Ok, well blogging is obviously something that doesn’t come naturally to me! It’s been a little  while since my last post, but I’m going to do my best to stick with it!

It's been six months since I started this journey and I've loved every minute. So much so, that I’m now shooting film exclusively for my sessions! I originally told myself that I’d give it a year and then make the transition if it was working out, but to be honest I just couldn’t wait that long! And I think sometimes you just have to dive in with these things and go for it, rather than let all that self doubt creep in that tells you “you’re not ready for this”. I have a long way to go, and so much to learn but I've been consistently happy with my results and so have my clients. And besides, shooting film makes me so happy and that’s the only way I want to work from now on!

So, the website is getting an update and so is my branding, packages and products, and it's all very exciting and surreal. Last week I was featured on my favourite blog , The Fount Collective, and in the coming weeks/ months, my work will be featured on Magnolia Rouge (mind blown), and in The Fount Collective’s annual print publication! Dreams are being realised here, people!! And It’s all because I’ve embraced this medium which I’ve been dreaming about for years.

Some more exciting news for me is that I’ve switched labs and I am so happy! Not that I wasn’t happy with The Find Lab, but there have been so many positives with making the switch to Atkins in South Australia. Firstly, I am so happy to be supporting an Australian company, and supporting the growth of film photography in Australia! Secondly, I received scans back last week, less than a week from when I put the rolls in the post - Amazing!! That turn around time is a huge plus for me. Thirdly, I no longer feel like a number in a sea of thousands- I feel like a valued customer. From the beginning, I’ve known how important it would be for me to have a good relationship with my lab, and I feel like now that can happen. I’m really looking forward to working with the team at Atkins. I'm also so excited to start offering all of their beautiful print products to my clients.

So anyway, down to the nitty gritty… I thought I’d go through some of my shoots and share my process, settings etc and what I learned from each session. Maybe I am crazy doing this but I know that writing these things down after each session has really helped with consecutive sessions, and I hope this also helps some of you. Feel free to laugh at the stupidity of some of my mistakes! I’m still mastering metering and exposure and trying to bring that beautiful soft light to my images. Although I think the fact that it's the middle of winter has not been doing me any favours. I’ve had a lot of overcast days on shoots, which has been a little disappointing. I’m really looking forward to the return of summer and daylight savings!

Sari and Koko: Fuji 400h. Rated at 160 and metered for the shadows. Developed & Scanned by The Find Lab.

50% of this shoot was underexposed for my liking. Even though I rated my film at 160 and metered for the shadows, I failed to keep re-metering as I went. The light changed a lot on the day as well as my position and proximity to the subjects. I was still over the moon with the images but I did a bit of editing in Lightroom to get the look I wanted. Mainly I decreased the contrast and lifted shadows.

Mudgee: Fuji 400h rated at 200 and Kodak Portra 800 rated at 640. The Find Lab.

I was amazed with the scans from Mudgee! A lot of the images were taken under direct sun at midday on a 30 degree day and they are still so soft! I did next to no editing of these scans. I experimented with Portra 800 for the first time here (right hand image). I was happy with the images but not so in love with the colours. I could’ve probably gotten a nicer result if I’d over-exposed a bit more.

Trille Floral: Fuji 400h. Rated at 400 and pushed +1. Atkins Pro Lab.

The concept, lighting situation, lab, everything was new to me for this shoot! My first time doing a full session indoors, I thought there was plenty of light but when I started metering I was getting readings of 1/8 and 1/16 for shutter speed when rating the film at 200. So I bit the bullet and decided to rate at 400 and push one stop in development. This worked so well and Atkins did an incredible job. This was my first session using them so I was so nervous to have them push the film. It still gave a really natural and soft look so I was so happy, and I won't hesitate to push film if I need to in the future. I didn’t do much in Lightroom to these scans. I mainly added some warmth and lifted shadows here and there.

(sorry,  I can't share the images from this session just yet).

Stitt Family: Fuji 400h rated at 100. Atkins Pro Lab.

This was a really overcast day and I wanted to make sure the images were nice and bright so I rated at 100 and metered for the shadows which turned out to be a good decision. I experimented with movement a lot in this session which was fun. I was really happy with these images and did hardly any editing in lightroom. You can see the full set of images on The Fount Collective’s blog here.

Fearn Family: Fuji 400h rated at 160. Atkins Pro Lab.

I was so excited on the day of this session as it was the first time I’d had a lot of sunlight for a family session. I loved the images although I thought I could have made better decisions about the direction I shot in. Most of the images have the headland directly behind which has prevented me from achieving that really soft, airy look. Despite that, I do love how they turned out. It was the first family session for which I’d given myself permission to just run with what happened in terms of their movement and interaction. I often find myself not pressing that shutter in fear of wasting film. But I know now that this is holding me back and preventing me from capturing really natural moments. I burned through my rolls really quickly because of it, but it was worth it to capture beautifully natural shots of this family.


I’m learning from each shoot, just how much my metering decisions, light, positioning, and location/ background all work together to create the overall look of the image. I know that this is really obvious! But coming from digital where I could easily fix a lighting mistake on the spot, it kind of took all of the guess work out of it for me and I suppose it prevented me from really understanding how and what I was shooting. I often didn’t stop to think about all the elements and how they worked together to create the look I was after. Just another reason I love shooting film!

I want to keep experimenting with metering, and rating film in the coming weeks and I'll report back soon! Please leave a comment or send me an email if you find these posts helpful, or if you have any questions.

Kylie xo

In it for the long haul... | An Australian Film Photographer's Journey

Motherhood Session on Film by Northern Beaches Family Photographer, Kylie Mills Photography

Its been a few weeks since I've blogged, but I'm glad to say I've had a lot going on! I've had a few epic sessions with my Contax and planned lots more, I've learned some (often hard) lessons, and I've received some more scans from my lab (yess!!!). I am totally addicted. Yep, completely and utterly obsessed! If only I had a never ending supply of film I would be out there everyday shooting anything and everything. I hope this feeling never goes away...

Anyway, lessons... first and most importantly (and this is seriously hard to admit), it is possible to load film back to front. And I did it last week. I shot a roll of film which I was really excited about, got it home, opened up the back of the camera, and something looked a bit odd- I realised straight away what I'd done. Devastation quickly turned to relief at the fact that this was not a client session, and I had learned a really valuable lesson. And this is what this journey is all about, really. I'm sure its not the last time a roll of film will be lost because of a stupid mistake, but at least hopefully not for the same reason!

I've also learned not to be afraid of over-exposure. The few sessions I've received back have been a bit muddy looking, even though I thought I was overexposing (rating my 400h at 200 and metering for the shadows). I'll be rating at 160 for my next few sessions to see if that gives better results. Coming from digital, where that last 1/2 hour before sunset is absolute gold for lighting, I have to keep reminding myself how light-hungry film is! Starting my sessions 2 hours before sunset is essential if I want that bright and airy look which I love.

I am still sending film to The Find Lab and loving the results, however I've had some contact with Atkins Photo Lab in South Australia this week who tell me they're in the process of acquiring a Frontier scanner which is super exciting!! I can't wait to test out some rolls with them when this happens. The 2 week wait for scans from Find (including shipping time) is sooooooo looonggg! I'd love to find a great fit for me in Australia...

First Scans | An Australian Film Photographer's Journey

Motherhood Photography by Australian Film Photographer, Kylie Mills. Contax645, Fuji400h

I cannot describe the joy in receiving my first film scans from The Find Lab! There was so much anticipation (I'd placed so much pressure on myself)! I literally had a week of sleepless nights and checking my emails 20 times a day! But it was so worth it! My images are far from perfect- my manual focus needs a lot of work, and I have a lot to learn when it comes to metering and achieving the look I want with the light that I have- but apart from that, I am overjoyed and so proud of these images. I can't stop looking at them!

There is no going back now - film is here to stay...

I'm completely happy with my decision to go with The Find Lab for developing/scanning. Their Basic + scans are fantastic, and the feedback that came with my scans was worth the price alone. I wasn't sure what to expect, but their advice was comprehensive and completely specific to my images. I loved this part of the process and will be sending my next rolls there too.

Images shot on Fuji 400h, rated @ 160 (metering for the shadows). Scanned on a Frontier SP3000 (I specified for brighter contrast, neutral contrast and neutral colour during scanning).

You can view the full set of images here

Choosing a Lab | An Australian Film Photographer's Journey

This was an agonizing decision to make! I guess I always just thought I'd send my film to Richard or Photovision but when it came down to it, there were so many things to consider in choosing a lab. Number one being the cost of developing/scanning.

I researched labs in the U.S.A, Australia, and Europe in order to get an idea of the range in pricing, and it was huge (from around $13 to $30 per roll)! I also considered the look I wanted, which scanner/s each lab used, shipping costs, and positives and negatives to each lab. In the end I was tossing up between Atkins Photo Lab in South Australia, and The Find Lab.

I went with The find Lab for a few reasons- they are extremely reasonably priced, even when compared to Australian labs and when considering the shipping costs I'll be paying. Their Basic + scans are perfect for me as they'll provide a little colour correcting to my images, as well as provide feedback on my images in terms of technicality and gear. And, well, hello! Jonathan Canlas! I love what he and his lab stand for in terms of educating film photographers and helping them shoot more film. Their 1 for 1 program means that for every roll I send in, I get a roll back at the wholesale price. For somebody who needs to import film from the US as it is, the fact that I can combine the postage of my negs, prints, and film is a bonus!

Having said all of that, I'm yet to see my first scans (my film is somewhere between Sydney and Utah as we speak). I'm still really keen to try Atkins Lab, so I may send my next lot of film there for comparison.

First Shoot | An Australian Film Photographer's Journey

The excitement of getting my Contax quickly turned into fear and procrastination, and it was well over a month before I took it out for the first time! I've been researching the ins and outs of film photography for a long time now and I've learned so much from the web, Youtube, and from reading others post in the Contax 645 Facebook group (best resource ever!). But the week before this shoot I watched as many Youtube videos as I could find on the Contax 645, how to load and unload film, and how to meter with my Sekonic L-358.

As much as I told myself that the first few rolls of film would probably be a right-off, in the back of my mind I was kind of hoping I could create some amazing images! So my sister and her two kids (yes, how dumb am I choosing kids as my first subject to practice manual focusing on?!) got dressed up and we headed to the Pam Beach sand dunes at dusk.

I only took two rolls of film with me, which was more than enough I thought. I loved using the light meter and I felt pretty confident and prepared. Apart from the fact that my camera doesn't have a strap - so nerve wracking! Changing out the roll of film was extremely difficult as I had to sit down in the sand and balance it all on my lap!

Anyway, that first click of the shutter- heavenly! I probably haven't nailed the manual focus, but it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be (I had a Maxwell enhanced screen installed by Contax Rental when I bought the camera). I definitely missed a few really good moments because I couldn't focus quickly enough. But this is something I'm really looking forward to working on.

I shot all Fuji 400h rated at 160. I started out at F2 (yes, probably also a dumb decision) but the aperture ring got bumped to F2.8 somewhere along the way. I metered for the shadows.

No images yet as I'm still waiting on scans but hopefully any day now...

Beginnings | An Australian Film Photographer's Journey

After years of dreaming about owning and shooting on a Contax 645, one finally arrived on my doorstep this past Christmas Eve. I cried tears of joy and jumped up and down with more excitement than, I'm pretty sure, my two year old daughter on Christmas morning!

I am a complete newbie to film in general, let alone medium format. But it's the look of medium format (and the Contax 645 specifically) that drew me to photography 5 years ago, and inspired me to become a photographer.

I remember the day I came across Jose Villa's Instagram feed- I'd never had such a strong reaction to art or photography! Not long after that I discovered Elizabeth Messina and that was it- I was hooked! I was staying up late at night pouring over their work and the work of other film photographers, obsessing over their blog posts and the beauty they were creating, and still do! I finally knew (at 25) what I wanted to do with my life.

I've loved shooting digital the past 5 years. I've learned a great deal and experimented so much that, now, I'm finally in a place where I'm confident enough in my abilities, my style and my vision to make the step to film.

I'm starting this journal for myself, to look back on my hurdles and triumphs and grow and learn from them. I thought I'd put it out into the world just in case there is someone else out there like me looking for information on getting started with film photography and what to expect.

Being based in Australia is no doubt going to make this road a challenging one. There isn't a huge community of Contax 645 shooters or medium format photographers here as there is in Nth America. No beautiful film workshops to attend and meet like-minded people. Cameras, film, and accessories need to be imported from the USA and everything costs twice as much when you're buying with the Australian dollar! Don't even get me started on the cost or what I went through to get my camera into the country! God forbid it ever needs repairs done! The lack of film labs in Australia is also a hurdle and something I'm sure I'll be talking a lot about. At this point in time I'm feeling extremely overwhelmed but I'm sure I'll stop stressing about the great divide soon enough.

Nothing worthwhile ever happened without a challenge!

Image credit: left Elizabeth Messina, right Jose Villa.

Image credit: left Elizabeth Messina, right Jose Villa.