Film Photography Note Taking

Going full analogue. Screw the apps – get out the notebook

For some time I tried using mobile phone apps for note taking during my photo shoots. I stopped and went back to using pen and paper. Here’s why.

The most popular articles on my blog are those about mobile apps for film photographers.  Among the apps I reviewed there were a few to do note taking. Taking notes of the camera settings, film used, time of day is important as it helps to improve your skills when comparing the finished photo with the notes you took at the time of capture.

Digital photographers have a great advantage in that respect. The meta information for every image comes automatically in the form of EXIF data. As a film shooter you have to do this manually. Using a smartphone seemed like a good idea at the time but it felt uncomfortable and cumbersome after a while. It wasn’t the functionality, and I don’t want to blame any of the developers who invested a lot of thought into the design of these apps. Okay, some of them had quirks that could be annoying but in the end, it just felt *wrong*. No, this isn’t the hipster-like “oh, let’s be all so vintage and lo-tec” sentiment you might expect from someone who is shooting film in the 21st century. It’s just that I had this feeling that the apps were getting in the way. Using them distracted me too much from the process of being there in the moment and making photos. With a notebook I can simply jot down as much or as little information as I want. I can quickly add a few lines with additional thoughts I had about the subject or anything else that came to my mind when I was taking that picture. That wasn’t easily possible with the strict format offered by the apps. Also, I am so much faster writing with a pen on paper than I am typing on a touchscreen. No, I can’t run statistics on on how many films of what type I used in which camera, but quite frankly I don’t need that shit. At the moment I am happy using a very simple and cheap little book not even some fancy Moleskin type thing.


There is a middle ground, however. London-based photographer Andrew Ranville invented the Analogbook range of notebooks which are very well designed and thought through. There are different formats depending on what film format your’re using and there is even one for darkroom printing. Also, when he says that he is interested in incorporating customer feedback he actually means it. Recently, I sent him an e-mail with a suggestion and got an answer within a day.

Analogbooks offer more structure than a plain notebook but they still feel much less “intrusive” to the process of photography than all the apps I have been using.



2 thoughts on “Film Photography Note Taking

  1. Really interesting, I felt like an idiot before I started taking a pen and notebook out with me but this looks like a step up, might check these out.

  2. They are nice and as I said, thoughtfully designed. However, I am also quite content just using a simple notebook. The medium format version of the Analog Books offers more space for notes, whereas the 35mm ones are bit more “cramped” (because they need to have more space for more pictures). I guess it depends on whether you just like to record technical data or add some thoughts as well…

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