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Analog Ambass”adore”: finding the perfect recipe

From my second roll of film using the Holga camera using Kodak E100ES film. This is the only picture from the entire roll to turned out. Must keep trying.

A few months ago, I entered a contest to be an analog ambassador for Old School Photo Lab and I was one of the chosen photographers to shoot film. YAY ME!!! I’m so honored and suddenly humbled to get to share my trials and tribulations of shooting with analog cameras and film. The folks at Old School Photo Lab are wonderful to be working with and have yet to laugh at me for the rolls of film I’ve been sending them to develop.


Where are my film pictures?

Yeah. Here comes the humbling part of this process. Let me preface this by saying: I was sent a holga 120 camera to use. The only time I’ve used a toy camera with 120 film was this past summer, I used a Diana F+ with not so stellar results. Most of the time my Diana has an instant film back attached allowing instant results allowing for instant corrections of my settings. Shooting analog means exposing the entire roll, develop THEN make the necessary changes. It’s frustrating, yet exciting to not know how the image is going to turn out. Film makes me really rely on the basic knowledge of what I have regarding shutter speed, ISO, focal distance, and aperture.

My usually film ritual goes something like this:

  1. decide on subject of photos,
  2. load the film into the camera,
  3. pray I put the film in correctly,
  4. take pictures,
  5. pray I exposed correctly,
  6. send the film to the lab,
  7. pray some more,
  8. wait to get the film back,
  9. pray the darkroom technician isn’t laughing their ass off at the images being developed,
  10. check the mail……daily,
  11. pray it magically appears in the mailbox,
  12. start to panic nothing turned out and the photo lab has posted the images on some website I don’t know about where they make fun of photographers who are clueless about film,
  13. pray some more,
  14. check the mail several times a day,
  15. then after a few days of eagerly anticipating the mail, I hold the package in my hands. *angels sing Hallelujah and a beam of light shines down on me.*

As i run walk to the house, I pray one last time. Then like a 5 yr old on their birthday, I rip the envelop open, pull the envelop with prints out (ignoring the CD of scanned images & index card), it’s at this moment I find I pause momentarily to say another silent pray, hoping what I’m about the see is a set of pure brilliance & masterpieces. Quickly, I shuffle through the set of images…. Nope, nope, mmmm, maybe, nah, oooooh, ok, aah, that’s ok, could be better, pretty, wth?! Now that the images have been scanned it’s time to take a second look, maybe they weren’t as bad as first thought. Maybe they are worse??? (Writing this post makes me relive the experience all over, I can feel the excitement in my stomach building.) So without further adieu here are the image from my first two rolls of analog film taken with a Holga camera:

The biggest problem I seemed to have is not providing enough light to expose the images correctly. Obviously, I thought the light at the time was enough but from the feedback provided by Jake at Old Sschool Photo Lab I need to use my flash more and change the sunny/cloudy setting to cloudy.

The other thing about the image about is the fact that it is outdoors and still a bit underexposed. The Holga doesn’t have a lot in the way of exposure controls, but when you are in the shade make sure to switch it over to the “cloudy” setting for a little more light. (I almost never switch it off of “cloudy” when I shoot with my Holga…)

Whew….That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I sent in some more film, with adjustments made, so let’s pray, again, 😉 those images turn out better than these first two rolls do. If not, like any good chef…I will keep on trying different combinations of ingredients until the perfect recipe for success is created.

I’m going to also add raw honesty, when I opened the film I was deflated at how horrible I had done with this camera and my confidence is low right now. I’ve used film in the past, I’ve shot with digital camera for years now…I’m not a newbie when it comes to taking pictures. It feesl like I failed myself and those at Old school Photo Lab by displaying such technically inadequate images. THOUGH, I know mistakes and learning are not the same as failing. This entire process is to help spread the work about analog film, helping others learn through my mistakes, and to let those who are reluctant to try film know how much fun it really is to shoot with. There is something magical about holding in your hands a photo taken on film, a slight grain that is hard to reproduce with digital. While this is isn’t about what’s better film or digital, the photos we take are about capturing a certain magic and in my humble opinion…film does just that. Until next time….



Let YOUR light shine,


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  • Melissa - December 15, 2011 - 3:03 pm

    We have similar film routines, I to pray a lot while learning to use film again. Very lovely blog, I am Melissa one of the other lucky chosen Ambassadors. Going to send my first roll in today and I am so nervous but very excited. I love your images the story they tell have a soulful feel to them. There is something about film I will always be deep in love with, actually there is everything about film I will always be in love with ; )ReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 15, 2011 - 3:13 pm

      Thank you for reading my site. I can’t wait to read how everyone else is doing with the Analog Ambassador, Old SChool Photo Lab has a wonderful team of people.ReplyCancel

  • Amrita - December 10, 2011 - 12:24 pm

    The shots on the set are absolutely fantastic! great eye!ReplyCancel

  • Juli - November 28, 2011 - 10:02 am

    I absolutely love that first black and white image. Perfect or not, it’s stunning.

    I’ve had a Holga for years and it’s always been rather hit or miss for me. Some images are fabulous and some aren’t. The last roll I got back (from Old School Photo Lab!) was terrible and I felt as you describe above. But I shall try again sometime and hope for better results. Part of my problem is that I don’t always THINK enough before I shoot and my composition seems totally off lately.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing you analog adventures with the Holga. Now I can’t wait to see the results of last rolls! 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 28, 2011 - 11:20 am

      Thank you.

      What I really like about the toy camera’s is an image doesn’t have to be perfect to be perfect. It’s also how I feel about instant film. When I shoot digital I find myself over analyzing, over shooting, an over processing to get an end result I’m happy with. Analog and instant film has sort of cleansed those over-rated obsessions from me. I’m forced to focus on the story I want to tell with the image then let the rest be what it’s going to be.

      Like I said in the post, for me, it’s all a learning process. When I started shooting with Impossible project film, I burned through many boxes before really getting the hanged of how I need to adjust my settings. I feel this is no different; new camera, new film. 🙂ReplyCancel

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