ShootFilmCo and Mike Padua: Creating Film Photography Masterpieces
Today marks the culmination of a long-distance discussion: how can we help bring ShootFilmCo's amazing products over to our European customers? We're so excited it's happened - and to celebrate the occasion we chatted to the man-behind-the-designs. Mr Mike Padua of California!
Mike! Thanks so much for chatting to us. Tell us about your journey with film photography. When did you start and what made you continue?
I grew up in a time when film was the only choice and I always enjoyed just snapping photos of friends and family--but from 2003 to 2009 I went all-in with digital. Then my sister give me an old Yashica SLR that she used in a high-school photo class, and like anyone who discovers or rediscovers what a different and tactile experience shooting film is, I was hooked!
What’s your favourite film camera and why?
This is a toss-up between two very different cameras. The first is a Leica M6, for which I saved up a long time. Years! I love rangefinders and I prefer them over SLRs. The second camera is a Canon Sure Shot M, also know as the Prima Mini or the Autoboy F. It’s a very compact, very simple point and shoot that does not fall into the “luxury” market, but it’s still highly capable.
Ah the classic 'I have TWO favourites'! So what’s your favourite film at the moment and why?
My favorite film has been, for many years, Kodak Ultramax. It looks great and it is very inexpensive. It is very warm toned, maybe a bit on the grainy side, but that’s a good thing. Since I scan my film, it’s easy to change the look of a photo to fit a mood if I ever need to, but for the most part Ultramax’s “base” tones look great!
What’s your favourite photo EVER that you’ve taken on film?
This changes all the time, but I captured a very special moment with my wife and my son on a carousel at a theme park. The image always pops up in my mind, so I think I’d have to choose that one. But this could change tomorrow!
Very fair. And now let's talk your company ShootFilmCo. How did you start it and what made you think of the idea?
I grew up with an interest in graphic design, and even started working in print shops doing pre-press and some graphic design, and it grew as a hobby and profession. I thought of an embroidered patch that I wanted to make that coincided with my hobby of film photography, and with that one patch, ShootFilmCo was born--and it all started with the “In Grain We Trust” patch.
Where does the inspiration for your designs come from? Is there a regular pattern by now that you follow with an idea?
My inspiration comes from anywhere/everywhere. Looking at books, t-shirts, packaging, anything design related. My mind always just comes up with ideas but the key is to catalog every single idea and then follow through to develop them. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t--but that challenge is part of the fun. My undeveloped ideas list probably has a hundred ideas in it.
What’s your personal favourite product from your store?
The PhotoMemo notebook--using pencil on paper creates a huge spark of introspection, thought, and creativity in my brain, which is exactly why it was important to me to create it. With film being such a physical, tactile experience, getting further away from always staring at a little screen to take and review notes has really helped to bring my brain to a more creative and thoughtful place.
Have there been any products that surprised you? Either you thought they’d fly and they didn’t; or you thought it would do ok but it just leapt from the shelves?
The Coffee and Camera lapel pin: I thought it would be moderately successful but it sold faster than any other piece in the store. I sold out of the first batch in a single week and continues to be highly popular. Apparently there’s a big cross-section of coffee drinkers and film photographers! A few of my products have been very esoteric and niche than others, so I make things that I know will sell “slowly.” An example being the “No Pixels” lapel pin, which is an RGB bayer pattern crossed out with a red line. It’s so niche that I knew so few people would appreciate it, and honestly it started out as a joke, but I thought it was visually interesting so I had to make it anyway.
What have you learned from the past 4 years of selling analogue photography accessories?
Even the fun stuff requires work! Despite all the fun I get to have, designing products, taking photos, learning from other artists, like any business it requires work. Shipping packages, doing taxes, marketing--I’ve had to learn all of this as I go along!
I hear you on that! Now I think you went to the big US Film Photography Meet-Up earlier this year - what was that like and can you share any gossip?!
You’re referring to the Film Photography Paideia, which was hosted by The Darkroom, a photo lab in San Clemente, California. As far as gossip goes, the whole event was very open-book. People sharing their experiences, workshops, etc, so I can’t say there’s much gossip to share! But meet so many people from all over the country, and some of whom even travelled internationally who shared a passion was inspiring. I had a 15 minute presentation, so I was a bit nervous myself.
You have one of the biggest Instagram followings in the analogue world: over 26k and growing. Any hints and tips for other film photographers in social media today?
Engage with your fellow artists! Encourage them, talk to them, ask them questions, share their work if it inspires you. Any platform is more rewarding if you use it to highlight other people and not just yourself.
Mike - thank you so much for your time, and for creating such amazing products for us all to add to our camera bags and film photography collections!