Richard Photo Lab

4 Film Photography Exercises to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

Whether you're new to film, an analog enthusiast, or a professional photog, we all go through lulls in creativity. The dark days of winter can leave you feeling particularly uninspired—but the slow pace of the season can actually be the perfect time to stretch your creative muscles and (re)discover your inner artist. So, Richard has a list of four super-simple exercises you can do right now to find your analog groove...

GO ON A PHOTO WALK

Searching for inspiration? Grab your coat and get outside! Whether it’s at a nearby park, your neighborhood, a garden, a row of restaurants, or just out in the streets, pick a place where you can freely roam around and take photos. Take your reliable film camera with you and just click away. Going out of your comfort zone will allow you to shake off the stress and the creative block.

You can also follow a theme for your photo walk. The goal is to capture images of what we discover along the way. Whether it’s an interesting scene on the street, an awe-inspiring movement in nature, or even food, you’ll discover that you and your camera can immortalize even the most unexpected things in an imaginative way. Once you’re out there, we’re sure you’ll find more than one eye-catching moment that will make for a good photo.

Psst... grab 10 tips for shooting film in winter weather here!

Photo by Eric Kelley

SHOOT IN BLACK & WHITE

Want to master lighting and composition? When it comes to film, capturing moments in black and white isn’t always easy—but eliminating color as a variable in your shots allows you to hone your skills working with other elements of an image. For beginners or hobbyists, this is an opportunity to learn more about light and shadows in particular. While it’s alright to wing it at first, if you want to get serious and intentional about the limited shots you can take on a film roll, then you have to pay attention to the lighting.

If you’re using natural light, pay attention to how it falls, how it affects different objects, and how it changes through the day—then start experimenting with shooting from different positions, distances, and more. If the lighting source is artificial, it’s easy to manipulate where the light falls so you can practice your angles and play a bit with shadows by creating different lighting scenarios yourself.

If you want to try using black and white for portraits or photos with humans and animals, it’s important to look at their eyes. Even in black and white, the eyes bring out the sincerest expressions. And if you want to portray drama and emotions, make sure this part of the body is captured well.

Photo by Jose Villa

Shooting in black and white film can also be a great way to test how you feel about different amounts of grain depending on the film stock you choose and if you decide to push your film in processing. Changing how much you expose your black & white film can also be a great way to play with contrast, which is a powerful tool in black and white images.

Psst... check out a few of pro photographers' favorite black & white stocks here!

FILL THE FRAME

Focusing on the details? Fill the frame. Negative space is sweeping scenes are great, but finding a single object that can take up an entire frame requires courage and creativity. Sometimes it will require you to get closer to the subject so that you can capture the interesting details, sometimes it will push you to try new points of view to make something mundane become a masterpiece. If you’re a fan of texture, patterns, and abstract elements in photos, this filling the frame exercise will allow you to document unfamiliar details in an object. The patterns in a hand-woven fabric, the different-colored specks in a person’s eye, or the rich pigments in a leaf deserve a close-up. This creativity experiment will allow you to look closer and go beyond the typical visuals.

Photo by Tec Petaja

FRAME A SCENE WITH LEADING LINES

Follow the path... One of the best ways to highlight a moment is to follow the leading lines. Whether it’s an unintended path or something you’ve planned, it can bring out the best features of your main subject. This is especially true when it comes to travel photos. Lights, gates, fences, flowers, planks, barriers, and other things that lead to an object serve like an arrow that guides the eyes on where they should focus. Doing this is a great exercise for those who are getting familiar with their film camera because using leading lines will get you practicing techniques on focus and composition.

Photo by Eric Kelley

Getting an analog camera, loading it with a roll of film, and embracing the fact that you won’t be able to review that shot you just captured can be freeing. For those who have been used to shooting with digital, the point-shoot-review-choose cycle can be monotonous. Quite surprisingly, wanting to get that perfect shot can also be time-consuming. If you want to go back to a place of freedom and creativity, try film! If you want to experiment with the technical aspect of photography, going analog will surely challenge your artistry. Sometimes, improving your photography skills also involves being intentional. Film is the perfect medium for that! With its limits, you’ll learn to give your best because every shot counts. Once you finish the roll of film and have it developed, you’ll experience the thrill of holding the image you took. From start to finish, it’s a great way to boost your creativity.