Every photograph has a story. Framed prints keep stories alive...
This piece of gear might not be in your camera bag for a typical paying gig, but it should be: a tripod. It goes hand in hand with film, just like a light meter, but it’s often overlooked (especially by hybrid photographers). Why pump up the ISO on your digital camera instead of grabbing your tripod and shooting film?!
Tripods aren’t just for “slow photography” like landscapes or studio portraits—they can be incredible tools that help you control variables so you can shoot film throughout an entire wedding or other event.
Photo by Rebecca Yale
SHOOT IN LOW LIGHTING
Film loves light, which is why a lot of photographers are hesitant to stick with it in dim conditions. But this is the perfect time to bust out your tripod with some high-speed film! You can feel free to set that shutter speed nice and sloooooow so your negatives have time to soak up all the light they need—and you won’t have to worry about holding the camera steady.
In this scenario, the tripod will not help you get the first kiss shot in a dark church or catch the tear rolling down Mom’s face... but it will capture a shot of the inside of the church with candles everywhere that sets the scene of the wedding. The reality is, light and locations are sometimes not ideal at weddings—you have to make do with what you have. You may find yourself shooting details in a dimly lit room because it’s raining outside. But the details don’t move, and the tripod doesn’t move, so you will be able to keep that shutter open as long as possible and not suffer from underexposure.
When a photographer knowingly underexposes their film, pushing that film (leaving it in developer longer during processing) can be a way to compensate. But it can also cause color shifts, and that risk can make pushing your film a no-go. This is another reason that tripods are so nifty in low lighting—you can keep hues and contrast looking natural by giving your film enough time to be properly exposed in camera.
Using visual elements to inject atmosphere & feeling into an image is what separates simply recording a scene from capturing a moment in time forever. As a pro photographer, you are tasked with documenting a once-in-a-lifetime event that someone has spent months, even years, planning. So your goal is not only to deliver the visible moments they experienced, but the emotions they felt being in those moments. Tripods can be a tool for transforming real events into a gripping piece of fine art by helping create ambience, motion, and more!
Photo by Jose Villa
Rebecca Yale explains how a tripod was the key to getting the perfect movement and ambience in the below shot: “I use a tripod when I want to show movement in the frame. I took about two rolls of film of this exact scene as the pigeons whirred around the couple so I could try out a few different exposure options and have my pick for the exact position I wanted the pigeons in, framing the couple.
Photo by Rebecca Yale
"I asked them to stand very still as I was bracketing at 1/30th, 1/15th, 1/8th and 1/4th of a second on my tripod. I wanted to show movement in the wings of the bird but still have them in focus enough to see them. This frame was clearly the winner, but I always like to overshoot moments with movement, taking extra frames so I can decide later which is the best. The slightest of movements from the beating of a bird’s wings to the extension of a pinky finger to the angle of a leg can transform a good photo into a great one.”
When you use your tripod, your camera angle and framing becomes standardized for every shot you take. This makes getting consistency a breeze! Think about group portraits or detail shots—your camera position is set for the best lighting and composition while you move the subject matter in, out, and around the frame. For a lot of photographers, shooting film is a way to slow down and truly think about every shot, and a tripod only complements that idea. It will help you create and fine-tune your composition strategy, and then carry that carefully-considered planning into multiple frames.
Photo by Jose Villa
Now, we're not saying there isn't a time and place to bust out your digital camera, but we want you to feel empowered to choose from all the options you already have in your photography tool kit (and think outside the creative box). If you love shooting film, then consider a tripod your new best friend!
How do moments become a story? For Shauntelle Sposto, creating a visual memoir means immersing herself right in the sweet spot where artistry, meaning, and collaboration meet. Shauntelle's photography takes a fresh look at the "classic wedding" and has been featured in publications such as The Knot, Style Me Pretty, and Brides Magazine. See how growing up as a 90s kid shaped Shauntelle's photography, the camera she says "changed everything", and how she learned to value herself as an artist today in Richard's Photog Spotlight!
Richard: What first sparked your passion for photography?
Shauntelle Sposto: I got started right out of high school. I was offered a volunteer position assisting a wedding photographer, and from the moment we walked into our first wedding together, I knew this was going to be the coolest job. It was only natural, after working for a photographer for a couple of wedding seasons, to develop the hunger for my own clients. So, I bought my first camera and started building my portrait portfolio by shooting over the shoulder of my photographer friend at weddings and shooting portraits for my family & friends in college.
R: Making the leap from photography as a personal passion to a paying gig is a big one... how did you decide to pursue it as a career?
SS: The transition was clear for me. Observing the photgraphers I worked for and gathering knowledge about how to value yourself as an artist (and charge for that artistry) came very naturally to me. However, I didn’t transition into a full-time position in photography until about five years ago. At that time, I was working other jobs and juggling my photography clients. As soon as I built up a steady clientele and was making enough to support my lifestyle & business exclusively with photography, I went full time. Not a moment before. I wanted to be smart and take a calculated risk so I didn’t burn myself out or feel overwhelmed with a loss of income in order to support my passion. It was the smartest thing for me at the time.
R: When you aren't shooting for clients, what do you LOVE to photograph?
SS: Travel adventures, hands down. If I’m not shooting a wedding, I’m buying a ticket to somewhere cool, packing up a camera and a bag of film, and exploring! My latest obsession is documenting my Italian family history.
R: How do you find a balance between being creatively fulfilled and being able to pay the bills?
SS: I think this has to do with the line of work you’re in. Or rather, what type of photography you do. I’ve always felt creatively fueled by wedding and portrait work. Lately, however, shooting editorial and commercial work has been a tremendous outlet for me creatively. I feel that having creative control over my subject not only makes me better at my job in the field, but also challenges me to take more control in all areas of my art. Also, surrounding myself with other creatives I admire challenges me to think beyond, approach art differently, and step out of the “industry”, if you will.
R: What is your favorite camera and why?
SS: Contax 645, no contest. It’s the first medium-format camera that was put into my hands in 2003, and it changed everything.
R: What's your first memory of shooting with film? Why do you continue to shoot it today?
SS: Growing up in the 90s, we only had film cameras. I was the kid who was always sent to summer camp or field trips with a disposable camera. My favorite thing was to take photos of my friends, RUN to the local print lab, and drop off the camera to have the film developed. Getting the prints back was a THRILL! I still have boxes and photo albums stuffed with those memories from junior high and high school. Those images are more precious to me than anything.
Professionally, my story starts with film, dips into the digital world for a few years, and then lands back with film. In 2008, the industry I knew and the system I was shooting on was becoming obsolete (or so I thought). As film shooter—specifically of medium-format color film—I felt disconnected, uneducated, and frustrated that digital wedding photography was becoming the new standard in the industry. In fact, there weren’t even digital photography classes available when I was in college! I was young and couldn't keep up technically and creatively. So, I took a break, educated myself on a digital platform, shot a BUNCH of weddings digitally, and ended up feeling burnt out and creatively jammed. It wasn’t until I learned about a hybrid-photography workshop being offered that I even considered bridging the gap between the two worlds. I signed up, learned how to work with a modern film lab, and the rest is history!
R: Why is it important to have continuous communication with your lab(s)?
SS: First of all, my lab family is RAD! I want to hang out with them and chat as much as possible… But really, communication is key in ALL OF LIFE. It’s how friendships are formed and relationships are maintained. It’s no different in the working world. Communicating your needs is so important, and working with a lab that fosters your needs and supports them is a tremendous asset.
We’re also ever changing as artists. I can’t imagine not having an open line of communication available as I shape into the artist I’m becoming. Your lab is there FOR YOU. They want to extend your artistry in their services so your product is consistent. In order for that to happen, it’s absolutely necessary to work together.
R: Do you have any pre-shoot rituals?
SS: I’m the world’s worst procrastinator. My pre-shoot ritual usually involves me running around like a crazy person charging batteries at the last minute, printing out shot lists, and packing bags 15 minutes before I have to get in the car. I’M THE WORST. I think it’s time to hire an office assistant. Any takers?
R: What song/music do you listen to to get pumped up?
SS: Missy Elliott's "Work It"… (Ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup).
R: Let’s play a game of “Either/Or”! Savory or sweet?
R: Chocolate or vanilla?
R: Dogs or cats?
R: Modern or vintage?
R: Breakfast or Dinner?
R: Warm weather or cold weather?
R: Early bird or night owl?
SS: Night owl, duh.
R: Crossword or Sudoku?
R: Batman or Superman?
R: Historical Non-fiction or SciFi/Fantasy?
SS: Historical non-fiction, but BOTH...come on...
R: Comedy or Drama?
R: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be when you grow up?
R: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?
SS: Time travel.
R: What is your favorite word, and why?
SS: "Effervescence", because I like the way it sounds and I drink a LOT of bubbly!