Taylor Catherine Photography | Mommy and Me

I'm always interested in hearing how other photographers conduct their sessions.  I loved hearing what Taylor Jones had to say about this beautiful "Mommy and Me" session!  


From Taylor:

To celebrate her daughter's first birthday and to commemorate one year of being a Mama, Amanda and I planned a girly spring Motherhood session around the bloom of the cherry blossom trees.

Taylor Jones Little Bellows Feature

Although her daughter was the star of the show, I also wanted to highlight the relationship the they shared and focus on the emotion behind Amanda's role as a Mother. Throughout the session I prompted her to remember or act out things that may be memorable to her. Those prompts that evoked authentic emotion gave this session such a magically joyful feeling, almost even awe-inspiring! After all, what is more awe-inspiring than a love so great that you would easily give your whole self over to that person? That is what Motherhood is; an all encompassing love that gives and takes well beyond the extent of a lifetime.

I asked Amanda as she was holding her daughter to remember the moment that they first met. I immediately saw such joy in her expression and she began to cling to her little one even tighter. She held in her arms her innocent child that she has hopes and dreams for, and plans for happy memories for years to come. Her daughter doesn't realize it yet, but she will carry her Mother's love with her throughout every challenge and every triumph she encounters. Mother will be the one she runs to for comfort when she scrapes her knee, who she'll trust for advice about challenging decisions as she grows older, and who she will call a thousand times a day when she anxiously brings her own child home from the hospital.

Taylor Jones Little Bellows Feature

Generations through generations remember and pass on the words full of love that their Mothers taught them. I hope that Amanda never doubts the impact her role has on her child's future...it can extend further than we might even imagine.

Taylor Jones Little Bellows Feature
Taylor Jones Little Bellows Feature
Taylor Jones Little Bellows Feature

All images were taken with a Canon EOS3 on Fuji 400 and a 50mm f/1.2 lens

See more of Taylor's work
website | facebook | instagram

Seaside Maternity Session by Esther Louise Photography

So excited to be sharing this gorgeous maternity session by Ester Louise Photographer.  Shot on the beach using a Mamiya 645 and Fuji 400h film, they are perfection!  Film was made for this kind of session, don't you agree?!

From Esther:

"My favorite place to shoot maternity sessions is at the beach. I think it is such a perfect setting to capture the beauty and excitement of what is happening and I was thrilled when they were willing to splash around together at the end of the session as the sun set."

Ester Louise Photography on Little Bellows.  Maternity photography photographed on film.
Ester Louise Photography on Little Bellows.  Maternity photography photographed on film.
Ester Louise Photography on Little Bellows.  Maternity photography photographed on film.

 Images processed and scanned by The FIND Lab.

See more of Esther's work:
Instagram | Website | Facebook

Taura Horn's Simple Studio Session

It's no secret that I LOVE film shot in studio.  The simplicity is just so beautiful to me.  So when I saw these images by Nebraska photographer Taura Horn, I know I had to share them.  

Read below as Taura share a bit about the session and her lighting set up.

-Sandra Coan

Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio
Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio

About the Session

For Amalia's session with her children Bastian and Poppy, I had a specific vision of how I wanted to style and shoot it, from the color palette and lighting, but I really wanted to give her some of her own time in front of the camera. 

I feel like a lot of moms come to shoots and don't really want their photos taken and just want me to focus on their children because they think they don't look good enough, or they feel guilty for taking time up for themselves.  So you have to give them some space, literally, to just be women and not moms for a little bit.  Make Dad or Grandma or a babysitter take the kids for the morning while she gets her hair and makeup done, and we get to make some beautiful photos of her by herself.  She deserves to see proof of herself as a beautiful woman, and her kids deserve to look back when they're older and be able to see her as someone who has a life and energy while still being their caretaker.  So this first half of the session is really important! 

By the time the kids get there, mom is relaxed, I'm warmed up, and we're ready for the controlled chaos of working with kids in the studio!  I was really pleased that Amalia trusted me with every aspect of her session, from how she would be styled, to how I'd dress Bastian and Poppy.  These two share a birthday, and their photos were taken about at Poppy's first birthday and Bastian's fourth birthday to celebrate! 

Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio
Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio
Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio
Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio
Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio

About The Set Up

I used a Mamiya 645afd with 80 2.8 lens, and generally shoot Kodak Portra 400 between 2.8-4f. 

My lighting set up varies between simple and "how did I do that again??", using a 5' Bowens Octobox with white seamless. 

Most of the times (and for a few of these) I position it facing the subject, simple and beautiful. 

For some of these (you can tell which ones) and when I want super soft light I bounce it off one of the white walls of my studio and use the natural light from the sliding door behind me to soften it even more, and the window up behind the subject with the light that is bounced off the white house next door gives some hair light.  I used a black v-flat camera right to the subject. 

I love to play with lighting, you can get such subtly different looks with small changes.  (It actually took me a while to figure out how to shoot in the crazy space, though it seems obvious now! ) 

Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio
Taura Horn | Little Bellow | Film Photography in Studio

Film was developed and scanned by Richard Film Lab.  

See more of Taura's work
website | facebook | instagram

Three Myths That Keep Film Photographers From Using Off Camera Lights

Three Myths That Keep Film Photographers From Using Off Camera Lights by Sandra Coan

About ten years ago I was gifted a set of studio strobes from a friend of mine who was closing her photography studio.  

I had always wanted to learn lighting, but looking at the strobe heads and soft boxes just stress me out.  It seemed hard and technical and not "my style".

So I told myself that lighting just wasn't for me, put the entire set up in storage and left it there for five years.  

During that time, I struggled with light.  

You see, I live in Seattle, and it's dark here a majority of the time.  When I was shooting digitally, I would just crank my ISO up to 6400 and make it work.  But when I made the switch back to film I knew something had to change.  If I was going to shoot film inside, in Seattle, I was going to have to learn how to use lighting.

So I did.  And it changed everything.

Since then I've become somewhat of an off camera lighting evangelist.  I sing it's praises every chance I get!  And every time I talk about it I hear the same reasons from photographers on why they don't want to use it.  So today I want to talk about the three myths that keep photographers form using off camera lighting and why they are just not true.

Here we go.

Myth #1: Lighting is hard

I used to think this too.  But it's not.  In fact, it's really, really easy.  Just force yourself to start.

Take your strobe or your flash, put it on a tripod, put a light modifier on it, and tell yourself it's a window.

Light is light.  

If you can do it with the sun shining through a window, you can do it with a bulb shining through a soft box!

Myth #2: You Can't Be Spontaneous When Using lighting

This was my biggest worry what kept me from using lights for year.  You see, I work with kids. And kids run and jump and move a lot.  I wanted to be able to capture that movement.

And I can.  In fact, strobes make it better!

The flash freezes movement, so you can capture a kid in mid jump and not get motion blur!  


Sandra Coan Three Myths That Keep Film Photographers From Using Off Camera Lights

Myth #3: Lighting looks fake. I want soft and natural.

This is the biggest lighting myth around.  Lighting, when done right, can look as soft and beautiful as natural light.  

This is how I do it...

I turn my lights down until I get a reading of F4 in the shadows.  That way I can soot at F4 or even F2.8 and have a prefectly exposed image that looks soft and just like natural light. 

Not sure how to meter with strobes and flash, check out my FREE guide on metering in all kinds of light!

Three Myths That Keep Film Photographers From Using Off Camera Lights by Sandra Coan for Little Bellows

Pro Tip: If you are going to be shooting with off camera lighting be sure to check your camera's sync speed.  The sync speed is the fasted shutter speed recommend for your camera when working with a flash of any kind!

Shooting Your Rolleiflex With Strobes | Sandra Coan

For a little over a year now, I have been obsessed with shooting Rolleiflex in studio with strobes.

A few weeks ago after I shared some Rolleiflex images, I received a question from a reader asking about how I sync my strobes with to the Rolleiflex.

Click the video below to see my reply!

Sandra Coan how to use a Rolleiflex with studio strobes

Do have a question about using lighting with film cameras?  Feel free to ask in the comments below.  I'll be sure to answer! 

Fuji Natura 1600 35mm Film with Examples

I admittedly haven't used Fuji Natura film much - only two times - but after getting examples for this post I'd love to use it more, except I don't want to pay for it.  It's a very versatile low-light film that has a ton of latitude in daylight and low-light situations. 

Image by Megan Dill, rated at 800

Image by Megan Dill, rated at 800

One roll of film is a whopping $12, way more than 400h or Portra films.  It's only manufactured and sold in Japan which contributes to its high cost.  It's known for its excellent colors and fairly fine grain for a high-ISO 35mm film.  If you're not a fan of pushing lower ISO films you should give this one a try!

Many photographers prefer shooting Natura 1600 at 800 ISO instead of 1600, and you'll see below why that is.  (I even read some blog posts of photographers shooting it at ISO 100 with great results!)  The grain isn't as noticeable at 800, and just like any other color film, Natura does well with at least one stop of over-exposure.

Below is an example of the films' versatility.  I used it during a Night Walk on a recent trip to Costa Rica (it was amazing!) and rated it at 1600.  I didn't use the whole roll that night so decided to go for it and use it up the next day (still at 1600 obvs) and got great results.

Rated at 1600

Rated at 1600

Rated at 1600 with intentional light leak on the right

Rated at 1600 with intentional light leak on the right

Rated at 1600

Rated at 1600

Now here are a few more examples of Natura 1600 rated differently:

Image by Joyce Kang, rated at 800

Image by Joyce Kang, rated at 800

Image by Justine Knight, rated at 1000

Image by Justine Knight, rated at 1000

Image by Angie Mertz, rated at 800

Image by Angie Mertz, rated at 800

Image by Ashley Crawford, rated at 1600

Image by Ashley Crawford, rated at 1600

4 Reason I Love Shooting Film With Strobes

Sandra Coan on Little Bellows | Film and Off Camera Lighting

When I started using strobes it was out of desperation.  I wanted a way to be able to shoot film through the winter.  Thats it.  It was intended as a temporary fix to get me through to the spring. And then something unexpected happened.

When spring finally came around, I found that I liked using my strobes more than I liked using natural light.  Crazy right?

Well maybe not... here's the thing.  

  • Strobes are consistent.  When I use them, my light is the same at every. single. shoot.  My meter readings are always the same, regardless of the weather.  Using artificial light has allowed me to shoot film 100% of the time and has freed me from stress.
  • Strobes bring out the best in film.  Film loves light.  And strobes give the perfect amount of light every time.  So my images are always perfectly exposed and beautiful.
  • Strobes do not have to look "flashy".  I love strobes, but I HATE images that look artificial and "flashy".  I want my work to be soft and airy and, when used properly, my strobes give me that look.
  • Strobes are easy.  Seriously.  I know that they seem complicated, but they are not.  Everything I do is done with one light and one light modifier.  Thats it.
Sandra Coan on Little Bellows | Film and Off Camera Lighting
Sandra Coan on Little Bellows | Film and Off Camera Lighting

I encourage you to give off camera lighting a try... and stay tuned, I'll be sharing a series of post here to tell you just how to do it step by step.  It's not hard, and it will absolutely change the way you shoot film, for the better!

If you can't wait and just want to dive into off camera lighting right now, check out The Missing Link: A Film Photographer's Guide To Off Camera Light.  It's is a complete how-to... everything from what equipment you need to lighting set-ups- full of text, diagrams and video tutorials! 

Sandra Coan on Little Bellows | Film and Off Camera Lighting





4 Reasons I Love Ilford Hp5 Film

We thought we'd start highlighting all the amazing types of film that we use in both our professional and personal work and I wanted to start with one of my favorites - lovely Ilford Hp5 film.

35mm rated at 1600, +2. Image by Kim Hildebrand

35mm rated at 1600, +2. Image by Kim Hildebrand

1.  Versatility: This film is always in my camera bag because I can use it anywhere.  Hp5 is noted for its excellent overall performance in a wide variety of lighting conditions.  You can rate this film from 320 all the way up to 3200 and it will look amazing!

120 film rated at 320, +0.  Image by Kim Hildebrand

120 film rated at 320, +0.  Image by Kim Hildebrand

35mm rated at 400, +0. Image by Kim Hildebrand

35mm rated at 400, +0. Image by Kim Hildebrand

Rated at 800, +1.  Image by Jackie Fox

Rated at 800, +1.  Image by Jackie Fox

Rated at 1600, +2.  Image by Heidi Alhadeff Leonard

Rated at 1600, +2.  Image by Heidi Alhadeff Leonard

Rated at 3200, +3.  Image by Megan Dill

Rated at 3200, +3.  Image by Megan Dill

2.  Contrast:   It's contrast, while high, is less pronounced than that of Tri-X, which appeals to shooters that prefer a more even tonal scale.  Because it is less pronounced than Tri-X, the highlights and shadows respond really (well if exposed correctly) when using it in a low-light situation where you intend to push the film.

Rated at 400, +0.  Image by Alpana Aras

Rated at 400, +0.  Image by Alpana Aras

Rated at 1600, +2.  Image by Kristin Wahls

Rated at 1600, +2.  Image by Kristin Wahls

120 film rated at 3200, +3.  Image by Lea Ciceraro

120 film rated at 3200, +3.  Image by Lea Ciceraro

3.  Grain:  I found an informative article in the Adorama Learning Center comparing Hp5 to Tri-X, which is considered the gold standard among street and documentary photographers.  Hp5 is noted for its fine grain, high-edge detail, and excellent overall performance in a wide variety of lighting conditions.  Usually, grain on a pushed 35mm b/w film is too much for me, but I love it on Hp5 film!  Last, the grain is still absolutely beautiful on medium format when pushed 3 stops (see example below)!

35mm rated at 1600, +2.  Image by Kim Hildebrand

35mm rated at 1600, +2.  Image by Kim Hildebrand

Image by Amanda McKinley

Image by Amanda McKinley

Rated at 3200, +3.  Image by Tamara Aptekar

Rated at 3200, +3.  Image by Tamara Aptekar

4.  Cost:  Ilford Hp5 currently costs $4.39 per roll of 35mm or $4.69 per roll of 120, not bad!  Note that Tri-X isn't much more ;)

So if you haven't tried out Ilford Hp5 film, I encourage you to give it a try!  It's quite an amazing and extremely versatile film.

Gear Talk // The H1

In this gear series, I want to show you my favorite cameras and tell you a bit about the format and what it is I love most about them. We've already talked about my favorite square format camera, and today I'm going to talk about my love for the Hasselblad H1.

Yesterday, I showed on Periscope the H1 and some of the functions (the replay of that video is at the end of this post). But today, I'll go into a bit more depth about how I came to love this camera.

When I started shooting film I only had a hand me down Minolta x-700 35mm. It was great, but when I started learning more about the craft, I knew I wanted to shoot medium format. I took a short online class and ordered my first 645, the Mamiya 645 ProTL. With a dark screen, manual focus, and a big learning curve, I spent the next 18 months with that camera, learning and perfecting manual focus, and lugging it around everywhere. I began to get tired of the weight of it and the darker screen and moved on to the Pentax 645n paired with the Pentax 67 105mm lens. It was night and day. Literally, the screen was like bright sunshine compared to the mamiya screen! I fell in love with that 105 lens and that made up for the fact that the Pentax was so loud it woke sleeping babies during my shoots. I started shooting more weddings and felt very self conscious about shooting the Pentax at the ceremony. I knew I needed something a little quieter and easier for weddings, since at the time it seemed that was the direction I wanted. I took a big gulp, and rented the Contax. And I loved it. At first. It was another night and day situation. SO different than the Pentax, and finally auto focus! Hooray!! Except there were so many reasons I grew to realize that made the camera not right for me. After a few months, I rented the H1, and boom. I knew, KNEW, that was it. The feel, ergonomics, the AF was fast and spot on, the meter was accurate, the weight was just right, the lens was beautiful and the buttons were perfectly placed for my hands and flow of shooting. 

I started shooting it with my kids, and they were in focus. My crazy boys, who unless I bribed them with every ounce of candy in the house, did not sit still, were in focus. It was a damn miracle! 

I finally felt like I had my fit. And in the last year and half I've been shooting with it, I haven't felt even the slightest twinge of desire to look for a different system. And if you get anything out of my previous paragraphs, it's definitely that I get that twinge often. 

Maryland Family Photographer � Meghan Boyer Photography
Maryland Newborn Photographer � Meghan Boyer Photography
Maryland Newborn Photographer � Meghan Boyer Photography

Still have questions about the H1? Comment here or on our FB page! 


Gear Talk // The Rolleiflex

I believe if the rolleiflex had been around in Shakespearean times, he would have written a sonnet about it. 

my boyfriend and me, shot by Sandra Coan

my boyfriend and me, shot by Sandra Coan

Maybe that's a tad overkill, but I guess we'll never know. 

The rollei is, however, MY favorite camera. Hands down. Gun to my head could only chose one camera to shoot with forever and ever amen? My rollei. What is it about this little box that I love so much? In a nutshell? Everything.

SIZE: It's small and lightweight, which is hard to find in a medium format camera. Most medium format cameras are big, bulky, and require a little extra time at the gym to shoot regularly. (Yes, I'm exaggerating, kind of).

FORMAT: It shoots square, which at first I found challenging and now am in love with. And no, Instagram didn't make square format cool, Vivian Maier did in the 1950's (or rather in the last few years since her work was found. Seriously look her up if you don't know who I'm talking about. Incredible!) 

VIEWFINDER: It has a waist level finder, which takes a minute to get used to, but when you do it gives you the freedom to shoot incognito. It's an incredible tool for street photography. It's also great for kids. I look down and focus, and then lift my head up to interact with them while shooting. And when you have a kid, or adult, with any kind of discomfort or disorder where they get nervous when a camera is pointed at them, this camera especially is a nice tool for taking their photograph. With some models you can have a prism, just not mine (a 2.8e zeiss).

THE COOL FACTOR: Yes. I feel cool when I shoot it. It's dorky, and annoying, and probably not something I should admit to, but let's just get real. It's a cool freaking camera! I get comments all the time from people when they see it asking if it's a real camera, if it's film, how old it is (mine's from around 1956). 

THAT ZEISS THOUGH: Carl Zeiss. My man. He has his name on some of my favorite pieces of glass and the lens in my rollei happens to be one of them. Although because of age and a little haze, I can't shoot into the sun with mine (sunflare only accentuates the age and haze on the lens), I don't care. I can shoot in any other lighting scenario, and it's pretty rare for me to try to get sunflare with my film cameras anyway. 

DID YOU HEAR THAT? This thing is so quiet. It's one of the reasons I LOVE using it at newborn sessions. It's not going to wake up any sleeping baby I don't care how noise sensitive they are.

EASY PEASY: It's so simple. It's almost refreshing. If I pick up my digital camera after shooting this I get overwhelmed by all the fancy buttons I once drooled over. You load the film. You wind the film. You focus and push a button. Them wind it again. Repeat. 12 times. Easy. Peasy.

See it in action!

Don't believe me when I say how easy it is? Friday morning at 10:30AM (EST) join me on Periscope (@littlebellows) as I walk you through how to load and use the rollei! I'll show you how I take photos of my 3 year old son with it without fear of missing focus!

See you tomorrow on Periscope!!


Getting into The Zone with Kim Hildebrand

Kim Hildebrand is an amazing photographer and a good friend of mine.  Recently, I saw her post some gorgeous photos she'd taken while on vacation in Utah.  Snow is bright, and can be tricky to photograph, and the images she captured were perfect.  

When I asked her about this she told me that she used Zone metering, and the results were magic.

Here is what Kim as to say about using The Zone system, and how it helped her create these gorgeous images.

From Kim:

Ansel Adams’ Zone System is genius. 

It’s how I learned to expose b&w film, and it’s so easy once you understand it and know how to use it.  I use it all the time while shooting personal work, both indoors and outdoors in natural light.  I’ve found that it works well for both color and black and white film, although Ansel’s system was initially set up to determine his vision for tonal values in a print, thus getting the ideal black and white exposure first.

If you’re not familiar, his zone system looks like this (courtesy of Wikipedia, my best friend): 

Kim Hildebrand on Little Bellows

The 11 zones were defined to represent the gradation of all the different tonal values you would see in a black and white print, with zone 5 being middle gray, zone 0 being pure black (with no detail), and zone 10 being pure white (with no detail). 

Theoretically, each zone represents one f-stop in exposure.  You’ll also notice there is then an 11-stop difference between pure black and pure white, with a 7-stop difference between the darkest black with detail and the lightest white with detail.  That’s quite a lot of latitude to work with and one reason we love film, right?!

You might be thinking, Yeah, okay, great.  Thanks for the nerdy science/history lesson.  How is this going to help me?? 

Okay, ready? 

What do we all know our camera, if put at ‘correct exposure’, the middle bar in your internal meter, exposes for?  White?  No.  Black?  No.  A camera’s sensor exposes for middle gray - Zone 5.  The same tone as an 18% gray card, weathered wood, or dirty concrete.  So what if you decide to take your kids sledding one day and bring your camera to take some epic, artistic film photos- and you forgot your meter?  How will you know how to expose?  You can take in-camera meter readings of the scene you want to photograph and place the important items (your kid’s faces, the snow, etc.) in the right zones.   You may be asking how you place them there?  Well, if your camera, when metered on snow, is showing an exposure value of 0, you know your snow will expose as a middle gray tone.  So you place the snow tonal value into a much lighter gray to white (zone 7 or 8, usually), by opening up 2-3 stops.  Now you will have white snow.  Before you take the photo, also do a quick meter check on your child’s face.  Your meter should show it about 1-stop down from your snow meter reading if your child has a lighter skin tone.  If you were also to meter on the black tubes, the meter should be in the negatives, indicating a dark tonal range.  My kids clearly aren’t sledding here, but you can see the range of values I’m talking about; and Isaac’s pouty face.

Kim Hildebrand on Little Bellows

Without getting too much more nerdy on you, I’ll show you some examples from my recent excursion to the lovely Park City, UT.  (If you haven’t gone there, I highly recommend it!  It’s a great ski area for families.)  All the film I used (Tri-x, Fuji 400h and Portra 400) was rated at box speed.

Kim Hildebrand on Little Bellows

In the photo above, I metered on the gray morning sky and on the snow on the rail at the bottom.  I wanted the sky to be in zone 7, so I made sure my in camera meter read +2, and the snow to be +1.  

In the photo below, taken later in the day, I wanted the snow to be lighter and brighter.  Here, I placed the snow in zone 8, +3.  It’s good to know it was overcast and snowing,

Kim Hildebrand on Little Bellows

Its also good to know that overall there wasn’t a huge range of tonal values so I didn’t need to worry about clipping highlights or shadows as I would have had to on a bright, sunny day.

Conversely, in the photo below I had a lot of middle gray, mixed with a few darker and lighter tones.  I knew if I exposed for middle gray, 0 in the camera meter, the photo would be exposed correctly.

Kim Hildebrand on Little Bellows

Can you guess how I metered for these two photos?

Kim Hildebrand on Little Bellows

Left:  I metered for the sky, +3, then metered his jacket and made sure it would have detail (not zone 0).  Right: Metered for the brick at middle gray.  Made sure snow was +3.

What about these color photo?

Kim Hildebrand on Little Bellows

Same thing! 

Left:  Metered for the concrete sidewalk at middle gray and checked the other values around it.  Right:  I had quite a mixture of tonal range in here, so usually in this situation all tones will equal out to a middle gray tonal value.  If you keep the camera meter at 0, you’ll likely have a good exposure.  I overexposed anyway just to make sure, especially since I was using all forgiving color film.

I have two more scenarios to show you.

Kim Hildebrand on Little Bellows

What do you think I did on the right?  I wanted to be able to see detail in the snow at the bottom and create a dark tunnel, so I overexposed the snow +2.  I did want to make sure I didn’t lose much detail in the blacks but I didn’t care if I lost a little.  What about on the left?

Last, here are a couple indoor shots with Fuji 400h rated at 400.  I metered exactly the same way.  For the elf, I wanted to expose the highlights correctly and show the glow of the light, so I metered for the highlights +2-3 and checked the tonal values of the red suit and the painting.  I didn’t care about the wall.  For the right, I wanted to show depth.  I wanted the shadows to drop off, so I metered for the end of the wood and exposed +2.  

Kim Hildebrand on Little Bellows

Do you see a pattern here? 

Through most of these examples I overexposed 2-3 stops, placing key items like snow, light, and skin tones in zones 7-8, all on an overcast day.  If it was sunny out, you would have a wider tonal range.  With black and white film especially, if the sunny tonal range is over 7-stops, then you’ll have to choose whether you want some loss of detail in the highlights or in the shadows.  What is most important to you?

I hope this was helpful, and de-mystified the Zone System for you. 

I encourage you to try using it on your next excursion and post them to the Little Bellows Facebook page or on Instagram using #littlebellows!  I’d love to see your results!

- Kim Hildebrand

See more of Kim's work:
Website | Facebook | Instagram



5 Tips for Photographing Christmas on Film

Nothing says "Kodak Moment" like Christmas morning!  And I know you want to capture those special memories on film.  Here are a few tips to help you make the most of this special day.

1. Be prepared.  Christmas morning moves fast!  You don't want to miss the action because you're running around like a crazy woman searching for your gear.  Make sure you have everything you need;  film, camera (with fresh batteries) and light meter, set aside and ready to go.  I preload my camera(s) on Christmas Eve and set them out on the table next to Santa's milk and cookies along with my meter and extra film.  That way, come Christmas morning, I'm ready to go!

2. Choose your film wisely.  I don't know what happens at your house, but in mine, kids wake up super early on Christmas.  Like, super early.  Too early for good light.  And too early for strobe (my eyes need time to adjust before I can deal with bright light... hahaha)  So I shoot Ilford  3200 in the morning and then move to slower films as the day goes on. 

Christmas morning on film, by Sandra Coan, Little Bellows

3. Push for a little pop!  Christmas is full of color.  To really get those colors to pop, try pushing your film a stop.  Just remember that pushing does not add exposure.  So if you don't have enough light to get a good exposure, choose a different film stock or bust out the OCF.

4. Meter.  Metering is so important when shooting film!  Click here to watch our video on metering with window light.

Christmas morning on film, by Sandra Coan, Little Bellows

5. Send your film to a good lab.  These are your memories people!  Don't trust your memories to bad processing.  As film shooters, our lab is our creative partner, so make sure you are using a good one!  I personally love Richard Photo Lab.  And as luck would have it, they are having a killer sale through the end of December.  31% off film orders... here is a link to their blog for the details.

Most importantly, don't forget to put down your camera at some point and join in the fun!
Merry Christmas!

Christmas morning on film, by Sandra Coan, Little Bellows

4 Reasons Why I Use Strobes, Even On Sunny Days

I first began using strobes with film in the winter.

I live in Seattle, and it’s really dark here most of the time.  I knew that if I was going to shoot film all year long,  I was going to have to learn how to use artificial light.   And I wanted to shoot film, so I got to work.

The more I worked with the strobes, the easier it became.  What was once scary and risky became the new normal, and soon, I was as comfortable shooting with strobes as I was shooting with window light.

Then the summer came, and my beautiful daylight studio was filled with light once again. 

I was excited to turn off the strobes and go back to my first love, window light.

What I discovered when I turned them off however, surprised me.  

I found that I didn’t love shooting with natural light the way I had before.   I had actually grown to prefer the strobes, even on super sunny days. 

Here’s why:

1. Strobes are consistent.  When my strobes are on, my meter readings are always the same!  I meter once at a shoot.  Thats it.  Having that consistency really helps with my workflow and allows me to fully concentrate on my client.  My sessions are more efficient and I’m able to work with 100% confidence, knowing that all my exposures will be spot on.

2. I love the tones I get with strobes.  Strobes are daylight balanced, so they are a little warmer than window light.  You see, even on sunny days, window light has a cool quality to it (much like a shadow),  That is why in the photo below, the natural light photo looks a little blue, especially in the whites.  The strobe image however has bright white whites, and adds a little shine to the baby’s hair.  I love it!

Strobes on the left.  Natural light on the right.

3. I'm in control.  Yep, I'm a control freak, especially when at work.  And when I'm working with strobes I'm in control of my light 100% of the time.  I make the light do what ever I want it to.   When I work with window light, the window light dictates what I can and can't do.  When I work with strobes, I make those decisions.... and I freaking love it!

4. Film loves light.  And when I’m shooting with strobes I know that I can give my film as much light as it wants, all the time!

Film with Studio Strobes, Sandra Coan on Little Bellows


Interested in learning how to shoot with strobes?  Let me teach you!
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7 Tips to Keep Kids Interested in Photos

They squirm. They cry. They run. The run faster. They scream a little. Then scream a lot. They stick out their tongue. Monsters. They are monsters. 

Ok, not all the time. And most kids really aren't monsters (mine definitely ARE). But it's hard to keep the attention and interest of a kid no matter if they are 3 years old or 11. So how do you do it? How do you go into the session and walk away with images the parents are expecting? 

  • Set the expectation. You have to do this first. Remind the parents that babies cry. That 3 year olds want to do what they want to do. That their kids make them smile on a regular basis just by being themselves, so maybe it's not best to try for anything different. Remind the parents of your process and flow of your sessions. HAVE A ROUTINE. In my guide I send out before sessions, I let the parents know what to expect in my sessions so they know I'm going to be silly when I need to, and I'm also going to let the kids be themselves.
  • Use your talents. My special talent is fart noises with my mouth. I really really wish I were joking here. But I'm pretty good at it. And I do it at every session. Is it gross? Maybe to some. But I find that almost everyone is going to laugh at a toot noise. From the smallest of people to the oldest grandfathers. Have a grumpy 4 year old boy who doesn't want to smile simply because you want him to smile? Toot. With your mouth of course. If he doesn't crack then good luck to you. You might be screwed. And yes. Toot noises work with girls too!
  • DON'T get frazzled. It's nuts how someone so tiny can really rattle you sometimes. My kids do it on the regular. But stay calm and take a second to regroup when needed. Step away (pretend to check your camera or load another roll of film if you need to), and use your head. Is something not working? Then don't force it! Take a breath and then take back control. 
  • Be a kid. Get on their level either on the ground or sitting on a kid size chair (I very carefully do this because it's really hard for me and my old knees to kneel or get up and down off the ground.) Kids have an incredibly special way of having fun. Everything is light and care free. Be a kid. act care free not stressed out about getting a shot. Be confident. The more consistent you are in your routine, the less stressed you will be and the better kids will react to you. I've seen it in my own work. They are sponges, so all the stress you put out, they are going to soak up and spit right back at you. 
  • Be a good listener. Tickle, laugh, play, put down the camera and talk to them. Ask questions about what they did in gym class that week or what they were for Halloween. Engaging with kids with your camera down lets them see you and be more comfortable with you when you bring that camera back up to your face. Talk, ask a question, take a quick photo, put the camera down and ask another question. Be interested in what they have to say. Kids want to be heard. Don't we all?
  • Got a joke? I am a joke fan. I tell them all the time with my own boys and jokes have always been a part of my life (my dad is still a jokester). Now, with this tip, it really would help if you were someone who has a sense of humor. A silly knock knock joke about an owl won't go over well if you aren't into it. You just can't fake that. But if you do have some sense of humor, use google as your friend. Get some material. You don't have to become a contestant on Last Comic Standing or anything, but having a few solid jokes for kids in your brain will never ever hurt.
  • Just go with it. Sometimes it is what it is. And there might be nothing you can do to make the kid want to smile and look at you for a photo. It's ok. Really, it is. You aren't a failure so just get out of your head. Take the time when they are being uncooperative and photograph something other than their face. Maybe they are wearing super cute red chucks. Maybe they brought their blankie and are snuggling with it while they give you the death stare. Maybe they are still in that kind-of-a-baby stage and have a little belly sticking out or part of their diaper peeking out the back of their tiny jeans. Photograph that. Parent's might not think they want it, but in 20 years those photos will make them smile so, so big. 

So many of these things I am sure you already know. The biggest problem is not being comfortable. As soon as you get in your head about this, it becomes a problem. Stick with a routine you are comfortable with. Get jokes you are comfortable with. Or know you are NOT comfortable making toot noises or talking about poop. You have to learn how you work best. And you really do have to have fun. Most kids won't like you if you aren't fun. And really, shouldn't it all be fun?

*all images shot with Fuji 400h on a Hasselblad H1 and Rolleiflex 2.8e


Heather Chang on Pushing Film for Artistic Effect

Hi Everyone out there in Little Bellows Land! Heather Chang here!

I am here to chat with you today about pushing film for artistic reasons.

There is always a lot of talk about pushing and pulling film in film community and it can get confusing! So what is pushing? Pushing film means that you develop the film for longer than than the standard development time.

A lot of the time, people talk about pushing when they underexpose their film. Sometimes, this underexposure is on accident (oops!). But, it also happens when there is less light to work with and the photographer chooses to underexpose to keep the shutter speed and aperture where they want. However, it’s important to remember that pushing does not add more exposure to your negative. Whatever amount of light you exposed your negative to was completed at the moment you pressed that shutter.

So, what does pushing really do?

You can read a really great article about that HERE on Little Bellows. Basically, pushing increases the density of the negative. On a negative, your highlights will have the most density and will look dark on the negative and the shadows will have the least density and will be light on the negative. When we push film, the midtones and highlights gain more density faster than do the shadows. You end up with a negative that has a bigger difference between highlights and shadows and that is a negative with more contrast! Also, colors can be more saturated and grain is also increased with pushing.

So, while pushing can help compensate when shooting film a bit underexposed, you don’t always have to use it for this reason. You can use pushing as an artistic choice to manipulate a film stock to look the way you want. In ample light and normal exposure, or even over exposure, you can still choose to push your film.

I shoot color negative film in bright sun and push film just to add the contrast and saturation. For example, many times when I shoot Fuji 400h, I will meter at box speed, overexpose one stop and then push 1 stop in development, (see examples in this blog post). I love the way it looks in the light I shoot in. Give it a try! Try different methods of exposure and combine it with different amounts of pushing to see what you get! You may just find a look you love!

Heather Chang is a family photography based in Texas.  
She is also a mentor and teacher, sharing her love for both digital and film photography with others.

See more of Heather's beautiful work:  Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Bulb in, bulb out, what does it mean?

Hello Little Bellow friends, I hope you all have enjoyed reading about our Metering Tutorial for the last few weeks, and I hope you have learned tons!! Today, I am answering one of the most asked questions:

Bulb in, Bulb out, What does it all mean?

First of all, what is a "bulb"?

The bulb is referring to the lumisphere on your handheld meter.  All handheld light meter has a lumisphere, which is the white half-dome on tip of the light meter.  This is where the meter "reads" incident light and take the light measurement into calculation for the meter reading.   What does "Bulb in" mean?  Well, some meters are made with a retractable bulb such as Sekonic L358 and L508.  To retract the lumisphere, you simply turn the bulb retracting wheel around the lumisphere.

What does "bulb -in" accomplish?

When you have the lumisphere retracted, it gives you a 1/3 to 1/2 stop overexposure on your meter reading.  That's it!!  It is a "short cut" without having to do the math in your head.  Let's say you want to overexpose the scene by 1/2.  Instead of doing the calculation, trying to figure out is the 1/2 point between F4 and F5.6, you can simply retract your bulb to give you the appropriate reading.  Since most older model film camera only allow full stop increments, this little trick really works well if you want to get that 1/2 stop between the full stops.

There you go!  There is no hidden secret about this mystery of "bulb in".  Easy peasy!

©Joyce C. Kang-000068870015001

Can I Just Use My Camera's Internal Light Meter?

Hello and happy Wednesday! I hope you are all enjoying our new metering series.

Today I’m answering this question, straight off the film forum boards…”Do I need an hand held meter, or can I just use my camera's internal light meter?”

Great question.

Over and over again, you will hear experienced film shooters say “do not trust your in-camera meter”

Here is why.

There are two basic ways to meter a scene: incident metering and reflective metering.

Incident metering means that your meter is reading the light that is falling on your subject.

Reflective metering means that your meter is reading the light that is bouncing off of your subject.

Most in-camera meters, meter using reflective metering.

And because your metering is reading the light bouncing off a subject, the reading can be effected by the surface of your subject (are they wearing white or black for example) and/or the surfaces around your subject.

So if your subject is standing on a white beach or in front of a large window or, as in the case of the photo below, on a boat surrounded by bright shiny water, the other light in that scene will be taken into consideration by your camera’s meter.

In high contrast situations this often results in accidental underexposure of the shadowy parts of your photo.


Because in high contrast situations, there is usually a 3 to 4 stop difference between your highlights and your shadows. Your camera’s meter just does not do an accurate job of accounting for these differences.

In the photo below, I had my camera set to over expose everything by two stops… but because the contrast in the scene was so great, my shadows were still underexposed…. and sadly, my son’s face happened to be in the shadows.

Accidentally underexposed
Accidentally underexposed

If you use a hand held meter however, you can get an accurate incident reading in the shadow (or spot meter for the shadows), and your photo will be gorgeous.


Happy Shooting!

-Sandra Coan

Metering for Landscape

Last week Sandra Coan talked about how she metered for different light.  To continue our film metering tutorial series, I will answer your question on Metering for Landscape. I love to take pictures of a landscape, whether it's a city-scape, country-scape, water-scape or (insert anything)-scape.  I meter them all the same way: light meter facing camera, incident metering mode, bulb in or out, iso set to box speed (or whatever speed I plan to process at the lab).  Bulb in allows about 1/2 stop of overexposure because I prefer to have more details in the shadows.  If I am shooting in the high contrast light, I would normally over expose the scene by 1/2 stop to bring up the shadows.  If it's an overcast day when the shadow is not as dark compare to the highlight, bulb out for landscape will work perfectly.  Here you have it, there is no special trick to it at all!  Light is light.  As long as you are metering under the same light as your landscape, you can meter anywhere.

Incident metering: Bulb in or out towards the camera depends on the light, iso to box speed.

©Joyce C. Kang-000023130007001
©Joyce C. Kang-000023130007001
©Joyce C. Kang-000023160009001
©Joyce C. Kang-000023160009001
©Joyce C. Kang-000023190010001
©Joyce C. Kang-000023190010001

If there is a focal point in the landscape that needs to be exposed according to my vision, I would use a spot meter and the Zone System to determine my exposure setting.  If you are not familiar with the Zone System, I wrote a two-part tutorial explaining it, so make sure you check it out: Zone System Part 1, Zone System Part 2.  Understanding the Zone System is such a huge part of Embrace The Grain Workshop that I dedicate two week over this valuable concept!

I love to shoot sun sets.  Call me whatever you will, I can't get over how sunset can look completely different from one day to the next or one geographic location to another.  I am amazed at how the colors change depends on the weather, the season, and the pattern in the clouds.  To capture the beautiful colors of sunset, I use The Zone System and the spot meter to create the following images.

Spot metering: meter off the brightest part of the sky next to the setting sun, use the Zone System to place it to the "Zone" I want.

©Joyce C. Kang-000069400022001
©Joyce C. Kang-000069400022001
©Joyce C. Kang-000024300038001
©Joyce C. Kang-000024300038001
©Joyce C. Kang-000024300008001
©Joyce C. Kang-000024300008001

Here is an image with the focal point other than a sunset, where I used the spot meter to show the texture and light on the path:

©Joyce C. Kang-000062350009001
©Joyce C. Kang-000062350009001

Do you want to learn more on how to use your light meter?  Next week Sandra will continue the series on our brand new Metering Tutorial.  Stay tuned...

Are you a hands-on learner?  Do you learn by actual doing than reading?  Come join both Sandra Coan and Joyce Kang of Little Bellows at the Click Away in San Antonio, October 8-10, 2015:

3 Days, 6 Classes, including:

  • 4 boutique interactive sessions on indoor film photography with studio strobe and outdoor film photography with natural light and OCF.
  • 2 Golden Hour Walks with hands-on learning at the beautiful historic San Jose Mission in San Antonio

Don't wait, Register now because classes are filling up quickly!