In the spirit of full disclosure, I will tell you that we are not dating experts here at KEH. We are camera experts. Our deepest passion lies in photography, both film and digital alike. That being said, we do have a suggestion if you're looking for a way to spend a romantic afternoon with that special someone who's caught your eye.
Take them on a photography date! What better way is there to introduce someone to your true love of photography than to share a couple rolls of film with them? Put a camera in their hands and show them just how much fun it can be to go analog, baby.
Think about it—film photography is cool. If you shoot film, you're probably cool, too. Introduce that special someone to the art of film photography and display your innate (or learned) talent of using shutter speeds and apertures to create different looks. Show them how cool you are.
It's also worth mentioning that if you're shooting film, you're pretty much guaranteed a follow-up date when you get the negatives or prints back. If you're just starting a relationship, remember that any photos you take will act as built-in memories of the moments you shared together, too.
This doesn't have to be an introductory date, either. I recently took my own significant other (a non-photographer) out on a camera date. Follow my lead if you're looking to capture someone's heart.
Get it? Capture?
No? Fine. I did mention that I'm not a dating expert, didn't I?
Choose Your Camera, Lens & Film
My partner is a bit of a natural when it comes to smartphone photos. However, as we already know, a dedicated camera beats a smartphone any day. She told me—likely in confidence that I would tell no one—that she had never shot film apart from those auto-everything disposable cameras that were oh-so-popular when we were in school. Those are still fun, but we could certainly do better.
For our photo date, I thought it would be fun for both of us to have matching or similar gear. That way, when the rolls were developed, we'd be able to compare shots without giving one person an unfair gear advantage. I've got a soft spot for Minolta equipment so I lovingly shoved my Minolta XD-11 and X-700 into my bag.
Knowing that she's mostly used to zoom lenses and autofocus when taking photos, I did as any cruel human would do and took that comfort level away. I grabbed two fully-manual prime lenses—my Minolta Rokkor-X PF 50mm 1.7 and my MD 50mm 1.4 and figured I'd let her choose which camera and lens she wanted to use.
She went with the X-700 and the 50mm f/1.4. Clever girl.
I had selected two rolls of Kodak T-Max 400 for us to use, thinking that shooting in black & white could give us a more unique experience when the negatives were returned. Plus, I was borrowing some inspiration from my high school Intro to Photography class. Rubbing my hands together like a cartoon villain, I decided to make a bit of a competition out of it, thinking that surely I'd have the most 'keeper' shots between the two of us. Deviously, I also decided that we'd take all of our photos in full-manual mode.
If you're planning a surprise date, do some local research and choose someplace scenic for your photographic journey together. It can be something light like a stroll through the park or something more adventurous like a mountainside hike to photograph an amazing landscape together. If you or your date like animals (and who doesn't?) try going to a public dog park to snap some photos of friendly furry faces.
Anywhere public should work just fine, but don't trespass unless you're willing to face the consequences together. I don't feel like a night in jail is a very romantic evening, but again—I'm no expert.
When I explained the idea, she chose a local trail with a creek and some old mill ruins covered in graffiti. While the black and white film wouldn't pick up the bright colors of paint, it would certainly be able to provide some awesome textures.
After a quick 35mm loading lesson, we set out on the trail! I know that February isn't typically the most gorgeous month for outdoor adventures, but we lucked out. Check out local museums or libraries if the weather is still too rough for a romantic stroll.
We walked along, chatting about shutter speeds and apertures, stopping occasionally when one of us would see something we'd want to catch on film. Every time one of us took a photo, the other would take one of the same subject, putting their own spin on it. For each shot, I'd take note of our aperture and shutter speed settings in a pocket journal so we could review them when our negatives were developed.
Climbing over branches, exploring the old mill's ruins, and scrabbling over wet creek rocks, we spent the next few hours seeking out photographic gold, or something like it. Our extended photo date even included a thrilling chase as we ran to the center of a bridge to catch a pic of a passing coal train. Hers turned out—mine didn't.
In what seemed like no time, the sun had started to go down. It had been a few hours and we'd started to lose most of the daylight. Begrudgingly, the two of us decided it was time to bring our photo date to an end. I hadn't realized that for both of us to each take a full roll of 36 exposures it would take so long. I suggest finding 24-exposure rolls or shorter if you and your date aren't particularly trigger-happy or you don't want to spend more than a couple hours together.
You could also share a camera with a single roll of film, but then it could be difficult to remember who took which shots when comparing negatives later.
We finished out our rolls of film by snapping some shots of my cat at home, which I'm relatively sure is how I finish every roll of film. I can't help it. Look at this guy. How could you not spend a couple exposures on him?
Afterward, I sent our rolls off to The Darkroom and then all that was left to do was wait. My girlfriend's anticipation and excitement to see the photos couldn't be contained. Every day, she asked how soon we'd be able to see what we took.
Take that to heart, folks! As I mentioned earlier, reviewing your prints or scans when they return can be a pretty solid way to score a second date.
Thankfully, The Darkroom is exceptionally speedy and had sent scans to me within 3 days of sending them. How my negatives made it from Atlanta, Georgia to Southern California to be processed and scanned in such a short time is beyond me.
Reviewing the scans together, we relived all the best moments from our date. Many of her photos outshined my own, despite her never having shot with film before. Clearly, my plan to sabotage her photos by taking away the ability to shoot aperture- or shutter-priority had failed. After posting the images on Facebook & Instagram, she was floored by the number of likes and comments she received!
So whether you're looking to woo someone new or just try something fun, try taking a camera or two out for your next date. Keep it casual. Take photos of latte art if you're at a cafe. Try a medium format camera if your date's already tried shooting 135 film.
I can't make any promises that your date will be into it—
Because we're camera experts, not dating experts.
But truly, if your date doesn't like photography, are they really worth a second date anyway?
Stock up for your photo date on KEH.com