Learning from Film Photography

After I got the prints back from the photo lab from my first roll of film in August, I was really excited about using another disposable camera. When I bought that first camera I didn’t know what to expect from it, so I was genuinely suprised when I saw the quality of the prints I got back. But it also meant that my expectations were higher with my second roll of film. Probably too high.

When I got the prints my first reaction was excitement that they had come but then turned into dissapointment, as I looked through them. I saw nothing but mistakes. All the bad compositions. The light leaks. The too dark, grainy and underexposed shots.

I was gutted and felt like I had lost my new love for disposable cameras and film photography. Taking digital photos doesn’t cost me anything but buying a camera and then having it developed does and I felt like I had wasted the money. Then someone adviced me to put the prints away and look at them again later, because sometimes you like them better after some time.

And guess what? It worked!

The second time I looked at the prints a few months after I first saw them, my reaction to them was very different because I saw them with less expectations. Now, I think only a few of the photos are really flawed and most of them fill me with pleasure. They are not perfect and a disposable camera has limitations but it doesn’t matter. They are images of things I have seen and when I look at them, I see those things all over again in my mind.


This photo of Liverpool Street Station in London is a bit too underexposed and dark even though the station seemed bright when I was in it. But somehow the gloomyness suits the old, elegantly decorated Victorian roof structure I was trying to photograph, even if the beautiful details on the framework get a little lost.

The bookshop on the corner of Gower Street with it’s Gothic turrets and gargoyles is so beautiful to me and by focusing on the rooftop of the building you can’t see all the busyness of that busy corner near UCL, the cars and bicycles, the people that hurry past. It’s one of the reasons I love Ilford’s black and white film; it can make places look old and timeless. I do wish there was a bit less sky but I must have got the angle of the lens wrong.

Chinatown is one of my favourite places in London and I took this photo when I was showing some friends around, who came to see me in October. I love the atmosphere there, the smell of peking duck and fried rice, and the way it feels both secluded and lively no matter what time of day it is. There are some light leaks in the right side of the photo but somehow it just adds to the old feel of the photo.

Close to my parents cabin in Sweden hidden within the forest there is a quarry that only the locals know about. The hole looks deceptively shallow but when I step out on to the edge of the rock and look down into the deep water, I always experience a sense of vertigo that if I fall down into that water I will never be able to come up again. The top one is one my favourites because of how I managed to capture the tall trees standing on the edge above the rocks in the water’s reflection.

When I saw these old window frames leaning against the foundations of the old shed that used to stand next to the cabin, I immediately saw the image in B&W in my mind. I have been trying to figure out what it is that I like so much about it and I think it’s the different layers of glass and transparency, the sense of decay coming from the fallen autumn leaves and the piles of discarded rocks in the background, seen both in the background and through the glass of one of the windows. It’s probably my favourite photo from the roll.

At home I lived fifteen minutes away from the beach but I never went there. One evening when I was home in September, my dad and I spontaneously decided to go to the beach to see the sunset. I knew the photos would come out a bit grainy because the sun had already set but the grain is what I like about film, the same way I love the sharpness of digital photography. I like how still the water seems by the small pier and in the reflection I caught of Arken Museum of Modern Art in the water that surrounds it.

When I lived in London, I used to look out my window and see directly over towards the western tower of St Pancras. It’s one of my favourite buildings in London but for some reason I’ve never taken many photos of its Victorian Gothic architecture, probably because it’s always been there for me to see. It took the disposable camera I had in my bag when I was there with my parents in November to remind me to capture it.

This street means so much to me. I used to walk down it and past the house with the overgrown ivy and the bicycle on the steps almost every single day. I would look down through the typical black, London iron-fence on the flats in the basements and imagine I could live there one day. It’s a street that’s become part of my memories of my time in London, so it doesn’t matter that a light leak has sneaked in, in the upper left corner, it just makes it seem all the more nostalgic, like I dream I made up in my mind.

The thing I’m starting to learn about film photography is that you don’t see where you might have gone wrong until you get the prints, which can be months after you took the photos. So it’s a much slower process than digital photography where you can immediately see the problems in a photo and adjust it straight away. The flaws I first saw in these photos is just something I’ll have to learn from for my next roll.

Shooting with film is teaching me to be more patient, less perfectionistic and to take my time to learn from the process.

Would you ever consider taking photographs with a disposable camera or do you prefer just snapping moments with your phone or a digital camera?


1 Comment

  1. September 17, 2017 / 1:19 pm

    I still use my two Canon SLRs from time to time, just to remind myself how difficult film photography is compared with using a digital camera. After all, you can take a 100 pictures of the same scene with a digital camera, for free, each with a different camera setting and composition/lighting and choose the one you want to keep!

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