Cruise through Jonathan Canlas’ instagram account, and its clear – his two greatest passions are his adorable family and film photography. Canlas, isn’t just an extremely talented photographer, but he’s also the founder of Film Is Not Dead. He calls Hawaii home but travels the globe conducting his wildly popular FIND Workshops. He’ll head to the UK in February and team with the UK Film Lab to put on one of his two-day workshops. These workshops, in Canlas’ words, are part of a “community, family, a belief, a journey, centered around FIND-ing your unique voice through film photography.” If you’re lucky enough to be in Brighton this February, get your spot http://filmisnotdead.com/#workshops. We asked Jonathan to share some of the top 5 questions he receives in each workshop. Perhaps some of you have had these questions.
We’re also lucky enough to have some of Jonathan’s work as well. For more of his work, visit ALOHA.
1. Will shooting film make me a better photographer?
The answer to this is yes and no.
I mean, putting film in your hands is not going to make you see the world differently or make you magically better at your craft. Meaning if you don’t see light, understand composition, or have a strong voice, film is not going to just give that skill to you. HOWEVER, when film is put in your hands it forces you to slow down and shoot very differently than if you were shooting digitally. With a digital camera that has cards that have the capacity to hold thousands upon thousands of images it is easy to just click away, taking multiple captures of one thing. With no real limitation with digital in how many photos you can take, the discipline to take one and move on is just not needed. It is really easy to get loose about what you are shooting with that mentality. However, on film, every time you click it costs money and a certain discipline is usually adapted when shooting film. With more intention combined with a slower pace, it will literally make you analyze everything that is going in your frame. And this I think can make you a better photographer in the long run. Where the opposite can make you a sloppy photographer. It makes you a lot more intentional that is for sure.
Another way it will make you a better photographer is it will force you to learn your exposures. Obviously, there is no chimping with film. And to get the perfect negative that requires no time behind a computer requires the perfect exposure. And if you stick with one ISO for even one full day, you’ll really get to learn really quickly the exposures in different lighting situations.
2. What limitations does film have?
Some, but not many. I still think digital is king in low light situations in terms of shooting in color. Even if I can underexpose KODAK PROFESSIONAL PORTRA 400 up to 3 stops, it has to be the right light and that light is not always available nor is your subject going to always just be hanging out in that light. But on the b/w side of things, KODAK PROFESSIONAL TRI-X is incredible. I’ve seen it pushed to 6400 iso and shot in the darkest of dank receptions and have amazing amazing results. Other than the low light limitation in terms of color, its abilities outweigh the limitations. The dynamic range is incredible along with color and most importantly, how images look straight out of camera when scanned by a good lab like the lab I use theFINDlab (http://thefindlab.com).
3. How can I shoot film and not have it break the bank as digital costs me nothing?
I think the myth needs to be busted that shooting digitally does not “cost” you anything. First, there is the initial cost of your DSLR, which as time has shown, is usually upgraded every year and some change. Combine that with the depreciation of your “old” DSLR and you’ve got quite some costs accumulating. Then there is the “cost” of the time of editing your images. I don’t know many (any for that matter) that deliver clients images straight out of their camera. Some time is needed to edit those images and as they say, time is money. I honestly think that shooting film and shooting digitally the costs are the same. Either I can shoot film and not have to sit behind a computer or I can “save money” and shoot digitally and then be stuck behind a computer. Also, touching on the answer of question number 1, when you shoot film, you are not burning through thousands of exposures. Less editing time and more keepers equals a lot of “money” saved. Remember, time is money, no matter how you try to rationalize it.
4. What is the best film stock to use in multiple lighting situations?
I have found KODAK PROFESSIONAL PORTRA 400 to be the best film for this. I can effectively have an ISO of 50-3200, without having to change how I develop the roll. That means I can overexpose up to 3 stops (I’ve even done up to 4 before) and under-expose up to 3 stops all on the same roll without having to pull/push the roll. The Vision 3 technology in the new PORTRA 400 is absolutely incredible. Now mind you, you can’t just underexpose PORTRA 400 by 3 stops and think it will look amazing. You have to find the right light to be able to do this. Meaning, when you shoot underexposed like this, you need to make sure that whatever you are shooting is lit or has some kind of luminosity to it. You can’t shoot into a cave with no light and expect it to look ok. However, if you have some dimly LIT subjects, try underexposing PORTRA 400 and be amazed by the results.
5. I know you say FILM IS NOT DEAD but is it close?
No, not at all. A good friend of mine, Mark Sperry, said something in regards to this recently. Basically it has never been better for film shooters than it is today. Even with all of our limitations. We are missing a TON of different film stocks, camera makers, and labs that used to be around say 10-15 years ago are long gone. But the ones we do have right now are the best of the best. We have only a handful of film stocks to choose from but the abilities of said film (the new Kodak Portra line) stocks are amazing. We only have a couple companies still making film cameras, but we have a HUGE surplus of cameras that people are no longer using and can be snatched up for pennies on the dollar. And the labs that are open and thriving today (theFINDlab) are labs that are mostly run by film shooters and know how to scan color neg film. It is a great time to be a film shooter that is for sure. Arguably the best time.