How to shoot film without getting a divorce


by Bellamy /

6 min read

How to shoot film without getting a divorce by Paul Schofield
Paul shares with us a fun little piece about photography and our changing lives, and spefically how to deal with a crippling film photography habit when you have a family to take care of.

“Harmony is a condition that comes about when all the parts of your life are balanced with each other and with the world around you”.

Cumbria, 1976. We’ve been stuck in an Austin Allegro for six hours in sweltering heat and my sweaty nylon Spiderman t-shirt is sticking to the brown vinyl seats. The campsite is still miles away, it’s late and tempers are getting frayed. Dad is looking for a disused railway station in the middle of nowhere that he vaguely remembers stopping at in 1948. He wants to take a photograph of it. With a Praktica LTL3 and some recently expired Kodachrome 64. And he’s bloody well going to do it even if it kills us.

Luckily, incidents like this did not leave any permanent scars. Now that I’m a bit older I can see were the old man was coming from. He had a passion for taking pictures and he was trying to fit this in with family life. If taking photographs is your thing then you want to spend as much time doing it as possible. Now I’m able to look back and admire his dedication. He probably has the largest collection of photographs of disused railway stations in the UK.

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A90 Perth (2013)

When my kids arrived I was using a DSLR and for a while I only really took pictures of them. Hundreds of pictures. For a while I was completely absorbed with capturing those candid moments that only parents really appreciate. I had a Nikon D90 with a 35mm prime and used available light. I was as happy as a pig in the you-know-what and the photography slotted right in with everything else.

But one day it wasn’t enough. Digital lost its appeal and I ended up with a film camera again. Several, actually. For me, coming back to film has made photography more important than ever. There are plenty of reasons for this. For a start, the buzz of getting a lovely pile of negatives back from the lab is unbeatable, even if they aren’t always what you expect. Film also provides a nice counterbalance to modern life that wasn’t there before. It’s rare that I leave home without an iPhone and a Nikon F3; a perfect combination in my view.

Anyhow, the point is that I’ve had to find a way of making more room in my life for photography without disrupting my family life too much. For what it’s worth, these are my thoughts on how to achieve this seemingly impossible task and still end up with some rewarding work.

1. “I don’t have enough time for photography anymore. It’s all about the kids – I just go to work and come home. I’m a husk of the man I once was.”

Family life is a balancing act; there is never enough time. Having no time to do anything can be infuriating but if you want to take pictures you have to grab opportunities whenever they come up.

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Easyjet (2013)

I’m lucky to have a job that sometimes takes me into the countryside so I have more opportunity than most to pick up a camera at work. It doesn’t matter where you work, though, there are photographic opportunities everywhere if you look for them, even if it’s on the way to the sandwich bar at lunchtime.

Weekends are the same; all you need is the intent and the means to take photographs. I usually have an Olympus XA in my back pocket, otherwise I’d go weeks without taking any pictures at all.

As every photographic dad knows, holidays are a big deal. You have a chunk of time away from work and you can negotiate some proper time off for good behaviour. It’s all about give and take.

2. “When you have kids you have no spare money for camera equipment and film. They suck the life out of you and leave you with nothing but bills.”

It hasn’t taken long for digital to dominate everything and one salutary by-product of this is that film cameras are now extremely cheap. Nowadays you can buy professional grade equipment at rock bottom prices and this applies particularly to top branded SLR’s. My main camera is a Nikon F3 with three Nikkor prime lenses all bought online in more or less mint condition. You don’t have to invest much to get your hands on a good film camera with excellent glass.

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Bamburgh (2013)

Unfortunately, the same is not always true when you buy a roll of film. Nobody would say that film is particular cheap but most people seem to find that film slows down their picture taking. At £4.00 a roll plus processing, I can’t afford to blast away with a motor drive but the process seems to demand a more considered approach anyway. You think before you release the shutter and try to make each frame count.

3. “I don’t have the freedom anymore to shoot what I want. We’re always at the play park or in the swimming pool. My life is slipping away before my very eyes.”

Making interesting photographs in ordinary, everyday surroundings and staying interested in what you’re doing is a big challenge. If you don’t get the chance to do much international travel anymore or don’t have much time to get out there and just shoot, then you have to find a way of working with what you’ve got.

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El Capitan & Half Dome, Yosemite Valley (2003) – “We used to go places…”

There is a huge amount of great street photography online that I find very inspiring but I live in rural central Scotland so I’m not going to be doing much of that type of photography any time soon.

Personally, I try not to think too hard about what to photograph and tend to just keep my eyes open for something that grabs me. My photography is usually landscape orientated but not exclusively. My kids are still one of my main subjects although nowadays I tend to concentrate on quality rather quantity.

Being more project orientated is a good way to stay focused. I personally used to struggle to think of simple project ideas until I started discovering themes in what I was choosing to shoot. Derelict petrol stations, grain elevators and botanical close-ups are recent examples.

Looking at subjects and styles that you wouldn’t naturally be drawn to can provide a new challenge. I’ve started doing portraits of people outside my family for the first time, which has taken me right out of my comfort zone.

4. “You spend more time on that computer than you do talking to me! Bloody Tumblr!”

Nothing is more time consuming than constantly being online and this probably has more potential than anything else to cause friction in our household. Sharing your images, getting feedback and looking at gorgeous kit are all very addictive. But how worthwhile is it if you end up neglecting the important people in your life?

Post-production can also be time consuming but luckily I don’t do much of that. I do have a tendency, though, to edit my images endlessly if I’m not careful.

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Guitar face (2013)

Processing and scanning is a whole different world that I haven’t really experienced yet. I want to be in control of the whole process but at the moment I get a lab to do it all. It’s something I’ll get round to doing myself when the time is right.

5. “Daddy, why aren’t the pictures in colour?”

Part of the plan was that my kids would immediately be impressed by the magic of film photography, thus justifying more time spent with a camera in my hand. It hasn’t worked out that way yet but it’s still early days. When I get a medium format camera they’ll be blown away by the enhanced image quality.

Paul Schofield

Thank for sharing your thoughts on fatherhood and justifying film camera purchases based on the potential to educate your children. That is certainly what I intend to do…”but darling, he would really benefit from an MP” “He is 2, you idiot”.

Check out Paul’s Tumblr and make sure you come and comment.


29 comments on “How to shoot film without getting a divorce”

    Destyre September 10, 2013 at 5:59 pm / Reply

    Nice advices, thanks !

    Hamish September 10, 2013 at 6:34 pm / Reply

    I’m not sure I could relate any more to this!

    MartinF September 10, 2013 at 7:53 pm / Reply

    Sounds exactly like my life!

      Paul Schofield September 11, 2013 at 4:24 am /

      Maybe there’s a need for some sort of support group!

      Thiago September 18, 2013 at 3:28 am /

      Exactly how I feel…

    Blaine September 10, 2013 at 10:11 pm / Reply

    This was a really great read!

      Paul Schofield September 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm /

      Thanks, Blaine. Glad you enjoyed it

    Trevor September 10, 2013 at 10:19 pm / Reply

    This is fantastic. Life has sucked out all my photography time lately. I haven’t had time to post articles online, lengthy blog posts have all but stopped, and my cameras sit largely unused. Family and work obligations make it hard…I’m not the only one, and I appreciate this piece a lot.

    Well said.

      Paul Schofield September 11, 2013 at 4:22 am /

      Thanks, Trevor. Nice blog, by the way

    Denis Lincoln September 11, 2013 at 2:40 am / Reply

    Very sage advice and put in a way that evokes humor and head-nodding.

    I laughed out loud at the remark about your father and his collection of photographs of disused rail stations. :)

    My kids are teenagers, now. I am fortunate enough to be able to share photography and what it means to me more in a peer setting than as a lecturing father. It is easy to overlook how quickly they grow up and how fast things change. One thing to look forward to includes shooting film WITH the kids, not just at them.

    Hang in there!


      Paul Schofield September 11, 2013 at 4:15 am /

      Thanks, Denis. I hope my kids get into photography. My six year old is showing signs of interest but she won’t pick up a camera unless its got a screen on the back!

    graham September 11, 2013 at 3:06 am / Reply

    I have taken to photography because this problem is exponentially worse for a sculptor. I just cant go welding in the shop all that easily with a baby. Thankfully, my wife is very supportive of my new photography hobby, just so long as there are lots of shots of the kid!

    Paul Pride September 11, 2013 at 7:28 am / Reply

    I wasn’t aware that I’d written this. Oh wait. I didn’t, but I might as well have. This is exactly my thought process now.
    I have been on an endless mission to re-edit my photos in Lightroom and to want that other camera or this certain plug-in. Photography has become a drain on my time and my mind. For our first family holiday away last year (my daughter’s only 3) I took 2500 photos! In a week! That’s bloody stupid! Imagine how long that took to edit. Then I went back over them when VSCO released a new pack. Twice!
    I am a Fuji X Photographer and am thankful for everything that my little X100 has done for me, it’s been great and I will never part from it but for my family time and my holidays I will now take some film. Grab the shot then go back to being a father and husband rather than checking the screen and thinking that I should try that shot from 27 different angles just in case.
    Thank you for writing this. I will bookmark it and come back to it several times.

      Paul Schofield September 11, 2013 at 3:44 pm /

      Thanks, Paul, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I used to blast away with my DSLR, too, then I got a bit obsessed with an HDR plug-in. I’m happier with my photography since I slowed things down a bit.

    jenquest September 11, 2013 at 3:45 pm / Reply

    You’ve timed this nicely.

    Hang on while I grab the Mrs. who really needs to read this!

    Dieter Fröhling September 12, 2013 at 12:11 am / Reply

    Yup. Mostly true. Had no kids, guess what, more room for photography. Kicks “work” in. More demanding now, reducing possibilities.

    And self processing & scanning. At least time consuming, but a fun part. Oh that scent of fixer :-) And more time at the computer :-)

    rkt September 14, 2013 at 4:25 am / Reply

    Nice write up. I have been switching back and forth between digital and film for 10+ years. I always carry my Fuji X-E1 and another film camera, typically an Oly RC 35. I found myself spending a lot of money on 35mm and 120 film processing and scans in recent memory. After some comments from the wife about expensive hobbies, I purchased a canon 9000F scanner. I get processing only option from my local shop and scan in the negatives in medium to low quality just to work with. This allows me to cut down my cost from $10-15 a roll to less than $5-6 USD. Then I can decide what to send to the local shop for high quality scans if needed, or just use my scanner to get something that is totally usable.

    Next step is to start my own processing, which I haven’t done since I was teenager. Film is a becoming a lost art, but it will never be totally lost. The aesthetic of film is incomparable.

      Paul Schofield September 14, 2013 at 2:41 pm /

      I think you’re right – film just has a certain something. I was thinking of taking the scanner route first – you can’t really argue with the cost saving. I’ve heard that scanning 35mm on a flatbed can be very frustrating, though, so was thinking of a dedicated 35mm scanner instead. But then if I get into medium format… Scanning is the most problematic part of all this.

    Giovanni November 14, 2013 at 10:54 am / Reply

    Very nice writing…and nice pics too! DIY b&w processing is in your future, I can foresee it ;)

    ZDP-189 November 14, 2013 at 1:11 pm / Reply

    As long as my camera buying does not impact household spending and I only post flattering pictures of my wife, she’ll stick by me.

    It’s cheaper than a mistress and keeps me too busy to find one.

    Paul Harris November 18, 2013 at 8:44 am / Reply

    Sometimes you read something that sums things up perfectly – almost to the point that it feels like someone is watching you….

    You haven’t been watching me… have you ? :)

    Great blog!

    Alex Chan April 22, 2015 at 1:29 pm / Reply

    Wonderful article! Brilliant take on the family man, too bad it I’m not married or have kids – oh wait, I think that is a good thing ^_^

    Ronnie Fleming May 1, 2015 at 4:35 pm / Reply

    Hi Paul
    What a lovely story to tell I was reliving my own experience through it as I read. In October’ 14 I chose to wind down from my hectic construction life, my wife suggest I take up photography again, what a good idea I thought 7 months later and not getting enough hours in the day, loving every moment, spent a lot of money along the way. I also bought back into medium and 35mm formats, I have started a B/W developing course at Streetlevel in Glasgow. So overtime my grandkids are here we go out shooting digital at this stage for them.


    Frank Story May 5, 2015 at 9:23 pm / Reply

    I tried the digital life for a while and, like most, have hard drives full of unseen pictures. Buying a Fed 1 and a couple of rolls of TRI-X started me on the road to being absorbed, not only in picture taking, but the world I live in again. Just about anyone can afford the top film cameras of just a few years ago. What a pleasure it is to use an eighty year-old Leica and get results that no digital with film emulation will ever match.

    Victor Reynolds September 17, 2016 at 12:31 am / Reply

    Just came across this post. I can definitely relate! Thanks for sharing!

    Martin Cutrone October 7, 2016 at 9:00 am / Reply

    Great read! Forwarding this to my wife right now!

    theo vervloet January 15, 2017 at 7:28 pm / Reply

    Very good article. Spot on.
    by the way. Husband or wife shouldn’t divorce when the partner takes pictures on analog -films. On the contrary: going fishing, playing cards pr poker and drinking for hours in bars
    is a more apropriate reason.

    Ronnie November 7, 2017 at 4:51 am / Reply

    And I thought it would all change when I retired…
    Actually there is one aspect that has changed: it costs a lot less than it did when I was younger – as long as my stock of Poundland Agfa Vista 200 holds out, that is. Getting process only and scanning it myself helps. And I’ll even stand process it in Adonal for b&w :)

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