Prints Challenge: Shoot Digital Like Film

A great way to inspire more creative photography is through some form of restrictions. Whether it’s using only a single camera and lens, a certain film stock, or deciding on a particular project; setting restrictions can be beneficial to photography.

With film photography, these restrictions are straightforward (i.e. black and white film, only 36 frames, etc.). Digital photography has removed many of these restrictions, and as a result has cultivated a “spray and pray” mentality. We’re suggesting an exercise to help improve the keepers that you get with personal projects shot on digital.

The challenge

The challenge is simple. Shoot film like you’d shoot digital. That may sound like a no-brainer, but we’re suggesting the following self-imposed rules.

Shoot for an entire month (or longer) without looking at your images. When the month is up, load your card up at your favorite place to get prints (we’re using Prime Photos from Amazon for the convenience) and print all of your images from the month. No editing, no looking at them before you get the prints, just order 4×6 prints from the entire card.

1) No chimping – this almost goes without saying, but when you’re focusing on images that you’ve already taken, you’re removing yourself from the “zen” aspect of being outside shooting. When you take a photo, don’t immediately check to make sure it’s in focus, proper exposure, etc. Just shoot confidently and as you continue to practice this method, you’ll be able to do it more comfortably.

2) Shoot with a reason – don’t just snap 1000 photos of the same subject with slight variations. Take your shots wisely, like each one is costing you money (because they are). When you’re thinking before each image and taking a moment to slow down and pre-visualize, you create much stronger images. There are times when you have to capture the correct moment, but slow down to take the right shot, as opposed to 40 wrong shots.

3) Print your images – printing is something that was so important to film photography, but now is even being replaced by scans. When you have real prints of your images, you can more easily focus on the content, rather than unimportant aspects, such as sharpness. Some of the world’s best images aren’t sharp, it’s the content that matters.

The goal is to order 4×6 prints from the JPEGs on the card without any editing at all. Don’t sort through keepers, don’t modify images, just upload all of them and wait till they print.

This might seem like a crazy idea with the added convenience of digital, but it’s a worthwhile experiment to practice soem restraint in this instant age. You might find that treating the process of shooting digital as if it were film improves your keepers, makes you think about photo content, and gives you a reason to get your images off of your computer screen. With the inexpensive print prices these days, it’s worth a shot.