just fine outside when there was light. Indoors was much trickier and most my indoor shots were way underexposed, like this. Ironically an image of my notes on exposure.

underexposed 35mm film photo of a notebook page

Unsurprisingly, because even when using digital, I have to bump up my exposure quite a bit in post. With film, you can only do that so far if it wasn’t shot correctly to begin with. Most likely, I would not use this camera indoors again unless in a very well-lit area like some of those flowers on a table images above.

Will I shoot more 35mm film?

Absolutely. I am pleasantly surprised by the shots that did turn out. I was worried the camera wouldn’t work or I’d screw something up, so the fact that I have a few photos I like to show for it is rewarding. It’s odd to just send the photos off and not have to actually edit them myself. I do not see myself getting into developing my own film, but then again, I won’t say never. This may just be a random pet project or could evolve into something else entirely. We’ll see.

My absolutely favorite thing about doing this was that I got to see photos that I’d taken months ago and had otherwise forgotten about. It was like a pocket of time saved just for me that I was gifting to myself later. When it’s all said and done, that’s what photography is to me – saving time and gifting it to others. Sounds cheesier than queso, but it’s true. It was really nice that in 2020 (and some of these were shot in 2021), I was able to do something just for me.

Shooting 35mm film was a bit like therapy for me. Overall, I am so glad I got do to something to go back to some creative roots.

xo Melissa

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  1. Richard Massey says:

    Very nice Melissa. I’m glad you enjoyed the project and got some use from my old OM-1.

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