Shooting Film with Off Camera Lighting


So many of you who follow me may also know that I absolutely love working with film. I love the grain, texture, color, and timeless look of it, and am always looking for ways to incorporate it into my workflow. This past February, I had a little extra time to experiment with shooting film and off camera lighting. The dark days and conditions outside weren’t exactly conducive to getting a beautiful natural light photo, so I decided to try and experiment with a couple of set ups in my office. This was done purely as an experiment, as a means for me to become more comfortable with some of the characteristics of film, and how different lighting scenarios affect the overall outcome of the photograph. I gotta say I am absolutely in love with the results, and would love to shoot more of this! Just for reference, these photos were shot on a Pentax 645 with a Zeiss 80mm f2 for Contax, on Fuji 400h rated at 400. All photos were developed by Photovision Prints, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of Sandra Coan’s incredible lighting course on CreativeLive.


To start, I had a simple grey 53″ backdrop in my office, and mounted my Nikon speedlight to a lightstand with a shoot-through umbrella. Across the umbrella was a large reflector that I used to bounce some of the light back to my subject’s (you might recognize her as my wife- Liz) face.


A couple of key things to remember…


  1. The max sync speed on my stone-age Pentax is 1/60th, so I could never go faster than that. I dialed in my light meter to all the settings that I new had to remain constant in order to have a successful exposure. My lens happens to be fixed at f2, so there wasn’t too much flexibility there, so I knew right off the bat that I had to adjust the speedlight in order to get the correct exposure. My settings were 1/60th f2 ISO 400 rated at 400. My light meter had a “flash” function, which I was able to take a test reading (literally pressed the button on my remote marked “test”) and see what power I had to set the speedlight to get the correct exposure.
  2. In order to get the right exposure and to make sure it didn’t look super over/under exposed, I knew that I could’t have any more than a 3 stop difference between the highlights and the shadows. I knew from experience shooting film that I had a lot more flexibility in retaining the highlights, so I metered for the shadows, and adjusted my lights and reflector accordingly. In the end I ended up with a reading of f2 in the shadows, and f4 in the highlights (I can’t remember specifically, but I believe the flash was powered to 1/64).

All in all a relatively inexpensive set up, and I was able to do it all in my dark office without any help from natural light. I definitely hope to do more of this style of shooting in the future! If you have any questions about how it was set up, feel free to shoot me an email and I can answer any questions!