Thanks to smartphones and proliferating app technology, there have never been as many ways to quickly and easily record our thoughts. I'm particularly enjoying Google Keep at the moment, which is wonderfully efficient and especially good when surfing the web.
There are occasions, however, when the electronic method of note taking isn't the best. I enjoy using physical notebooks for their tactility, straightforwardness and easy accessibility. Notebooks foster connections and memories; when I look over old notes I find ideas return for reconsideration and new possibilities emerge.
Film photographers have long had the need to record data from their shooting activities for later reference. The act of so doing fosters good practice and can prompt little revelations about technique. The digital revolution killed the photographer's notebook at a stroke, with the migration of shooting information to the image file and metadata. The thing is, with your digital friend making comprehensive records for you - aperture, shutter speed, ISO, exposure modes, to name but some - you find yourself with less and less need to look. And with less looking comes less awareness and less learning.
Enter a product such as Photomemo by Mike Padua's artisanal Shoot Film Co. The relevance of this little notebook to film photographer's is fairly self-evident, but I want to go further and suggest that it might be a good thing for users of digital cameras too. Mike kindly sent me a couple of Photomemo's so that I could put them through their paces and write a report here. So what do I think of the design?
The form of Photomemo is not at all dissimilar to a number of notebooks already widely available. Indeed, this will be the biggest argument against these books: cheaper competitors that might do the same job. Photomemo is well made and has soft, receptive paper. On this front it gives nothing away to its rivals. (I have a love for Moleskine notebooks, and the quality of the paper is one of the things I value, along with their tough construction and durability.) There is a space for your name and details at the front, should it get lost, which is a nice touch. So at lot really rests on the design of the pages themselves, for it is here that your money appears to have gone.
I believe Mike consulted a number of different photographer's whilst in the design stage, and it has paid dividends. Most of the page is taken up with lined space for your notes, punctuated by some double-lined breaks. This might equate to 32 entries (perhaps not accidental, nearly equating to the 36 roll), but we should bear in mind this design is intended to accommodate, medium, large and other formats, such as instant or pinhole photography. However, it's in the header that the real thought has gone. This appears on every page and so needs to be right.
On the left hand side is space to record the roll number, start and end date, camera, lens, film and ISO. This is spot on for me. The roll number allows you to write a corresponding number on the film canister and, later, the negative bag. Start and end dates are invaluable in working out when exposures were made and whether or not time elapsed will impact on quality (with some films preferring prompt development). I have many shots where I can no longer tell if I used my 35mm or 50mm lens on my Leica rangefinder (lens reviewers take note: we see huge differences when we want to, they may be harder to see when all's said and done). Writing down lens used would help in this regard.
On the right hand side is subject, location, push/pull, and a little set of tick boxes for processed, scanned and archived. I like subject and location here, for me two key ways to remember a shoot. In my workflow, there would be a synergy with my Lightroom practice here, because I tend to organise my images by subject. Many of my film shots go into Lightroom, just as my digital ones do, so such potential for consistency is desirable. I don't tend to think in terms of push/pull (I'm more of the EI school), so I'm not sure I'd use this check. Processed et al I welcome, although I tend to scan individual frames and so would need to give this box some thought.
All in all, Photomemo is a well designed and beautifully printed product. I can really see it paying dividends in my shooting practice, especially if used over time and to build an archive of shooting information. Click on the button below if you'd like more details and to check out Shoot Film Co yourself.