Photography and Filmmaking

Shoot Film Like a Boss

Inspiring My Viewers Through Film Photography Videos And Learning From Them.

Side Hustle
October 14, 2020
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Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

I am Roger, a photographer and filmmaker from the Isle of Wight in the UK. I have a YouTube channel called “Shoot Film Like a Boss,” which focuses on learning Film Photography and Darkroom Printing. 


Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory! 

Being a photographer and filmmaker mainly shooting for business and private clients, my tools for work are digital cameras and computer editing software. Photography is my passion, and so in my spare time, I am usually taking photographs of something somewhere. However, to keep work and play separated, I shoot good old traditional black and white film. Shooting film gives me a different outlook on photography and, in some sense, a break from work.


It’s quite an isolated passion! I spend hours in the darkroom under a red light mixing chemicals and making prints. It’s also a costly passion too, with the constant purchases of film, chemicals, and paper, all of which are consumables. 


Focusing on a print

YouTube started for me pretty much by accident in March 2017. I was helping a friend learn how to develop the film. He just couldn’t understand it all, so having a filmmaking background, I made him a short video on how to develop the film. I quite enjoyed it. My friend finally understood the process and suggested I should start a YouTube channel! So I did. I made a few videos in my darkroom and posted them on YouTube for anyone who wanted to learn. I enjoyed it. 


Before I decorated my Darkroom for the new-look channel


I left the channel alone after those first few videos, and one day, in November that year, I looked and noticed I had quite a lot of views, and lots of comments and nearly 100 subscribers. I was amazed that there were people out there interested in the videos I made. Because of this, I started to make more videos and got even more interest. Here I am today, with over 15,000 subscribers, and I’m still making videos. 


The Darkroom today. It’s a shed in my garden! 


The channel is all about shooting and learning film photography. As much as I inspire others, I also learn much from my channel from the brilliant people that give me advice and tips in the comments section. So it kind of works both ways for me. I didn’t start the channel for financial gain on the idea that it would be a full-time job. I started it for the passion of photography and also as a personal record for myself. If one day it turns into a full-time career, I would welcome that a long way to go yet. 


Choosing a brand name and sticking with it was essential for the channel. I knew I wanted to have the words “Shoot Film” in the title somewhere. I knew a retired press photographer from the ’60s, 70’s, and 80’s named Stan. He got me into shooting film—a very knowledgeable guy. I used to call him “Boss,” as were most of those guys call back in the day. We were like, “If I could only ‘shoot a film like a boss!’” and that was that. The name came to my mind. And as most of the viewers are new to film photography, it made sense. 

Showing off my Mug with Logo


Now I had the name. I had to find a logo. I’ve always been pretty creative, and it wasn’t long before I thought of a target, as in shoot. I decided on an iconic round logo of outer blue, inner white, and dead center red and stuck a camera inside! 


Using the Black Logo


I think it’s essential to pepper your brand around your videos, but not too much. The name and logo have been the same ever since. Now and again, I choose different colours for the logo, such as all black or all gold. 


The name and logo have become recognisable over various platforms to do with the film community and a few of the slogans I have used along the way. By accident, of course, some have turned into T-Shirts on my Teespring account. Such as: “I’ll fix it in the darkroom.”, “Just shoot the shit out of it.” and “Shaaaaadup” (Shut up). 


I’m not one for trying to gather ideas or inspiration from others. I watch other YouTubers with channels similar to mine, as I like to support the different channels with a like and a view. If I see a channel with small numbers that I think would add the value of my channel subscribers, I’ll give them a shout out. I like to think we can all help each other no matter how big or small. 


My biggest inspiration is my daughter, Jess, 21. She watched me slowly build a YouTube channel, and shortly after I started, she also started a social following with her Universal Manifestation and Inspiration Network. Jess makes videos to help inspire others. I’m not sure I would have been that confident at 21. She would be an excellent person to interview, especially when it comes to helping others believe they can achieve whatever they set out to do. Jess helps me from time to time by moving my channel forward. She has also appeared a few times on my channel. 


How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and your advice in getting the creative juice flowing?

I never really plan my content. It just comes as I go along. Whenever I go out for a photoshoot, I take my vlogging gear with me. Sometimes I record what I am doing, and other times, I leave it all in the car and just enjoy my photography. Each week, I usually get out and take photographs, so building regular content for the channel is easy. I only shoot what I’m doing and turn it into a video, even if the photography has been a failure. I always say it’s essential to show the ups and downs of photography. No one is perfect unless they edit themselves to look perfect! But I don’t. 


Shooting a 1950’s Folding Camera, Franka Solida III


Sometimes I lose inspiration in photography. We all do, I think. It becomes challenging when we run out of inspiration for a photoshoot and start overthinking where to go or what to shoot. When that happens, I just go for a long drive with all my gear, and I find that helps with inspiration—nothing worse than sitting indoors staring out the window. Get out and find it. It’s not uncommon for photographers to hit a total mental block; I have many times. That’s when you need to take a break and let your creative juices recharge. 


But I love film photography in many ways. I have so many different cameras that I can use. Mix that up with a specific roll of film, and I find myself shooting scenes that I have shot in the past but with a different camera. And if I want to, I can record what I am doing from start to finish and make a video on it. 


Not all my videos are about taking photographs on location. Sometimes they are about printing techniques in the darkroom, showing a specific process from start to finish. I find those videos are a bit harder to brainstorm. I have to think of what I can show that the viewers want to see and keep them watching. 


There is nothing worse than looking at your stats and seeing a massive drop off where the viewers are bored. So, I have to brainstorm those in a way that is educational, entertaining, and interesting. There is a lot of content around me for the viewer not to switch off with location videos, such as photographing a classic car show or a massive storm over the sea. 



What are the tools and platforms you use to help with your brand?

Being a photographer and filmmaker, I already have the latest software programs such as Final Cut Pro for video editing and Photoshop for images. I have a good understanding of how they work best for me.  My content is all about shooting and learning film photography. It’s a pure channel, and the subscribers are all interested in that. They all just love photography and that being a photography-based channel. It’s easy to work it in with other platforms such as Instagram and Facebook by posting photographs of your work.

 

Of course, I want to attract more subscribers and views, and I find Instagram works well for this. I can make a video for YouTube, then jump over to Instagram and let the followers know a new video is out. I can use hashtags to attract others that don’t know about the channel. I also have Instagram linked to my Facebook page, so whenever I post, it automatically gets posted to my Facebook page too. I also have a Patreon page, where kind people support the channel. Patreon pledges help with a small monthly income that enables me to buy more consumables such as paper, film, and chemicals to make more videos. Without this, I would not be able to afford to make videos so regularly. 

T-Shirt and Logo on a print


What were your fears starting out? How did you handle it? 

I can remember my first videos where I didn’t show my face. I think a lot of us can relate to that. I didn’t need to. They were practical videos showing how to make prints in the darkroom. Over time, I realised that people enjoyed the content, so it was now time to put the channel into another gear and start talking into the camera. I was comfortable with this from the start. I’m a middle-aged man, so it’s not like I’m going to go to school the next day, and people will laugh at me! Jess laughs at me instead! 

Screenshot from an early video


I’ve never been worried about what others might think of my videos. Some like them and some don’t. You can’t please everyone, but it is vital to listen to feedback. As long as I know, I have tried to make a video to the best of my abilities and deliver what I think the SFLaB subscribers expect to see and have subscribed for, then that’s all I can do. In other words, who wants to see me making a train set when my channel is about photography! I may try new things and reach out for different ideas, but it’s all on the same topic. 


The comments section will tell you how the video came across on the platform and its likes and dislikes. When you put out a video explaining a specific process and get lots of “thank you” in the comment section or “Great Video,” that should give you a boost in confidence to continue making videos. Occasionally, you get the “rude” comment that has no place on the channel, so they just get removed. I don’t entertain those comments. I don’t waste my time. I always welcome other firm comments and constructive criticism about a particular process, that’s educational for the viewer and me. For the like-dislike ratio, I appreciate the dislikes as much as likes unless there are far more dislikes than likes! Not everyone is going to like your video, but if you see more down thumbs than up thumbs, then it’s time to learn and move on with better content. Unless, of course, your channel is about shooting ducks or making puppies skydive. 


How did you build your brand to where it is now, take us through your process.

I want to inspire and educate those interested in shooting and learning film photography since this is what my channel is all about. At the same time, I learn. Since I started the channel three years ago, I have learned so much more about film photography from making my videos and reading comments. My channel has never been about, “This is how” or “You should.” It’s more “This is how I” and “Today I did this.” I don’t preach or pretend to be the best or super knowledgeable. The viewers and subscribers know where I am and know I am learning as much as they are. I think it is essential because we are all learning together. 


Before I had the channel, I always had a monthly budget to spend on the film, paper, and chemicals, and I would use it wisely. I never sold any of my prints, so I had no income from it. Everything I did was just as a hobby. So experimenting and self-learning in the darkroom were slow and costly. My most significant break was when I got invited to a local school selling off all its old rusty darkroom equipment. I remember it was all in bad condition, but catching my eye was a stack of boxed paper! Hundreds of sheets. It was out of date, but I gave the school a small donation and took the lot. It lasted me months, and I experimented with the whole lot and gained a lot of self-knowledge about printing photographs. 


When I started making the videos, I noticed I was running out of consumables quickly as I was showing processes and wasting a lot of paper. At first, it was quite difficult to continue making content regularly. As time went on and I hit over 1000 subscribers, and I was then able to monetize the videos, which meant I had a small income to spend back on the channel to make more videos. It wasn’t a lot, but it helped. I then started a Patreon page where people would pledge a small amount to support the channel, and in return, I post deleted scenes and other content exclusively for the Patrons. That has been a great help for the channel. 


I also raise funds for the channel by selling prints and merchandise on my Teespring account. Putting this small monthly income back into the channel has helped it grow. I’ve been able to make more videos showing more used cameras and equipment that I have purchased and also try out a lot more film, paper, and chemicals regularly. So that’s how I have been able to continue making videos for the channel. And there are also a lot of kind random people out there. As well as the Patrons, I get sent various film and paper to try out and have even had a few cameras donated to the channel. 


I don’t think there is anything I would have done differently. I’m still at a comfortable pace with the channel, which is manageable for me. I never wanted to rush it. I wanted the channel to grow but in my own time. I never wanted it to grow fast. I don’t think I would have been able to handle it if the channel was hitting 50k views per video and 100’s of comments in the first few months. I would have felt overwhelmed with it all and possibly have burned out too soon. When a channel explodes like that, it’s great for the creator, but it could probably not be so great for the mindset. Who knows? I haven't been there!

Wearing a branded Hoodie on location


For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?

If you want to start making content for YouTube, try to make your videos the best of your abilities and be honest and authentic to yourself and your fans.

Reply to comments, but don’t get into heated arguments over X, Y, Z, and try not to get despondent when you don’t see the numbers rising. It takes time to grow. Get settled in with your brand, content, platform layout and plant little seeds here and there and see how it works out for you and your fans. Over time, you will know what works and what doesn’t. Most of all, enjoy what you’re doing. If you enjoy making the videos and interacting with your fans, then numbers will come over time. 

How did you finally commit to X platform rather than your regular day job?

I know a lot of YouTubers that build their channel on the side of their day job. But I don’t think they consider doing it full-time and relying on YouTube as a living. You need big numbers for that. Even though I upload each week or try to, I wouldn’t consider myself a full-time YouTuber. I don’t have the numbers that could sustain a living. Nowhere near it! However, many can make a living from YouTube and I just wish them good luck. What’s important to me is I enjoy making videos and interaction with like-minded photographers. 

Slogan and Original Logo, T-Shirt, and Mug.


Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

The channel has been a great help in improving my photography. I can make a video on a specific process. For instance, someone in the comments section will say, “Hey, have you tried this...” Then I will go off and brainstorm it. Also, what I consider the most significant milestone is having made many new photography friends around the world that I regularly chat with all from the channel, interacting with like-minded people. Reaching 10K subscribers was a cool moment, too! 


What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

I have no strategies for marketing the channel. I don’t advertise it or tout it around Facebook or forums. All I ever did was name the channel “Shoot Film Like a Boss” and make a logo. Make YouTube videos for people wanting to learn film photography and create regular, informative content and sort of entertaining at the same time. It’s grown from that. 


Collaborations are great if you can team up with another tuber. I have made a few, and they went very well. My numbers increased from collaborating with other YouTubers, but more than the numbers, the fans of both sides love seeing it. I know this from the comments section. At the moment, I have a few collaboration ideas with other channels.

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