The Hipster Challenge

Do you have a needless beard, wear jeans with holes, cloth trainers and/or a check shirt? What about some funky head wear and glasses? Do you sometimes accessorize with a cardigan? Ever been mistaken for a lumberjack or homeless person? Do you like to use out dated technology? Have you a penchant for alternative music but only on vinyl? Some regrettable tat’s maybe? Are you, in your mind, more down with trends on everything than absolutely everybody else you know?

Come on guys – you know where this is going! If you have answered yes to one or more of the above, you are in serious danger – you might just be a hipster!!

There is a real & very strong possibility that you like to break away from the latest & greatest 50+ megabyte camera system and just go shoot film with an old camera. Let’s be honest, it’s not all about the photography – its more about how you look as that film camera proudly hangs off your shoulder. It’s a talking point, it might even attract some ladies!! Let’s put your over inflated ego aside & forget about the aesthetics’ for a few moments!

Why Shoot Film?

Having shot film many, many years ago, I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would want to even consider this again – the cost, the limitations, the uncertainty, the tiny margins for error, the time involved, the failures, etc.
But then again, the hipsters love it – maybe they see something of worth that I don’t. There has definitely been a procreational move back towards shooting film in recent years. Why? I don’t know – maybe its nostalgia more than anything else but I’m more than willing to try it out for a little fun.

I didn’t want to start messing with old cameras and film processing again so I’ve figured out a very simple hack to shoot old style without all the hassle. I’ve called it “The Hipster Challenge” and has some very strict rules.

The Hipster Challenge Rules

Using your current camera…..

Pick 1 ISO in manual mode

Limit yourself to only 36 frames

Single images only – no blending exposures in post

Cover the live view screen on your camera with tape strong enough that you can see nothing through it

No cheating – you cannot remove it until you have finished shooting and left the location

Now let’s see how much you really know about your camera!!

My Experience

Location chosen based on weather forecast & alarm clock set! Waking to cloudless skies which only meant one thing – Harsh light. This was going to make metering and the balancing of exposures tough! Reaching the destination an hour later, I still wasn’t really feeling in the mood for this challenge as the sun rose.

Getting into position, it was unsettling not being able to set the histogram via live view before taking the image. I set to work spot metering the foreground and the sky. Then via careful mental calculations, I choose what I felt was the correct filter and fired my 1st shot. Automatically looking to the screen for a histogram reference – I was left feeling very uneasy when I could see nothing. This was going to be a difficult morning but I was a little more at ease by the fact I wasn’t expecting much from the outing anyway due to the harsh light.

As a seascape photographer, I usually come home with a lot of frames as I literally click away when waves roll in trying to find that one perfect moment. With frames limited to 36, I became extremely selective as to when I released that shutter.

I also became very selective about the compositions I chose. Usually, I will experiment and see what happens. On this morning, I kept purely to what I felt were the best compositions within that chosen 20 metre area. In hindsight, I could have tried a few less compositions.

It slowed me down a lot. It was very time consuming finding a composition, framing, metering, calculating, setting filters and waiting for the perfect wave. Using the mirror up mode on a Nikon led to a few misfires as after a certain period with the mirror engaged, the camera automatically takes a shot. These frames were deleted immediately and not counted.


Half way through this shoot, the doubts crept in & eventually got the better of me. I wasn’t confident in my field technique. Moving to evaluative metering mode, I started to capture 3 bracketed images +1, 0, -1 to ensure I was getting a good exposure. I was now taking 3 images for every one required. This ate into my frames very quickly. Having worked so slowly, the best of the light was gone. Images were now being fired out of habit and for the sake of using all 36 frames.

Started with 398 frames available, I was due to stop when this figure reached 362. Towards the end of the shoot, I felt something was wrong as the numbers were not reducing exactly by the number of frames I was taking. By the time I realized this, I was taking 3 shots as previously mentioned. Calling it a day, I headed for a small exploration of a nearby area before heading for home. 

The results

On arrival at the car, I peeled away the tape (with a witness present) and reviewed my mornings efforts. Surprisingly, I didn’t appear to be too far off the mark. I had taken 46 images instead of 36. I still need to understand why my cards are not giving accurate frame numbers.

The 1st half of the images were pretty good If I say so myself. Exposures were pretty much on the money while the images taken with the bracketing technique were quite wasteful. Under exposure of 1 stop at ISO 64 on a D810 really is not a problem as they can be pulled back very easily. I don’t know how this compares to the film days – I wasn’t experienced enough. Could a negative be over exposed on the paper to brighten a dull image. Vice versa, could over exposed negatives be under treated to help dampen highlights. I’ve no doubt there were tricks of the trade those of us in the digital era know nothing of.

The Hipster Challenge

Would I do it again?

Hell no – it was terrifying. Fun to look back at now knowing I got one decent result, but far too much work for my liking. Digital cameras offer so much more, so much easier. We are no longer limited by the cost of processing – digital memory is cheap so shoot away and cull the duds. The hard-mental work is long gone and we can explore creative processes instead of just trying to make a good exposure. The craft of photography is still required today – composing, directing, clicking at just the right moment, eliminating distractions, etc. Yes there are those who will always try and get around issues in post but each to their own – I like being behind the camera more than the computer so will always try and get it as right as I can in the field.

I’m no Hipster. I can’t understand why anyone would chose to shoot like this intentionally when they have the advances made by digital at their disposal. Mind you, people still ride horses even though there are cars. Maybe there’s a strong argument about the recreational choice. That’s the argument the hipsters will be spouting anyway’ s… lol.

Would I recommend it?

Hell yes – why not. It’s only a little bit of fun and helped reaffirm I know my way around my camera.

What have you got to lose on a day that may not look too promising anyway. You might just surprise yourself. If the heavens part, and magic irresistible light appears then you can always rip the tape off and try again another day.

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One Comment

  1. Will December 13, 2020 at 7:31 am #

    Why would I shoot film? For all the reasons you don’t want to. They slow me down and force me to pay attention and do things right; shortcuts. However, for all the agony, there is an ecstasy to go along with it, particularly when you shoot medium and/or large format and you see that slide or on the light table, or seeing a big print with exceptionally fine detail never gets old. Of course, most people are going to find 35mm a waste of time for landscape photography, unless you’re going for a gritty “lo-fi” look (and don’t get me wrong, sometimes the “gritty lo-fi look” just works).

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