Featured Photophile No. 011 – Noah Smith

Featured Photophile No. 011 – Noah Smith

2000 2000 James Tocchio

Featured Photophile, our recurring segment showcasing talented amateur photographers is back with more photo inspiration for you. Today we’re spotlighting a shooter whose photos made me stop and think about the importance of composition and framing. Mostly, because he nails it.

In photography, there’s really very little that’s more important to the creation of a good image than composition. Where subjects will be placed in a frame and where that frame begins and ends are important things to keep in mind. Sadly, composition is also one of the hardest facets of the craft to master. It’s almost something that defies teaching. But if you stare at enough perfectly composed images long enough, you start to get it.

So if you’re just beginning to see how composition impacts your images, and you’re not sure what you might be doing right or wrong, take a look at Noah’s shots. He’s pretty much got this composition thing down.

Hi there – please introduce yourself. 

My name is Noah Smith, I’m based out of Charlotte, North Carolina where I work as a black-and-white / E-6 film editor. I’m also a musician and designer, but photography is what interests me the most. I really appreciate you including me in this feature!

When did you start shooting? What’s your favorite camera, and why do you love it? What type of film do you use, and why?

My first introduction to cameras in general was filming my friends skateboarding when I was about 10 years old. At around 12, my Mom gave me my first camera (a Minolta XG-M) but I really didn’t know what I was doing with it. I shot around with it for a while and then eventually got a Canon 7D a few years later at 16. Years passed and I was bored with digital, so I got back into film after buying a Mamiya C330 at age 24. From that point on to now (I’m 26) I only shoot on film.

That’s a really tough question, it’s almost like asking a parent which child is their favorite. Each of my cameras serve a purpose and work well in different scenarios. If I had to choose a camera that’s easy and not that bulky to carry around, I would pick my Pentacon Six. It can be difficult to focus at times and there is a little bit of camera shake at lower shutter speeds but overall its a great camera. I like the 6×6 frame and also the fact that it’s an SLR that isn’t heavy or big. I have a waist level and prism finder which makes it really versatile.

To be honest, I’m still in the process of learning what I do and don’t like about certain films so I normally have a few different ones on hand. Overall though, I find myself shooting on Portra 160, Fuji 400H, Provia 100F, Delta 100, HP5, Acros 100, and more recently, Pan F. I’m not a huge fan of seeing a ton of grain so I tend to stick to lower speed films. I like the grain structure on Portra 160, 400H is nice when I need a little extra light and its still pretty smooth with grain, Provia looks amazing when you have the right light, Delta 100 has wide latitude when exposed properly, Acros 100 and Pan F have some nice contrast out of the box.

What are your favourite subjects, and why? 

I tend to jump back and forth between portraits of people, and landscapes. It’s a great feeling when you take a portrait that turns out really nice and better than you expected. There’s something really satisfying about getting an expression out of a human that isn’t forced. On the other side, a beautiful landscape can be just as satisfying, as those are fleeting moments that can’t be replicated. I mainly gravitate towards a “feeling” rather than a particular subject. If what I am photographing makes me feel a certain way or causes a reaction, that’s what I normally want to capture.

Why do you shoot film? Do you also shoot digital? How would you explain the differences between film and digital? 

I shoot film mainly because it takes me away from the digital world we live in. I enjoy not having to look at a screen and being able to physically create something rather than a JPEG file. Theres something magical about film cameras that is hard to put into words. From the sounds they make, the quirks about them, the look of each type of film, the well thought out iconic designs, it’s just a lot of fun. I develop my own film and that’s another aspect I really enjoy. It’s nice to know that you physically created these images and can archive them in a tangible way. I also like not being able to see the results right away, it keeps me moving and after developing a roll it’s always a fun surprise.

I rarely shoot anything digitally unless it’s to test out a lighting scenario in my studio before shooting on film. I think the difference is mainly in the time you need to invest into learning how to really get what you’re wanting out of a film camera. It can be a little tedious and require more practice than your normal DSLR. The look of film is also completely different, theres obviously a ton of plugins you can use to emulate it (which have gotten better in recent days) but it’s just something that can’t ever be fully replicated since film is so organic.

What’s unique about your work? 

Going back to my favorite subjects to shoot, I think my work is unique in that it captures a feeling rather than a particular moment. My fiancé told me “You have a way of capturing something ordinary and making it look extraordinary” which I would never say about my own work, but it was really nice to hear. After thinking about it more, I think that really is my goal – to make something that otherwise may not be particularly interesting have meaning and convey a feeling.

How do you achieve your results? 

A lot of trial and error; mainly error. Failure is going to happen a lot with film but it’s helpful and important to honing your skills. I also read a ton of forums, watch a lot of YouTube videos, and chat with photographers who have more experience than I. The film community is really great because it seems for the most part that everyone is willing to help and wants to keep this resurgence moving forward, and what better way than to keep helping each other out. I try to go out and shoot once or twice a week and try new things, and that’s really the best way to learn.

Where do you hope your photography goes from here? 

I shoot a little bit of 4×5 right now but I would like to start doing that frequently. I have a monorail camera so it’s not that portable, which is part of the reason it mainly stays around my house. I really enjoy the process of large format photography and getting into 8×10 would be fun. Learning more about printing my work properly is also a goal. Eventually creating a book and possibly having a gallery show would be great too.

Do you have any advice for new photographers? 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and start with a 35mm SLR and work your way up from there. As I mentioned, the film community is really amazing and there are so many knowledgable people that are willing to help. Do a little research, grab a camera, and start making photographs.

Many thanks to Noah for sharing his thoughts on film shooting, and his photos. To see more of his work, check out his website or follow along on Instagram.

If you’d like to have your photos featured on Casual Photophile, tag your photos with #featuredphotophile on any social media post, or send a message to Contact@FStopCameras.com. 

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio