I was recently gifted a hardcover copy of the new book Shooting Film : Everything You Need to Know About Analogue Photography by Ben Hawkins and Lisa Kanaeva-Hunsicker. The single line review – I didn’t pay for the book, but if I had I’d say that it’s worth the money. Shooting Film is gorgeous, well-made, and nearly perfect in its writing and photography. Buy this book if you like cameras and thoroughness and pretty pictures on paper and the vanilla smell of bound books in the internet era. That might be enough of a recommendation for many of you to purchase. For others, more details follow.
Shooting Film : Everything You Need to Know About Analogue Photography, in keeping with the subtitle, contains all of the information that a new film photographer would need to know to get into this hobby, craft, profession, whatever you want to call it.
The book begins with an argument for shooting film in the digital era. Ben Hawkins, the book’s author, launches into it. “Film Photography is Back!” shouts the first line of the first page. The fact that I’ve been evangelizing film cameras professionally for the past eight years showed itself as I snarkily quipped to the author, “Film photography never went away, BEN.” My eyes traced down to the first paragraph’s text. “Not that it ever went away…” continued the author. “Oh, I’ve found a comrade. My apologies, Ben.”
The introduction provides us with a starting point. Here’s why film is great. We read the intro and want to shoot film. Let’s find out how. The book then quickly launches into the craft in a perfectly logical way – camera types and formats first, buying advice for finding a film camera, and then into the most popular examples of each type. From there it outlines film formats, film types, and when and why we’d want to use one or the others. Accessories are profiled and on we go.
After the nuts and bolts of gear acquisition, we dive into basic techniques, focusing clearly on the specifics of shooting film. We then jump into more advanced techniques, genre studies, retro flaws, and then crawl deeper and deeper into the nerd hole that is film photography – developing at home, pushing and pulling, printing at home, building a darkroom, and on, and on.
The book also spends a decent amount of page space on less-often explored aspects of the medium, such as slide projectors, best practices for archiving negatives, and best ways to store prints. Have I mentioned the book is thorough?
There’s a section of the book which also offers case studies on modern day film photographers, offering insight into their craft and inspiration to the reader.
A film photography jargon buster, comprehensive index, and lists of current film camera shops and websites finishes off the book. Was I depressed that my site and my shop weren’t included on these lists? Absolutely. Did it color my review? Absolutely not. And we can thank my old journalism professor for that.
Can we find all of the information contained within Shooting Film on the internet? Of course. We’ve covered a lot of these things on this very website. But the book is really well done; excellent writing and beautiful photography, and it’s nice holding something in the hand. This should be a familiar concept to anyone shooting film, right?
For me, Shooting Film strikes a perfect balance between deep dive explorations of the medium and succinctness. It tells you what you need to know but stops short of inundating the reader with information overload. There’s plenty within these pages to keep even experienced photographers entertained and intrigued; the section on DIY cameras has me wondering why I’ve not yet built my own camera, and the beautiful product photography (something I pride myself on here at Casual Photophile) is eye candy enough to just sit and browse in a comfortable chair without feeling I’m wasting my time.
Before I opened this book I was a little bit apprehensive. I’d never heard of Ben Hawkins or Lisa Kanaeva-Hunsicker, the author and photographer who have put together Shooting Film, and I worried that it might be written by a couple of kids who had shot their first roll of film six months ago. To be clear, I love kids who have just learned about film. They’re great, and their enthusiasm is infectious and their talent is bright and fresh, and they are the people who are keeping this hobby growing. But I also see a lot of bad information on the internet and YouTube published by really unqualified people, and I get a little frustrated. Shooting Film, the book, is not made by unqualified people. Ben and Lisa have approached this thing with experience and seriousness, and they’ve produced a book that is not only a useful resource for new film shooters, but an inspiring collection of everything that makes the medium so great.
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