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Shooting Film in a Digital World; An Interview with Lifestyle Photographer Jana Williams

“I don’t know what it is about your photographs, but there’s this certain softness, a storytelling kind of aspect that I can’t put my finger on,” is what lifestyle photographer Jana Williams hears often. Her secret? Film. In today’s world where instant (photos, emails, social media, etc.) means everything, adding film to your repertoire can really make you stand out as a photographer.

“I actually started off shooting digital and I got to a comfortable place in my business and clients were happy and it was great, but in my heart I remember thinking, ‘I am doing this for art and doing it for beauty, and I know that there’s this other level to my photography,’” says Williams. So she went back to photography’s roots and decided to add film to her portfolio. “What I love about film is just that the work is timeless, classic, romantic. It’s a piece of art that’s just so beautiful and mysterious.” And that is exactly the certain something people are talking about when viewing her film-shot photos.

The Alabama native, who still shoots much of her work in digital, uses film primarily for weddings, mostly before and during the ceremony. “I use it primarily at the beginning, when I’m taking detail shots and when [the bride] is getting ready and the light comes in through the window; it’s so beautiful and perfect.” She saves digital for times when film is impractical, such as in low light at receptions or if photos are expected the next day.

“It also depends on your client,” says Williams. “Try to get to know your client as well as possible, and if they don’t mind a little grain and prefer artsy photos, I love that. But you have to know the client and make them happy.”

Aside from weddings, Williams shoots for various lifestyle and fashion brands and says because of the quick turnaround time, digital is the logical solution.

“I wish I could shoot every single thing in film, but with such a quick turnaround time it’s just impossible.” For last year’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York, Williams relied on digital to get those photos up the same day. “It’s very content-driven when I shoot in digital,” she says.

Even when film may not seem like a realistic option for photographers who do sports or photojournalists, for instance, Williams encourages everyone to try. “It’s soft but there’s more information; I can tell more of a story somehow.” And for those who just started out in the industry and film is a foreign concept, she recommends practicing, going to workshops and networking.

“Shoot everyday,” she says. “Shoot your dog, shoot your dishes, even your shoes… just like you would with your iPhone. When I’m shooting with film, it makes me feel much more confident. Just shoot, shoot, shoot!”

Jana shoots film with medium format Fuji 400Pro. She’s also a proud Zenfolian and uses it to share her online password-protected galleries with all her clients, from fashion to portraits.




To learn more about Jana and to see some of her work, be sure to visit her website