10 LIFE LESSONS I LEARNED THROUGH SHOOTING FILM

1) Get it right the first time. In shooting film, as in life, you have a limited number of shots. If and when an opportunity presents itself, take the extra time and care to do the best job you possibly can. By doing so, you will create more opportunities for yourself in the future. Don’t be lazy. You can do it.

2) Don’t let “perfect,” be the enemy of “good.” You are trying your best, so embrace your mistakes. You won’t get it right all the time. You will fail. Your work and your life will not turn out as perfectly as you imagined. Embrace the mistakes of others as well. It’s not the end of the world because it’s what you do is not perfect. Be happy that it is good. Be happy that you tried. If anything, while your work may be complete garbage to you, it could be amazing to others.

3) Enjoy the now. When I’m out taking pictures, I am constantly looking for the next best thing. Just like in life, the grass always seems to be greener on the other side and we do everything we can to get there instead of enjoying what we have at this very moment. When I am shooting film, I eventually run out of shots and I have to put my camera down. That is when I am reminded that we also have a limited amount of time here on earth, and to stop wasting time searching for the next best thing. There is no next best thing. The best things in life are happening right now. Enjoy it before it passes you by.

4) Accept the decisions you make in life. You’ve already taken the shot. Stop lingering and overthinking. It’s done. You can’t go back and “fix it later.” This isn’t digital. Every decision you make in life will create a dent in the slab of marble you were given at birth and those decisions will forever be a part of you, whether you like it or not. Overthinking and dwelling in the past only makes you a prisoner of your own creation. Move on and concentrate on what you can do today.

5) Focus on the things that matter in life. Unlike digital, which allows you to shoot thousands of photos in a fraction of a second, you can’t overshoot with film. You only have a roll of 36, or 12, or maybe just a handful of large format 8x10″ film slides. You simply can’t waste your time photographing things that don’t matter. It’s limited. It’s valuable. Your life. Don’t waste it.

6) Embrace your inner weirdo and accept yourself for who you are. Film is slow. People will stare as you lug around this ancient camera and shoot at things that are seemingly nothing. People will make fun of you and bombard you with questions. You must be comfortable enough with yourself to not let that sway you. Go ahead and wear that funky shirt. Do that wacky dance. Eventually, you will find that the people making fun of you the most will also be the ones who admire you the most. Funny how that works, huh?

7) Know when to stop. The idea that nothing, not even happiness, lasts forever makes some of us sad. But what’s the fun in forever? Deadlines, limitations and restrictions can be a good thing. You are more effective, efficient, grateful and satisfied when you know there is an end. Vacations are fun because we know it will end. Being young and reckless is fun because we know it will end. Sex is fun because it will end. In film, it ends when you finish the last shot in your roll. Time to put the camera away. Oddly enough, it’s the knowledge that something is going to end that makes it fun and worthwhile. Scarcity can actually be pleasurable. Are you unconsciously ruining things for yourself because you don’t know when to stop?

8) Work with your hands. Shooting film is a very physical process. Load the film. Go on an adventure. Take pictures. Rewind. Unload the film and stash it away. The digital world with its touchscreen phones and hands-free devices are incredibly convenient but, as a result, we neglect our primal senses of smell, sight, touch, taste and hearing. In a world where we have become more connected with one another, we have become less connected with Earth. While that may sound a bit odd, I think there is value in investing our time in activities that can help us reconnect with the physical world. So cook a meal from scratch. Go out for a hike. Give someone a big hug. Go out, get dirty and reconnect with the physical world. Trust me, it will make you feel much more alive.

9) Whatever you do, give it your all. Your appreciation and enjoyment of anything you do in your life usually comes down to one question: How invested are you in what you are doing at that very moment? Any thought that distracts you from focusing on what you are doing in that very moment takes away enjoyment and satisfaction. It takes happiness away. When shooting film, you must focus all your energy on that shot. You’re fully invested and it makes it fun. Stop thinking so much and focus on living a full life.

10) Trust your instincts. There is usually only one way to photograph your subject. At least, there is only one way to photograph your subject that is most true to your heart. While any shot that comes after this initial impulse may be executed better in a technical sense, it is secondary and unnecessary. As Steve Jobs once said, “Follow your heart, because somehow, it already knows what it wants. You just have to have the courage to follow through.”

by Jason Lam


Originally published at www.jlam.com on August 19, 2015.