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My First Filmfolio and What I Learned from a Year of Film Photography

I started taking film seriously in December of 2020 and decided that if I was going to try this and start on a new creative journey, then I would go all out. I made a resolution for the new year to not only create a 12-month portfolio of my film work but shoot all of my personal projects outside of my clients and jobs on film.

Crazy? Yeah, it was.

This "filmfolio" as I call it consisted of 12 final prints from the year of 2021 (you won't be missed) that I thought really exemplified my style and goals in photography as I wanted to really develop my style. In this post I will go through each image and how it impacted my progress with film throughout the year. Without further ado, let's get started!


This was my first addition to the filmfolio and I honestly think it is my favorite. I shot it with my dad's Canon Elan 7e with my Sigma 24-70mm Art lens on Cinestill 800T. I know right, what was I thinking starting my film journey on an 800-speed film at night? Like I said earlier, I'm kind of crazy...

This really started a fire under me for the rest of the project as I really wanted to just flex my creativity and see what all the hype was about with film. And yes, GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) is strong in the film force. I eventually ended up buying a few more film cameras that I will talk about later.


This second addition to the filmfolio (I just like saying that word) was taken on the same setup but with Kodak Portra 400. I wanted to see what all the hype was about with that film stock and realized it was very much over-hyped. It is one of the only offerings for medium format shooters, but for 35mm there are so many better stylistic and affordable options that I personally prefer. This project definitely helped me find out which stock I preferred most which was very convenient.

This was taken in Raleigh, NC and was one of my attempts at street photography trying to catch dynamic lighting and people walking just out of the shade. It is the first image where I really started figuring out how to convert my negatives in Adobe Photoshop as accurately as possible. Definitely the best shot on that roll, but it was good practice. Just don't be stupid like me and "practice" on $12 rolls of film.


"Night Owl"

Funny sidenote, this is my most popular shot on Reddit which is honestly a great motivational boost to keep making work because Reddit can be ruthless. This was taken mere minutes after a tornado blew through downtown High Point, NC. I was about to drive to the gym (because I'm an invincible college kid who can't be hurt by scary weather) and noticed the beautiful fog over the whole city. I had some Cinestill 800T left so I hit up my buddy and we went downtown.

This shot was taken of him walking and thinking that he is talking to me when I'm a few feet back taking his picture. I didn't think this would be a good shot if I'm being honest, but it turned out to be one of my best from the whole year. My favorite shots in this filmfolio were taken on two different film stocks: Cinestill 800T and Kodak Gold 200. Gold 200 is my hands-down favorite stock on the market and 800T is a very fun and stylistic stock that I eventually got burned out with as I wanted something more natural looking. I will be looking into Portra 800 in the near future.


"Corner Access"

This was shot on one of the new cameras I mentioned I bought: the Olympus XA loaded with Kodak Ultramax 400. This little point and shoot camera is a dream to use and so cool looking. I got a sweet deal on it on Ebay as I bought it listed as "parts only" for about $125-$225 off the going price. It was in perfect cosmetic condition and the seller simply didn't know how to test it, so I snagged it. Turns out it didn't even need new light seals!

This was shot during my last semester as a college senior when I was still president of the Photography Club. This was shot on one of our photowalks downtown just to have an excuse to get out and hang out really. I liked this image, but it isn't exactly one of my favorites as I have a love-hate relationship with Ultramax. That's a story for another post though.


"Golden Door"

So, this month and the next acted as a period of great anxiety and sadness for me as all of my film images were not converting properly. I thought I was simply exposing wrong and that led me to expose other rolls wrong thinking I was compensating for a malfunctioning light meter. Turns out I was just converting in Photoshop wrong and needed to change some steps. Needless to say, I was a little frustrated after those couple of months and that lowkey put a damper on the rest of the year.

This was again shot on the Elan and Portra 400 with the 24-70mm lens which was my mainstay for most of the year as I wanted to get the best quality out of my film. Once I found out about the editing mistake, I went back over the rolls shot this month and the next and this one was my least hated shot from the month of May. It's not bad, but it's not what I wanted to show for my efforts but that was because I did little exploring this month with graduation coming up. Understandable, I guess.



Like I mentioned before, this was part of the period where I experienced conversion issues. This was probably the only time I went downtown in Nashville, TN that month and I don't think I really took advantage of that time. When it comes to photography, everyone has areas that they struggle in that they wish they could excel in, and for me that is street photography. I always end up shooting more places than people which is contrary to the type of imagery I like to consume. That is something I will need to work on for the future.

This was shot with the same previous kit but on Ultramax 400. It was at this point that I realized I didn't need expensive film when cheaper stocks could give me the same results surprisingly. I would be the only one to notice any slight changes in grain structure anyway. I just wanted nice saturated and warm colors in my work which is why I stuck with Kodak.


"Go Preds"

I have to be honest, I think this is a great street shot and exactly along the lines of what I like to see in that photographic theme. This was exactly what I needed after those two months of pain! I really love the composition and content of this shot as I think it tells a story about Nashville, though it may just be a brief one about our love for the Predators hockey team. The two men are perfectly positioned, and the street name is not cut off which made me VERY happy as I'm a little OCD about my work (aren't we all).

This shot helped me muster up the strength to continue the filmfolio through the rest of the year, but of course another incident would occur later. Buckle up, it's a mess.


"City on a Hill"

This shot was taken on campus and I personally like the composition and colors, though the shot is generally unremarkable to me. I think it is a fun image for the school but not one that I really wanted as part of my filmfolio, but it was the most interesting shot from that month to be honest. I was starting my last year of grad school and a LOT was going on. Maybe I'll fill you in with another post focusing on my life for the past year. Maybe.

This was shot on the Olympus XA again and with Ultramax 400. I really wanted to love this film as it was the only stock my dad really ever used, but man was it hard as it just wasn't giving me what I wanted. That's the frustrating and oddly enough relieving thing about film: you may do all the research in the world on a stock and decide you love it, but it will always react differently for each photographer.


"Light Leaks"

I absolutely adore this shot. It was taken on the Elan again, but this time with Kodak Gold 200 and the Sigma 50mm Art lens (my precious). Of course, the first roll I shoot on Gold 200 in almost a year contains some of my favorite shots and colors. C'est la film. This was some interesting light and beautiful tones that I needed to put in the filmfolio and it was a great opportunity to see how the new lens resolves (and it did not disappoint).


"Closed Off"

Again, Kodak Gold 200 to the rescue. This was again shot on the Elan and 50mm so it's obviously tack sharp. This was my second roll of Gold 200 all year and I pulled it to 100 ISO and the exposures and tones were outstanding. I wanted to try pulling again (after many failed attempts) because I knew it would help with high-contrast scenes. And boy oh boy did it. This was my first roll since January on which I liked more than five shots.


"Autumn Street"

So, about that second mess I mentioned earlier: I got a new camera which was a dream camera of mine and I still love it, but I got back on Ultramax 400 and it just was not happening. I bought a Canon F-1n (the second model not the New F-1 everyone confuses it with) on Ebay again for a great deal because it was untested from a movie prop house. It needed new seals, but the meter works great and it came with a 28mm lens that I got to try out. I was having a hard time figuring out how to work with Ultramax as I tried pulling it to 200 but I was not a fan of the colors. I may try again in the future, but for now I think I'm going to take a break from that stock for a bit.



We're finally at the end of the road for this year. This was an exciting shot for me as it was the first roll I put through my F-1 after fixing the Canon 50mm 1.4 breech lock lens I got for it. I got a sweet deal on the lens, but that was because there was actually something wrong with it this time. There was a buildup of oil on the aperture blades which slowed them down and made every shot above f/2 overexposed basically.

I ordered some tools and borrowed some tools and made some tools to take apart the lens and clean it with some electric-grade DeoxIT cleaner. Took a bit for me to crack it open and for it to dry, but ultimately I got it put back together and it works like a dream now. I was very proud of myself as you can imagine. I wasn't a fan of all the fibers and scratches at first but being the lazy Photoshopper I am, I decided they looked aesthetic and didn't fool with cleaning them up.


So there you have it. Those are my images in my first filmfolio and I think they really show growth for me and have me set on the path to figuring out what exactly I like to shoot. I hope this post inspires you to try the same thing, film or not, and I would love to hear from you all on social media or here about how it goes or if you've done the same thing! As always, get out there and Focus-Shoot-Repeat.

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