Things I learned from Analog Portrait photoshoots

So far, I photographed four models with experience ranging from low to moderate. I had to pose them either deliberately or they posed with little direction. I only used film cameras.

Here are some things I learned after doing these photoshoots.

  1. I missed focus on only a few frames, and only by a few centimenters. I must be more careful with portraits. This is where shooting with a single lens reflex camera triumphs over my twin lens camera.
  2. I don’t need to bring my Canon full-frame DSLR to the shoot at all. Frankly, I brought it for "insurance" in case I mess up the workflow with the TLR film camera which I didn't. I will carry the little Fujifilm X100F on the shoot to expose a challenging scene. Back in the day photographers would expose a polaroid to do this very thing.
  3. I should start the session with the Nikon FE 35mm camera. I can waste some film while I learn how the model takes direction and while the model learns how I give direction. This will prepare me before I start shooting with the Mamiya C220 medium format camera. Shooting with the Nikon FE will give the model quick, repetitive shots to habituate body positions, angles and expressions. Shooting with the Mamiya is slow and calculated. And expensive.
  4. I must start shooting three hours before sunset. I only need two hours for the shoot but the light changes very quickly in the last 45 minutes. The rapidly warming color temperature does not give me much room to control the feel of the shoot. Moreover, the diminishing natural light makes it increasingly difficult to find focus in the ground glass of the camera. Blurry shots are no fun.
  5. I must specify outfit choices with more detail. My casting call said: “I prefer simple outfits for this project, nothing too tight or shiny”. I changed it to say: “I prefer simple outfits for this project; nothing too tight, shiny or structured; solid colors over prints, colors could contrast with your skin and hair. Loose buttoned shirts, tanks, cropped tops, and spaghetti tops will work.”
  6. On that note, I should be more specific about the exact kinds of tops and bottoms over texts and emails with the model.
  7. I run out of poses after shooting three to four rolls. Thats 48 frames. An experienced model could get into more poses, and much faster. With practice I could take quicker shots when I get more efficient at positioning my camera and tripod, and focusing quicker.
  8. I've averaged 3 to 4 presentable shots out of every 12 — not too shabby!
  9. I can be less picky about the location. I tried shooting in Mead Botanical Garden in Winter Park, FL. I thought the picturesque gardens and boardwalks would help set the scene. We ended up shooting in front of the trees next to the parking lot. So, all I need is some open space that is safe and quiet, some shade (trees, walls, small buildings) and good exposure to light.
  10. I must try to add some space in the photographic frame around the model.
  11. I am trying to but I still can't make the case to purchase a single-lens-reflex medium format camera. My twin-lens-reflex has proved very predictable so far and I should get more familiar with it.
  12. I haven't set my mind on this yet, but I am leaning towards working with one model at a time instead of two or more.