The other day, in a photography forum, a member asked for opinions on what kind of camera people used for everyday family snapshots. I hadn’t really thought about it, but it got me really dwelling on it. What camera do I use to take everyday family snapshots.
I suppose I could say my Minolta AF2, but in order to say that, I have to use it. So I shot a roll of everyday life with some Fujifilm 200 color film. The results sucked, royally. Soft focus, muted colors, horrible compositions. It was totally mental, too. With every press of the shutter release, the words “wasted film” echoed in my mind. It wasn’t that film is wasted on my family; I take tons of family photos on film. It was that I was wasting film on “snapshots” of my family.
The best shots I’ve taken of my family – on film – are not snapshots. They’re portraits, or staged scenes, of very quiet, candid moments. Snapshots are what folks take on vacation and then print from a kiosk at the drug store. Literally the “don’t think, just shoot” mentality of the Lomography community, even though in those circles they do think before they shoot.
The photo above, taken with a film camera, was not a snapshot. It was a candid photo of my son dealing with isolation. One doesn’t capture those with snapshots. However, this was a very deliberate photo, which leads me to my second point: It’s expensive and time consuming to take snapshots with a film camera.
Today, at lunch, I scanned my snapshots from the Minolta and the process to capture 20 shots took every bit of an hour. But more importantly, I had to spend last night warming chemicals, unloading the roll onto a spool inside a dark bag, developing, fixing, rinsing, and drying the film just to get to this point. None of that even remotely aligns with the idea of the snapshot. Film is not a cheap medium, and blowing it on random family photos is something you willingly have to commit to.
I recently watched a Youtube video by The 8-bit Guy where he reviewed his first digital webcam. He recalled that he used it mainly for snapshots because his only other option was finding film, shooting it, taking it to get developed. He also hit on something else about choosing digital over film, “the convenience meant that I would end up taking lots of photos that would otherwise just never exist.”
That leads me into where this was headed. The digital camera. I don’t shoot snapshots with film cameras because of the cost and time. However, digital cameras offer a great opportunity to engage in snapshot-style photography with a relatively low cost. How low ? Open your phone and snap away. I do it all the time. Nearly* every shot I take on my phone is a snapshot of something because it’s essentially free and I always have my phone with me.
This also got me thinking about something I earlier discussed with another photographer about being more intentional with my film photography. Film really is a fine art medium for me. I don’t have loads to spend on rolls, so I need to be very deliberate with my shots. Plus, I’ve got several very capable digital cameras for when I need to just crack off a few hundred shots on the fly.