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I love film’s uncertainty. I love how a slight change in the chemistry of the solution  can alter the picture.

I'm delighted to have you here, Elaine. Would you mind telling us a bit about yourself and your journey into film photography?

Elaine:  I’m Elaine. I’m currently living in California for university but was originally from Vancouver and Shanghai. I got into film photography as a compliment to my digital photography work. From this summer I switched to film completely because I thought it was a better way to express emotion. It felt like more of an art form to me because there are more varying elements: the film and the uncertainty of whether or not the light meter is working on the camera.

What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?

Elaine: I used a lot of cameras over the summer while I was traveling Europe. I think my favorite would be the medium format Pentax 67 (since it is the first medium format I’ve ever gotten). For 35mm, I really like my boyfriend’s Minolta Riva. It is a 35mm camera that takes fake panorama images since it covers the top and bottom of the frame. My favorite film of all time is the Kodak Vision 3 250D motion picture film that I got from The Photographer Gallery in London.

What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?

Elaine: I love film’s uncertainty. I love how a slight change in the chemistry of the solution  can alter the picture. I love not editing my film photos and leave them as it is because I think that is the best way to amplify the personality of the film that I use.

Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?

Elaine: I don’t have a dark room so I am unable to print my film on paper. But I’m in the process of learning C-41 and developing black and white film! I’m also in the process of investing in a scanner so I can do most of the work on 35mm at home! 

What motivates you to continue making photographs with film? Have you learned anything about yourself through film photography?

Elaine: I’ve found that the film community is generally less competitive and more appreciative than those of the digital photographic community. I used to take digital photographs and I found myself trapped in the dilemma of producing original photos that suit my aesthetic and also be “hype” enough to get likes and engagement. After I started taking film, there’s little to no competition in the film community which allows me to post whatever I feel is beautiful and whatever suits my taste. It’s more personal for me, and it allowed me to see my vision more clearly.

Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?

Elaine: I try to not get influenced that much in the process of making art because I believe it should be individual and not be confined to a standard or a goal. Philosophy is what is keeping me going through my photographic journey, Daoism in particular. I started taking photos when I was in eighth grade and I have to admit that it’s been a long journey for me. Daoism taught me that I shouldn’t fight the Dao, or not fight or judge my own photos other than a personal standard.

Do you see any value or merit shooting with film? 

Elaine: Yes, of course. I think film takes us back and there’s this automatic historical sense that gets attached to it. Using film cameras made me appreciative of how technology developed from simple mechanical parts that require great knowledge.

What do you think your future is like with film photography?

Elaine: I see a lot of people starting to shoot film again or pick up their own film camera to play with. It’s a great company for anyone who shoots digital because it offers a new vision. Or it could also be a great substitute. I stopped shooting digital entirely (except with my phone) and only brought my film camera to the States.

Do you have any dream film photography project?

Elaine: Not yet, I’ll let the Dao take me.

Would you like to offer a few words of wisdom to those who want to try film photography for the first time? What must they learn before venturing into this format?

Elaine: I think shooting digital and understanding the basics of photography (shutter speed, aperture ISO) would definitely accelerate the improvements for those who just got into photography. Digital camera produces zero to no waste when you try taking photos with different light settings while film cameras could cause you a fortune. 

Elaine plans to shoot fashion portraits on her medium format. If you’re a fashion designer in the Bay Area and need photos for your portfolio, feel free to contact here

Don't forget to follow Elaine on Instagram, VSCO, and WeChat. Check out her stunning website as well.


Be considerate. All photographs shown on this page are the sole property of Elaine Shen. She devoted her time, and worked so hard in making these photographs. You are not allowed to copy, publicly display, download, reproduce, reprint, modify, distribute, license, transfer or sell content retrieved from this page in any way, for any public or commercial use or to any commercial source, including other websites, without prior written permission of Elaine Shen. Don't do anything malicious. You don’t want to go to jail, do you?

Well now, if you are a passionate film photographer and would like to be interviewed? I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email at with the subject, "Interview me", and share your story, thoughts, and work related to film photography. I’ll get back to you as soon as I receive your request for an interview.

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