Party like it's 1999

My take on this week’s theme is a concept I came up with earlier this year after losing my mind over image processing. While for the most part I find editing rewarding and an extension of the creative process, sometimes I long for simpler times. When I didn’t have to have so much in mind before, during and after pressing the shutter. I toyed with the idea of shooting film again. Really. I did. But I gave it up as too much of a hassle and turned my thoughts to trying to replicate that experience with a digital camera. Could it be done? How? Why?

So I did. I came up with rules and things you can do to pretend your feature-laden digital marvel is an early 1990s-era 35mm camera. I put all those settings into a custom mode on my own digital marvel and proceeded to take “two rolls of film” on two separate occasions. I haven’t done it since, but I think I’m going to give it a go when I head out for some abandonment shooting.

The basic rules are -

  • No chimping (turn auto-playback off in your EVF)
  • Manual focus (for the brave, use a vintage 35mm lens and not a system lens)
  • Manual exposure mode (for purists, others can use Aperture or Shutter priority or go crazy and choose Program!)
  • No image stabilization
  • Jpeg only or Jpeg and RAW
  • No post processing
  • 12, 24 or 36 exposures (if you do less than a roll, you can’t look at anything until you finish it)
  • No auto ISO - pick one and leave it there
  • No auto white balance - pick one and leave it there
  • One camera style or Jpeg scene style (pretend you loaded Kodachrome or Tri-X, whatever)

You get the idea. Yeah it’s crazy, but weirdly fun. The image I have here represents one of the best I shot with my first “roll”. There are many crappy ones, but it was an interesting experiment and it REALLY made me slow down in the field. That was another reason for giving it a try. Remembering film days when I had to be careful about composition, scenes and bracketing in order to make sure I had enough film to shoot what I wanted.

Anyway…there are other tweaks and ideas in my blog post about it if you want to give it a go. It’s weird, and puts you in a totally different space, but I liked doing it and I think as a ‘palate cleanser’ it can be rewarding.

Specific Feedback Requested

Would you try it?

Technical Details

Is this a composite: No
Handheld and ZERO processing other than what the camera did to the jpeg


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Kris, I love the scene and I love your rules. Nice! I will try this myself once I retire–three weeks and counting!


Thanks @David_Bostock - it’s an odd concept, but fun and it would be interesting to see results here with this group of talented folks.

Good concept here. Going back to film sure makes you realize how easy it is to do corrections with digital. It’s like taking images with one hand tied behind your back and hoping for the best. I think we all did that with film. I still have my Nikkormat FTN and 50 mm lens. All manual. I think there was a light meter in this camera but I don’t remember.

I have to agree that adopting the “no processing - all manual” mindset makes you slow down and really think about what you’re doing. When I first got serious about photography, I took a few online classes with this curmudgeonly advertising-type photographer who forbade us from ANY processing. That experience really made me think about light, composition, just everything before pressing the shutter. I haven’t tried the no-chimping thing (that would be hard!) or setting a fixed WB.

Thanks @David_Schoen & @Bonnie_Lampley - it does make you slow down for sure. Knowing limitations and working within them is weirdly freeing. Sometimes when I get home from an outing and have literally hundreds of nearly identical images to sort through I get weary of the whole thing. Yes I could make fewer, I know, but it’s easy to fill a card these days. Pretending I only have 24 shots makes me a whole lot pickier.

I agree with your curmudgeon in some respects, Bonnie. Relying on processing to ‘save’ an image or somehow magically transform one can keep a person from learning the rules. Learning how to do it correctly, or as near as possible, in camera. I wouldn’t do this full time, digital photography is so fun in terms of what’s possible, but it grounds me when I get to disconnected from reality.

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So I’m out the door today in search of Abandonment!! My aim is to shoot a ‘roll of film’ and have the camera set up to mimic that experience. It’s kind of dreary so I think a roll of Tri-x is what I’ll do. This means setting the jpeg output to monochrome, but leaving the EVF to color. I’ve also shut off the auto brightening in the viewfinder, a think I love, but that didn’t exist with my 35mm rigs.

Oh and I am shooting RAW + jpeg so that I have the option of doing something to an image in the future, but for this exercise I’ll just be concentrating on jpeg output straight from the camera. Woo hoo!

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Now I feel bad. This is how I shoot digital now.

Don’t feel bad. Everyone has different techniques. But you do post processing, right?

So I’m back with 35 pictures. One was the inside of my lens cap, so it goes. I did make a mistake though - I have a Custom Mode with most of these attributes dialed in. I just have to turn off the lens stabilization. But I forgot to change the settings for the Custom Mode to include a B&W jpeg and every time the camera woke up from ‘sleep’ it went back to the default. I thought I could apply the standard B&W Camera Matching Profile in Lightroom, but alas not for a jpeg for some reason. So I applied a standard Adobe B&W profile to all of the jpegs. Not ideal, but as close as I could come given my mistake. It might be for the best since when I select a monochrome camera profile, it changes the EVF to B&W, too, something that wouldn’t happen with my OM3.

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Here’s a few shots that don’t suck

Actually most work. Surprisingly can still meter in my head…kinda. Can still focus manually (with peaking on because focusing screens aren’t what they used to be). Was a bit lazy about shutter speeds because of IBIS, but I kind of remembered most of the time.

These are good, Kris. I like the high key treatment of the last one. Processed or intentionally over exposed?

Semi-SOOC. Semi-intentionally overexposed. I was just relying on my meter and judging the dark of the weeds/lawn for that last one. Here’s the EXIF -


All handheld. I usually do all my abandonment/countryside stuff handheld with the battery grip attached. I had a winder back in the day, so I think I’m allowed. LOL.

Here’s the whole “roll” if you’re curious -

I usually do a blog post about it and evaluate each frame separately.

What a great roll of B&W, Kris. I especially like the Sandhill Cranes in the field. Awesome.