October 08, 2023

My beginning in the World

of Analog Photography

After many years of exclusively shooting in digital format, I decided about two months ago to give analog photography another try.

In recent years, there has been a real hype around analog photography. In the age of smartphone photography and endless digital images, many seem to be searching for something „real“ again. I, too, found this idea enticing: that photos are not only stored in digital form on memory cards and hard drives but that light is literally burned onto film, creating a physical object that can exist irrevocably and forever.

After some research, I opted for a classic beginner’s model for my camera: the Canon AE-1 Program, a 1980s single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. Although the Canon AE-1 Program, as the name suggests, has a rudimentary program mode, I do not use it. Instead, I make all settings manually, as I do with my digital cameras.

Analog Photography Key West House Canon AE-1 Programm Dominik Schlorff

A house in Key West, Florida

Analog photography Canon AE-1 Programm Retro Vibes

Retro Inspired Still Life Photography

Analog Photography Canon AE-1 Programm Field in northern Germany Sunset

Typical Field in northern Germany during sunset

My original plan was to use old retro lenses that I already own with this camera, using an adapter. However, I encountered a problem—the AE-1 Program uses the Canon FD mount. I found it exceptionally challenging to find adapters for the Canon FD mount. After an unsuccessful search, I decided to purchase an old, used lens for my camera. In any case, I wanted to start with a 50mm prime lens. I opted for the Canon FD 50mm 1.4 S.S.C. lens. With its 1.4 aperture, it is significantly faster than the „standard kit lens,“ which is usually a 50mm lens with a 1.8 aperture.

I’d like to mention at this point that I am by no means an expert in analog photography, and I’m here to share my experiences as a beginner in this field.

The next question that one quickly faces in analog photography is the choice of film. For me, it was clear that I wanted to use color film. The most popular color film at the moment is the Kodak Gold film. This film gives the images an unmistakable retro look, which is desired by many people, including myself.

However, the previously mentioned resurgence of analog photography does indeed pose a problem here. Kodak Gold, at least at the time I wrote this blog article, was almost constantly sold out everywhere. It is available online, but at elevated prices, and there are also supply shortages. After reading several articles, I eventually decided to go with the Kodak Portra 400 film. In my opinion, this film is relatively similar to Kodak Gold, but I find the skin tones and overall colors of Portra 400 to be somewhat more beautiful.

Miami Beach Sunset Analog Photography Canon AE-1 Programm Dominik Schlorff

Sunset at Miami Beach, Florida

Flower Close Up Analog Photography Canon AE-1 Programm Dominik Schlorff

Bokeh Test with the Canon FD 50mm 1.4 S.S.C. Lens

In contrast to digital photography, where you can easily control the sensitivity of the sensor using ISO settings, this is not possible in analog photography. So, one should consider in advance where they intend to use the camera and what the lighting conditions will be like. This is one of the reasons I chose the Portra 400 film; the 400 in this case represents the ISO value of 400. With an ISO value of 400 and an aperture of 1.4, you can capture images in a variety of different lighting situations. This allowed me to shoot in bright sunlight in the middle of the day as well as effectively at night.

To turn the exposed film rolls into visible images, they need to be developed. You can develop pictures at home, but I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners. Typically, there are still photo labs in most cities that can handle this process. The development itself is usually not very expensive.

My tip: initially, just have the film developed without paying for prints of the photos (as prints are usually quite expensive, and you don’t know in advance which pictures have turned out well and which have not). Then, examine the negatives and digitize them – I’ll provide more details on that shortly. Afterward, decide which pictures you like the most and have prints made only of those.

Key Biscayne Lighthouse Analog Photography Canon AE-1 Programm

Key Biscayne Lighthouse in Florida

Venetian Pool Miami Analog Photography Canon AE-1 Programm

Venetian Pool in Miami

Miami Beach Palmtrees Analog Photography Canon AE-1 Programm

Palmtrees at Miami Beach, Florida

If you own a digital camera, which you probably do, digitizing negatives is relatively simple and can be done at home. All you need is a lightbox or light table and ideally a negative holder. Both of these items can be purchased on Amazon and are not expensive. You can find links to them below the blog post.

The digitization process is straightforward. You simply place your negative strips in the negative holder, illuminate them from behind with the light source, and take a photo from the front using your regular camera. A macro lens can be helpful but is not mandatory. Afterward, you’ll need to invert the colors of the images in your editing program of choice, and you’re done. There are numerous YouTube videos that provide detailed explanations of this process.

 

Night Shot Miami Analog Photography Canon AE-1 Programm Dominik Schlorff

Low Light Performance "Test" at night

Photography in Florida, Analog Photography Miami Beach

Beach Hut at Miami Beach, Florida

The world of analog cameras has certainly captivated me. In addition to the Canon AE-1 Program, I also own a Voigtländer Vitessa camera from the 1950s. The 30-year difference between the two cameras is quite noticeable, yet both cameras have their own unique charm. I may write another blog post about this camera in the future.

In the world of smartphones and digital photography, analog photography almost feels like a place of tranquility. The slow and deliberate process of working with analog cameras has definitely fascinated me. Since then, I’ve been packing an analog camera on photo trips and journeys, but also occasionally in everyday life.

I hope you were able to take something away from this blog post, and I thank you for reading.

-Dominik

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