Process 070 ☼ How To Avoid Common Mistakes
GIVEAWAY: Long Weekend bag + film + online Moment course
This week we’re talking about mistakes and what we’ve learned from them. And I say we because in the second half I share ones sourced from you, the Process community.
This week’s PROCESS GIVEAWAY is a great prize back including 5 rolls of film, a Long Weekend bag, and an online course from my friends at Moment.
Throughout this issue I included images from a recent studio visit with French, Belgo-Congolese visual artist Tiffanie Delune who lives and works in Lisbon. I made a two laughable mistakes on this one single roll so it’s perfect for this issue.
Mistakes I’ve Made, Recently
To this day I make mistakes, including ones I’ve made before, but I am committed to learning from them and getting better every day. Below are some recent ones I made, followed by some shared by Process readers in the past. Soak it in and learn from it so you can avoid them, and then share it with other photographers so they can as well.
Forgetting Extra Batteries
My plan for the shoot with Tiffanie was to shoot it entirely on the Contax G2 using the flash to achieve a poppy frozen look. I love the TLA 200 flash and used it to shoot the surprise appearance of Jason Sudeikis at Boom Chicago earlier this year.
I had shot this combination of camera and flash most of the night before for a client shoot and I must’ve really drained the batteries because after about 12 shots the flash refused to fire. D’oh! I hadn’t thought to bring extra batteries along!
For the rest of the shoot I had to rely on natural light, which was not the look I had planned on but sometimes you have to roll with the punches. Thankfully the light was quite lovely. See below for the difference between no flash (left) and flash (right).
I always carried extra batteries for my camera and now I bring extra for flash as well.
Forgetting To Reset ISO
I’m still quite new to the Contax G2 and since it’s such a modern camera I assumed it would auto-detect the correct ISO setting from each roll’s DX code. Well, dear reader, the camera does indeed auto-detect DX codes but it can also be set to manual ISO which overrides the DX code.
In this case it was set to override to 100 ISO, and this was a roll of Kodak Portra 400. Thankfully Portra has a lot of latitude and I also had my lab Carmencita push this roll 1 stop in developing so that it would look more like 200 ISO and so all was well.
Always check your ISO when you put in a new roll!
Rangefinder Lenscap Oopsie
One more silly Contax G2 mistake from when I shot my first few rolls at the aforementioned Ted Lasso shoot. Sudden panic set in, the kind where my face suddenly got very warm very quickly. I had shot a bunch of rolls pre-show in the greenroom and put the camera away until the intermission started and I continued shooting. A few shots in my pal Matt pointed out the cap was still on on the lens!
How could this happen, such a beginner’s mistake? Well friends, the Contax G2 is a range finder, so instead of looking through the lens via your viewfinder, you’re actually just looking through a piece of glass to the right of your lens. When the lens cap is on, you can’t tell from looking through your viewfinder, though it’s admittedly pretty easy to tell when just looking at the camera itself.
Like a responsible camera owner, I had put the lens cap back on when I put the camera away, but I hadn’t been mindful about taking it back off again mostly because it had been years since I last used a rangefinder since I always use SLRs.
Thankfully, and I only missed a few shots and re-learned my lesson pretty cheaply.
Not Bringing Enough Film
When I made portraits of photographic legend Bruce Davidson I expected to only get a few minutes and so I only brought five rolls of film. I ended up being blessed with a few hours and spent an entire afternoon with Bruce and his wife Emily photographing their home, individual portraits, and some of the couple together.
After I finished the five rolls in the first hour or so I had to nervously speak up and share that I would love to take more photos but I was out of film. Thankfully Bruce had extra Tri-X 120 film which he generously gifted me so I could keep going.
These days I always overpack on film and bring more than I imagine needing.
Forgetting a memory card
This hadn’t happened to me in years but a few months ago made a double-whammy memory card mistake by rushing out the door without a card in my camera, and not bringing extra ones in my bag. Super silly mistake but thankfully I was saved by a fellow photographer who had one to spare and was on set.
I could have avoided this by using my pre-shoot checklist the way it’s intended to, so silly to be rushing between meetings and a shoot. Never again! I’ll share my pre-shoot check list in a future issue.
Forgetting To Load Film
It’s been years since this happened, but this will happen to every film photographer at least once, unless you are reading this and remember what to do to avoid it.
There is nothing that sucks more than snapping away enthusiastically for a good while, creating truly incredible photos that only exist in your mind, only to look at your film counter and seeing it’s somewhere in the 40’s on a roll of 36 exposures. Noooo! Totally forgot to load a new roll of film, no pictures were taken!
A way to avoid this from happening is to take roll notes for each roll once it goes in the camera so you can check those any time you pick up your camera. Reader James Fontaine had a second tip: check if your rewind lever is spinning when you advance your film, because if it doesn’t spin there’s no film being advanced.
Leaving On a Red Filter When Switching to Color Film
I love using a red filter for black and white photography especially with blue skies. However, if you finish a black and white roll and switch to color you have to take off the red filter. During a personal shoot at the beach I was so in the zone that I absentmindedly left it on when switching rolls and I didn’t realize it until ten shots in. When I got the scans back I wasn’t mad about it though because it looked kinda cool.
Mistakes Made by the Process Community
Now it’s time for a couple of great lessons learned from mistakes by the Process readers. All of these are valuable to remember and avoid.
Avoid Visual Clutter — Always check the pockets of the models to make sure there’s no phones, keys, etc. in them before the shoot. — Devin Ingram
Check Your Edges — I was recently shooting some photos in our office to feature new wall art after a recent remodel. I had two people in the frame to add some life, and I asked one of them to move a chair out of the way. After a couple shots, I recomposed, but didn’t notice that the chair was in the frame again. Lesson: slow down and check your edges. — Mike Howie
Bring Tape — When using expired 120 film bring tape because many times the existing glue on the tape that comes with the film is old and dried. I recently had a film unspool in my bag and lost half the pictures. — Tobias Eriksson
Keep Your Goals In Mind — A mistake I've made recently has been getting too focused on the "making money" aspect of photography. Once you start making money from photography it’s easy to lose sight of why you started in the first place and for me, I started to create meaningful photos that could resonate with people the same way they resonated with me. After getting caught up in the money I ended up only creating when I was being paid, which wasn't always work I was “proud” of. I still think the photos I've made are wonderful and the clients were impressed but I began to get into the habit of creating for everyone but myself. The best advice I can give a beginner is never to lose sight of the importance of what you are creating. Create for you. — Christian M.
Asking For Help — It can be hard for me to ask for help. Yes you can learn a lot from YouTube but hands-on help from friends and professionals sped up my learning curve much more. I used to be intimidated by the folks at my local camera shop, but once I got over that fear and started asking questions I started improving a lot faster. If you have a local camera shop that sells and develops film, go introduce yourself. There is a community of people there and involved with it, that you will become a part of. — Ali Desautels
Don’t Let Fear Take Over — Fear is a breeding ground for self doubt. It often times sounds like: “Who the hell are you to think you are the right person to capture this moment? What makes you think that person would be willing to let you make their portrait?” I continue to strive to quiet this inner critic. I remind myself to have faith in the process of growing my photography, as well as faith in my capacity to present as a caring and genuine human being to those I approach. — Anthony “AJ” Folino
Too Much Focus On Gear — My most common photography mistake is that I keep buying gear instead of focusing resources elsewhere. I could have hired models or rented a studio or a car to go to a location or bought film/dev/scan or just about 100 different things that might have had a much greater effect than the gear-purchases I’ve made. — Ellie Rokhaug
Do you know photographers who could learn from reading this issue? Please Share!
All film was developed and scanned by my friends at Carmencita Film Lab. Use code “PROCESS” at check out to get a free size upgrade for your scans.
That’s it for this week!
Next week: The importance of process, practice, and commitment. Plus lots of contact sheets and favorite images from Mexico City collaboration with Isabella, my favorite model I’ve ever shot with thanks to our instantaneous creative mind meld.
Thanks for reading Process by Wesley Verhoeve! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Keep shooting and take good care of yourselves and others.
PS To check out Tiffanie’s beautiful work check out her website.
My pals over at Moment are back for a wonderful giveaway! One winner will receive five rolls of film of your choice, one Long Weekend bag, and one online course from the Moment store. What? Yes! That’s a lot of goodies, all from Moment’s wonderful online shop where you can find all things photography from film to cameras and more.
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Which useful photography lesson did you most recently learn?
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Heh, I've made a few of these. One I would add - opening up the back before winding the film back in.
Incredibly odd to read a tip from 'Christian M.' when I know it wasn't me!
Two photography geeks named the same, we're so powerful. Hit me up if you read this, let's do a 'Christian M.' collab zine! 😅