My film mentality.

When I was a kid and we pulled out a camera to take pictures, we had to pay for each shot. First we bought the film, then we paid to develop it. The cost associated with photography made us more careful about what we chose to document. At the end of any given year, we might have as much as a few hundred printed photographs that told the story of our life that year.

It’s so easy with digital to wind up with thousands of images each year, and to hoard those images on a hard drive somewhere, “just in case.” I know I’ve been guilty of that. But surely not every image tucked neatly into the proverbial drawer of digital storage tells a story or has a purpose. I’ve tried to be much more intentional this year when it comes to taking (and keeping) pictures. Call it a film mentality, I guess.

Before I take a picture, I think, “Is that an image I’m willing to pay for?”

Yep, this one is a keeper.

I’ve reached the point with my photography where I don’t want images that are just “good enough.” Each picture needs to have a narrative or some sort of artistic value to me. Each picture needs to add to the historical record of my life.

(Now, certainly there’s a huge benefit to digital if you’re learning photography because you don’t have to waste money on practicing and honing your skill. If that’s where you find yourself, stick with it! I’m not knocking digital, just choosing a more tangible approach).

Another way I employ this film mentality in the digital age is that I shoot with printing in mind. Since 2011, I have created an annual family photo book for my family and I have to curate my library of images down to the few hundred I include. Hard drives fail, people. I don’t ever want to gamble with my family’s memories and put all my eggs in one basket. And my kids thoroughly enjoy flipping the pages through years past.

And then of course, there’s actual film, which I do still shoot from time to time. It’s a nice way to slow down and reset.

Canon AE-1 / Portra 400 film stock

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