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Confessions of an Aspiring Film Photographer

March 27, 2014

About a year ago, I noticed a trend in the type of images I was drawn to. They were romantic, they were soft, they were luminous. I tried to find the common denominator regarding this particular style. What I learned was every photographer whose work really spoke to my soul shot film.

On a whim last summer, I bought a Mamiya 645 and decided I was going to give to attempt to teach myself how to use it.

Let me tell you something, y’all. If you want to test your patience and your passion for your craft, give film a try.

I shot the first two rolls of film after reading Jonathan Canlas’ book Film is Not Dead (which I highly recommend to all photographers, not just those who are learning film). I chose a lab after conversing with a few colleagues, and I waited enthusiastically.

A week later I received a rather disappointing phone call basically saying none of the rolls turned out.


I had no idea what I had done wrong and was convinced there was a mechanical error with my new camera. I took the body into a local camera shop, and after they cleaned it they said that everything appeared to be operating just fine.

Perplexed, but even more fueled to make this work, I began to watch videos online about how to load film.

What I’m about to tell y’all is so embarrassing. After everything, I realized I had loaded the film upside down. Whoops!

At this point, I almost thought about selling the Mamiya and giving up. I was producing perfectly acceptable images with my Mark II, so why should I keep trying?

That’s about the time that I realized that I don’t want to produce “perfectly acceptable images.” I want to create images that evoke emotion, images that inspire, images that make my feel for myself the way I feel about the work of so many other artists. 

Over the course of the past six months, I have shot several rolls of film. I even had the opportunity to shoot film alongside my favorite film photographer, Laura Gordon, at the Envision Workshop (you can read more about that experience here!). Each time I would shoot a roll, I would store it with the rest of the rolls. I kept saying things to myself like, “oh, I’ll just send them off next week” or “it’s so expensive, I just need to save a little more and then I’ll send off my film.” The truth is I was making excuses because I was afraid. I didn’t want to fail at this again.

Last week, I finally sent off all the film I’ve shot over the last few months. The lab has received it, and if the scans are viable, I’m going to share them soon. And if none of them turn out again, I’m just going to keep trying like I don’t have another choice. Like my work depends on it, because as far as I’m concerned it does. I want to be inspired by my own art, what’s the point in pursuing it any longer if you cease to be inspired by it?

I am so anxious to see these images. At first, I hated the waiting part. Shooting digitally has made me such an impatient person. I seek instant gratification in multiple aspects of my life, but film is teaching me that some of the best things come after a period of waiting.

Nikki Santerre Photography_Film Photography_Virginia Wedding Photographer_0001

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