5 Lessons I Learned About Life From Film Photography

5 Lessons I Learned About Life From Film Photography

Film is complex, involves innumerable processes, dark rooms, and seemingly endless amounts of time spent waiting, but I wouldn't trade the lessons that I learned from taking a film class for the world.

Madison Zoey Vettorino
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When you think of 'photography' today, images of fancy DSLR cameras, Adobe Photoshop, and hours of on-screen photo editing probably pop into your mind. It's so tempting, in today's technologically-savvy world, to forget that film photography still exists.

When I first declared a minor in photography last fall, I naturally assumed that all of my required classes would be digital photography. Surprisingly, 'Basic Photo,' the introduction class at my college, is entirely film-based. Film photography, though intimidating at first glance, is an incredibly under-appreciated art. It's complex, involves innumerable processes, dark rooms, and seemingly endless amounts of time spent waiting, but I wouldn't trade the lessons that I learned from taking a film class for the world.

1. Your thoughts create your reality.

Developing rolls of film is tricky! From ensuring that the film doesn't accidentally 'catch light,' to ensuring that you mix the correct chemicals to make the photos actually appear on the film strip, there are many opportunities for a mishap or two. I've realized, if you talk it into yourself that you're going to miss a step or mess up, you will. If you start the process in a more optimistic way and try your very best to develop your film correctly, you most likely will. It all begins with what you tell yourself, and your thoughts are incredibly powerful (the law of attraction is definitely real!). Your thoughts become your reality.

So, if you think that no matter how hard you try, you're going to mess up because it's not necessarily an easy process, you definitely will because you won't be as careful. If you think in a more positive manner, you're going to get some beautiful pictures. This is just like anything else in life. It is entirely a case of mind over matter. The mind is so, so powerful. Don't take that fact for granted.

2. The importance of being patient.

The process of developing just one roll of film can be totally daunting. It takes upwards of forty minutes to complete the developing process from start to finish, but it is totally worth it when you see the negative all dried and ready to be printed. Your pictures are then finally almost coming to life. The best things in life may take a while to manifest, but that means they mean so much more when they finally happen. Patience is essential!

3. If something takes a while, you appreciate it more when it finally works out.

On that note, the longer something takes, the more you appreciate it when it's finally done. It does take a while to successfully develop a roll of film, and a while to print a "perfect" photograph (I'm talking hours in the dark room spent with contrast filters, contact sheets, and aperture lenses!), it is totally worth the finished product: an incredible photograph that captures the beauty of a fleeting moment that would otherwise be lost to time. This is the same with life; if something takes a while to manifest, the importance of it will not be lost on you when whatever it is you've been waiting for finally arrives.

4. The importance of getting out of your comfort zone.

Film photography often asks you to take yourself out of your comfort zone; whether that be photographing a stranger or sneaking down to the river at night to take some pictures with friends (not that I would know first hand...wink!). It is intimidating to try new things, but if you never tried something new and bid your comfort zone goodbye, you would never truly discover yourself. To me, that's more frightening.

5. How to go with the flow.

Some of the pictures you would think would be your best will be underwhelming. Some pictures that you just snapped to fill the roll of film will end up being some of your favorites and end up framed on your wall for years to come. Respect your artistic process. Let the story your photographs tell unfold itself. Art asks you to surrender your sense of control; life does the same. Life does what life will do, and your photographs will do what they will do. Life and photos will never steer you wrong. You will be pleasantly surprised if you simply allow things to be what they are going to be.

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