Film Shorts and Lightroom
Software & Apps

Film Shots – Another Film Exif App For Android And iOS, But With A Difference – By Oleksii Novikov

August 6, 2020

I hope you will love my new app ‘Film Shots’ – it lets you log your data right from the Lock screen and integrates with Lightroom.

Similarly to Barry Carr, who’s Analog Memo was featured on these pages, I am an avid film photographer and a software engineer, so naturally my first app was going to be about film photography. Now a popular choice for a film photographer-programmer is a light meter app, however metering wasn’t a pressing issue for me. I am happy using the Sunny 16 rule, in fact I enjoy it. It creates a suspense and that happy delight when I get the developed films back from lab and the pictures pop out at me as I lift them to light. 

What I did miss bitterly was metadata – what camera it was shot with and on what film and, more importantly,  location and time of the shots. I like going back to my photos and looking for memories  – “Ah, yes, that was a walk we took thought the historic town centre after a lovely lunch, and that one was us eating ice cream with sea views the next day”.

As we will see later, I ended up making it very easy to record exposure too upon multiple requests from my beta testers, even though for me personally it wasn’t a priority.

So after trying all the apps that I could find, including Exif Notes that Babak Farshchian recently wrote about, and finding that none of them ticks my boxes I decided to roll my own.

What was I looking for

My absolute priority was a “one click” recording of camera, film, time and location without unlocking the phone, so all design decisions were made with this in mind.

To help me recognise my films when they are back from the lab, I wanted to be able to take “reference photos” either for the entire roll or for individual frames. I wasn’t going to do it for absolutely every shot, more like “anchors” every once in a while to help reconstruct the sequence, so speed wasn’t a priority here. I did however want to see them all at a glance, without having to open each shot.

My next priority was reasonably good integration with my workflow. I “scan” my films with a digital camera, process the RAW files in Lightroom then export them and upload to Google Photos to share with my family and friends. Exif update then would fit somewhere between Lightroom and Google Photos upload and Phil Harvey’s Exiftool was a natural choice for it. I however went one step further and bundled Exiftool into a Lightroom plugin. It imports Film Shots data directly into the catalog and automatically writes Exif on export. I think that’s pretty good workflow integration, or near perfect.

I didn’t want a tedious initial setup, instead I wanted the app to stay out of the way, let me do what I want and learn my preferences. Record 37 frames out of 36 exposure film? Fine. Didn’t bother to select a lens? Also fine. Instead I wanted it to learn my favourite cameras, lenses, films, exposures, etc., and combinations thereof to then help setting up new rolls very quickly or even instantly.

Lastly, I wanted to track my rolls – is it still in camera, or in lab, or back from the lab and ready to be digitised, or already digitised and archived? Not the most critical part, but important for bookkeeping.

Development

As I am an Android user and my Google developer account has been gathering dust for the last 10 years, that’s where I started last December. In 2 months, after several failed attempts and one broken keyboard, I finally ended up with a minimum viable product and shared it with a small film photo community I am a member of. Of course someone immediately asked if I was going to build an iOS version. So I thought why not – learning a brand new platform and programming language is always fun.

In the course of the app’s evolution many more features have materialised. I went one step further with “one click” logging and extended that to smart watches, so now I could record my shots without even fishing my phone out of the pocket. 

Inevitably some people wanted to record their exposure settings meticulously for each shot, so I had to add quick exposure controls on the lock screen and Apple Watch.

I am not a large format shooter, but some of my beta tester were, so my app supports “sets of holders” – which are more or less like rolls but allow different emulsion and ISO setting per each frame and the frames are numbered as 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and so on to denote each side of a holder.

Some users, being fully analog, weren’t actually interested in Exif, all they wanted was a printable report to enclose with the physical negatives. So I added that and also a “digital contact sheet” export. For those who want to plot and analyse their data, there is a spreadsheet export.

Another nice feature is “Map View” where I can see my roll represented by pins on a map.

Meet Film Shots

Film Shots lock screen widgets, iOS and Android

Film Shots lock screen widgets, iOS and Android

Just take your phone, don’t even unlock it, and click on the “frame counter” to record a shot. That’s it. If you want to adjust the exposure – then it’s more clicks. You can also see the difference between a roll and “set of holders” here – the latter’s frame index has a letter suffix. Unlike iOS, to change the exposure on Android you need to click on the exposure indicator first to reveal the controls – the reason is that Android notifications (which is what the widgets really are) are physically limited by height. iOS widget can be enabled by swiping  left to Today screen and clicking “Edit” button.

Those who own a smartwatch can do it even more efficiently.

Apple Watch and Android Wear

Apple Watch and Android Wear

On Apple Watch (first two) it actually takes a minimum of two clicks, because it lets you change the exposure before recording the shot. Someone already requested to make this optional, so this may change in next updates. The Android version doesn’t support exposure control, in fact it’s not even necessarily Android, it’s just an active notification that can be displayed on pretty much any wearable device – e.g. my Garmin watch. I may build a fully fledged app for Android Wear in future, but the notification mode will stay for the above reason. One more quirk of the Android version is that it can work in either lock screen mode or wearable mode, but not both – this can be selected from the main menu.

Library, iOS and Android

Library, iOS and Android

To the main app, this where you see all your rolls and sets. Here you can see the camera, film and ISO setting for each roll. Sets of holders are slightly different – they show a number of holders instead of emulsion and ISO. Green labels are your workflow statuses, more on in later.

To add a new roll or set tap ‘+’ or long tap on a roll to edit it.

Roll Edit, iOS and Android

Roll Edit, iOS and Android

Here you set up your roll – name it for reference, optionally take a reference image, add free text notes (e.g. development recipe). In the camera section in addition to the camera itself you can choose the default lens you will be using and default focal length. Next is emulsion, format, box and rated ISO speeds. The last section is the default exposure.

All these default values will be propagated to the shots as you record them and this is what makes ‘single click’ logging work. You can always change the default values, e.g. when you know your light changes or edit the settings for each individual shot. And of course you can adjust exposure settings from the lock screen or Apple Watch.

It’s also worth mentioning that Film Shots comes with a lot of camera and emulsion data, so in most cases it will be a matter of typing several letters and selecting an item from the list. All fields are completely editable and if you enter new values, Film Shots will remember them and next time you can simply select them from the list.

Moving on, tapping on a roll or set opens its contents.

Roll Content, iOS and Android

Roll Content, iOS and Android

Here you  can see your shots numbered, each with its reference image, time and location. If it’s a set of holders (iOS left), it will also show emulsion and ISO for each shot. 

Tapping on the ‘camera’ button records a new shot with default settings. From here you can also export your roll in various formats (including for the Lightroom plugin) see your shots on the map or edit roll data. The iOS version allows changing your workflow status here, in Android you do it from the main screen by ‘long tapping’ a roll. A lot of people already commented that they want to see exposure settings per shot here and be able to quickly adjust exposure before recording, similarly to Lock Screen widget – so this is something I will be adding soon.

If you need to edit a shot, just tap on a shot to open it.

Frame Edit, iOS and Android

Frame Edit, iOS and Android

Here you can edit anything you want including locality and time, except the camera. And I know that some people like to move the roll to a different camera, so this may change soon too. The difference between a roll and a set of holders (iOS left) is that the latter allows changing emulsion and ISO settings.

Workflow

Workflow, iOS and Android

Workflow, iOS and Android

It’s very simple – change the statuses in any order you want, the app doesn’t really care. The only one that the app will treat in a special way is ‘Active’ – all the active rolls and sets will show up on lock screen widget and/or smart watch. Therefore if you haven’t finished it yet, but want to remove it from the lock screen or watch – just change the status to ‘Inactive’.

Workflow Filter, iOS and Android

Workflow Filter, iOS and Android

You can filter your rolls and sets by status to only see what you need at the moment.

Export and Lightroom integration

In the roll content screen click on the ‘export’ button in iOS or ‘overflow’ button in Android.

Roll Export, iOS and Android

Roll Export, iOS and Android

There are several export formats:

  1. HTML table – this is suitable for viewing, printing (e.g. to enclose with your physical negatives) or spreadsheets. Why not CSV for spreadsheets? Because CSV is notoriously difficult to make work properly – issues include different “flavours” of the format that are supported by some software packages but not others and Unicode symbols. HTML on the other hand is standardised, fully supports Unicode and is understood by all popular spreadsheet software packages. 
  2. HTML contact sheet – similar but with reference images embedded into the page and constant sheet style layout. Not suitable for spreadsheets obviously. This is only on Android for now, coming to iOS too.
  3. Exif JPEGS – these are your reference images (or placeholders if they are empty) with all the metadata written into Exif. These can be used to copy the Exif into your scans using software of your  choice – e.g. Exiftool. Indeed virtually every photo or Exif editing software out there can do it.
  4. And finally JSON  – this is what Lightroom Plugin (and in future possibly Capture One) works with.

All export formats will give you an option to export to your ‘cloud’ folder so that you can easily download the files onto your computer.

Lightroom integration in detail

First download the plugin from here http://leaf500.com/lightroom-plugin/ and install it – there is an instruction on how to do it.

Download the JSON file you have exported onto your computer and place it into the same folder where your scans are. IMPORTANT, make sure the JSON file has the same name as the folder – the rationale is that you name your folder after the roll and Film Shorts will by default name the JSON file after the roll.

The screenshots here are from macOS but it works on Windows in exactly the same way

JSON File, Finder

JSON File, Finder

Next, in Lightroom select a photo and open the “Film Shots Metadata” section on Metadata panel

Metadata Panel, Lightroom

Metadata Panel, Lightroom

At this point it may help to have the Film Shots app or HTML contact sheet in front of your eyes to match the frames up. Enter the frame index this photo corresponds to and select “Apply Film Shots Metadata” command from the “Library – Plugin Extra” menu.

Apply Metadata, Lightroom

Apply Metadata, Lightroom

That’s it, you should now see the metadata in the panel. Easy right?

Metadata, Lightroom

Metadata, Lightroom

And finally simply select the Film Shots Metadata post processing action in the Export dialog to write the Exif into the exported photos. The mapping between the film metadata and Exif tags is hardcoded at the moment, but this will be configurable. When you run export Film Shots plugin will run Exiftool automatically to write the metadata into the exported file. Piece of cake!

Export, Lightroom

Export, Lightroom

And here is the result. I found that the best place to write Emulsion to is ‘Device Make’ and this will not necessarily be to everyone’s taste, but as I said I will make this configurable. 

Export Result, Finder

Export Result, Finder

That’s it!

I hope you will find my little creation useful and it will truly bridge a gap between your film photography and the digital world.

Film Shots and Lightroom Plugin are absolutely free and have no ads, however if you would like to help me to evolve and maintain them (and possibly other useful tools)  you can do so by purchasing an optional in-app subscription. It doesn’t unlock anything and you can cancel it at any time.

To install Film Shots on your device, click here for the Apple App Store and here for Google Play

Follow me on Twitter for latest updates or join our growing Reddit Community  for news, announcements and discussions

 

Support 35mmc

For as little as $1 a month, you can help support the upkeep of 35mmc and get access to exclusive content over on Patreon. Alternatively, please feel free to chuck a few pennies in the tip jar via Ko-fi:

Become a Patron!

Learn about where your money goes here.
Would like to write for 35mmc? Find out how here.

25 Comments

  • Reply
    Jonathan Mark Robson
    August 6, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    WOW, this look awesome… downloaded!! Thanks for all of your hard work on this!

    • Reply
      Oleksii Novikov
      August 6, 2020 at 4:50 pm

      Thank you, Jonathan, hope you enjoy it! Please feel free to get in touch with any questions, suggestions or bug reports.

  • Reply
    Jose Lucero
    August 6, 2020 at 6:59 pm

    I downloaded it! It seems simple to use, so I’ll do it! Thanks for your work.

  • Reply
    Alex
    August 6, 2020 at 8:08 pm

    I’m one of the beta testers Oleksii mentioned above – couldn’t recommend this app highly enough, and Oleksii’s been amazingly responsive to the many questions and suggestions that have been out to him. Still use the app for recording all my films. Thanks again for the work!

  • Reply
    Dave
    August 7, 2020 at 3:58 am

    This sounds very fine .. but .. aaaargh. Requires iOS 13.4, which excludes my iPhone6 (currently maxed at 12.4.6).

    • Reply
      Oleksii Novikov
      August 7, 2020 at 5:46 am

      Hi Dave. I understand your frustration, but supporting multiple iOS versions is very time consuming and because Film Shots is just my hobby project I simply can’t afford to do it. Hope you understand.

  • Reply
    Xiong Chiamiov
    August 7, 2020 at 7:00 am

    I saw the initial announcement in r/analogcommunity, but it didn’t support any form of export and thus I tabled it until a day where it became useful. I’m glad to see that that has now changed, as many of the things in your list at the top are things that annoy me about Exif Notes (particularly not having a place to put rolls that are completed but not returned from the lab). The sticky in the subreddit still says export is a future feature, btw, so you probably want to update that, since that’s sort of the key feature for a film metadata app.

    I don’t quite understand the Lightroom flow. You import the photos (with no metadata), and then put the script in wherever those went? Initially my question was what you do if a roll crosses multiple days since by default Lightroom puts that in multiple directories, but I don’t know what it does with photos with no metadata. And then you only get the metadata in exported files, not in Lightroom’s catalog? Am I understanding that correctly?

    • Reply
      Oleksii Novikov
      August 7, 2020 at 10:37 am

      Hi Xiong, nice to hear from a fellow redditor.

      You are right I need to update that post.

      The assumption with lightroom is that all your scans for a particular roll will be in the same folder and you put the JSON file in there as well. If that is not the case, then you can simply duplicate the file in as many folders as you want, just make sure that in each of them the file name coincides with the folder name as that is what plugin will look for.

      You do get the metadata in your catalog, that’s what the “Import Film Shots Metadata” command does. It will however keep it in a separate section to avoid breaking lightroom’s camera and lens correction functionality – this is important for those who digitize films with their digital cameras.

      On export you can then write the actual Exif into your final files.

      If you want to see the film metadata in standard sections of your lightroom catalog, then I suppose I can add it as an optional feature. If you just get the scans from lab or your scanner then there is really no reason not to override it.

  • Reply
    Micah
    August 7, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    This looks great! As someone who recently said goodbye to Adobe products in favor of Capture One, I’d love to see a plugin for the latter someday. Even as it is, I’ll still give this a try. By your description, it solves a good number of my gripes with my current film metadata app.

    • Reply
      Oleksii Novikov
      August 7, 2020 at 5:52 pm

      Hi Micah, yes I do have a plan to make a C1 plugin, although I really don’t know how it will work yet as C1 has no concept of custom metadata, unlike LR.

      For now the best you can do is to export Exif jpegs and copy metadata across using C1 or indeed any other software e.g. Exiftool

      How you enjoy Film Shots

  • Reply
    AlistairH
    August 7, 2020 at 10:36 pm

    Oh, dear — I thought that the whole point of using film was to avoid having to deal with electronic devices! Why would anyone want their analogue photography brought closer to the digital world? The reason for using film, I thought, was to escape from it!

    The best way to record all of this info is to use a digital camera – maybe one with GPS – (and you will probably get better pictures as well!).

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 8, 2020 at 2:02 pm

      What makes you think that, Alistair? Film cameras have had electronics in them since the mid 1930s.
      Also, the beauty of photography in 2020 is the massive amount of choice – we can shoot anything from aninchent cameras from the late 1800s all the way through to bang up to date smartphones with everything in between. Many photographers choose to blur these lines by shooting older cameras and digitising there images, so why wouldn’t some people choose to blur the lines between analogue and digital worlds by adopting various modern technology. In short, whilst you are entirely welcome to shoot film as an escape from the digital domain, you very much thought wrong in your suggestion that this might be why everyone does it.

    • Reply
      Oleksii Novikov
      August 8, 2020 at 2:31 pm

      Hi Alistair, you are partly right in that film photography, among other things, does offer a sort of warm and and relaxed way of escaping from megapixels, fancy technology and AI enchancements that change every 6 months, pixel peeping and sensor dust anxiety.

      However, people used to take notes on where, when and with what settings they took their photos since the very dawn of photography, so why not take it into 21st century and make it convenient?

      I have plenty of ‘fully analog’ users who are not interested in Exif or even digital files. They simply print out report or digital contact sheet and enclose it with their negatives for reference. May be try it and see if that works for you?

      • Reply
        AlistairH
        August 9, 2020 at 10:08 pm

        Hello Hamish and Oleksii

        I suppose “electronic devices” was too broad (I used an OM-4 for years) – what I meant was devices with complex display screens. I just think that all of this deflects concentration away from making images.

        Using a smartphone (or a paper notebook) to record information about images is a distraction from making the images. How is it possible to concentrate on one’s environment and the opportunities for image-making that it offers when there is a motivation to start up the mobile phone? That seems to be a major distraction.

        When I lead my occasional photographic workshops, my overriding message is for people to keep their eyes open and always be looking at what is around them and to try to forget about the camera. All of the techy stuff is a distraction from the core skill of looking and seeing potential images in the environment. Analogue photography is ideal for this because it removes the distraction of menus and chimping. I have never seen the point in recording camera settings; every frame is different, what will they tell you?

        Each to their own. I am sure that some will love using the app. I just hope that it does not cause distraction.

        To me, film photography is not “warm and relaxed” – almost the opposite. It allows me to be exceptionally concentrated on making images, rather than rooting through menus and settings on a little screen. Personally, I use Leica M6, Leica M9 and Nikon Z6- now, that sorts of spans the range! Technically, the Z6 blows the others out of the water, but when using it I spend far more time thinking about the camera (a Bad Thing) than I do when using the Leicas. Also, when photographing seriously, my mobile phone is always turned off!

        • Reply
          Sroyon
          August 10, 2020 at 9:10 am

          “Each to their own”, exactly. 🙂 In your workshops you’re obviously free to advocate your own preferred approach, but many photographers and photography teachers will tell you the exact opposite – to record data for each frame to the extent possible. Many different approaches, each with pros and cons. This is Ansel Adams’ field notebook.

          However, especially if you’re teaching workshops, I’d encourage you to try and cultivate a broader perspective. For example, while your reasons for using film may be to escape the digital world, others may have very different (but equally valid) reasons.

          About your question, “What will they tell you?” If I took a portrait at f1.4 and later found that the subject’s ears are out of focus, if I noted the aperture, I’ll know that next time I need a smaller aperture if I want them in focus (from the same distance with the same lens). Same with shutter speeds and motion blur. Or the use of filters. Or different focal lenses. Now you might say that “distraction” is a big price to pay for all this information, and in the context of your own photography, you may well be right. But if you think EXIF data don’t tell you anything useful, I respectfully disagree.

  • Reply
    moofy
    August 8, 2020 at 11:00 am

    Can one change the name of dark slides? When adding them it just goes 1ab 2ab etc but I don’t really shoot like that. I will have slides with different emulsions loaded and shoot according to the subject. 1-3 might be black and white, 4-6 colour for example. Is there any way other than adding six blank ones I could easily get to 4 for example?

    • Reply
      Oleksii Novikov
      August 8, 2020 at 12:03 pm

      Hi Moofy. At the moment the only way to achieve this is to add blank holders and then delete the ones you don’t need. There is a ‘delete holder’ command that deletes both sides in one go.

      This has been requested before however by other LF users, so I will add a custom numbering scheme in future versions.

      Hope this helps?

  • Reply
    Sroyon
    August 10, 2020 at 9:27 am

    Excellent app, best of its kind I’ve seen so far! I like the feature of being able to take a snapshot. And the data entry is quite quick and intuitive too.

    I haven’t used it extensively so I may be missing something, but is there a way to associate cameras with specific lenses? The app remembers which lenses I’ve used across the board so I can just click on the one I want (which is a nice feature), but say I have a rangefinder with 3 lenses and an SLR with 2 lenses – when I’m shooting with the SLR it would be quicker to be able to pick from just the SLR lenses rather than scroll through all 5 lenses, if that makes sense?

    Also a minor thing – I turned off the location setting, but it doesn’t seem to remember that and asks me each time. Is there a way to turn it off permanently? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Oleksii Novikov
      August 10, 2020 at 9:46 am

      Hi Sroyon, (EDIT: Sorry, misspelled or rather misread your name!)

      The idea is that the app does the association automatically by remembering what lenses you used with what cameras and putting those at the top of the list. i.e. if you select a Nikon FM, it will put lenses you used before with this camera first, and if you select a Leica M6, the lenses you used with it will be first.

      I’ve done it deliberately to avoid the tedious initial setup, like I’ve seem in other apps – where you literally need to create a ‘mount type’ then create a ‘camera’ and associate the ‘mount type’ with it, then create a ‘lens’ and associate with ‘mount type’ and only then can you finally create a roll and start shooting. Which is a nice data modelling exercise but in practice is very painful to use. Besides what if someone decides to use adaptors – it’s a whole another layer of setup. I decided not to do any of it and, as I wrote in the “what I was looking for” section, just designed the app to stay out of the way and learn.

      To disable the location request, assuming you are on Android, click ‘review’ on the alert and then ‘deny and never ask again’. This is a standard approach to location permission handling recommended by Google.

      Hope this helps

      Oleksii

      • Reply
        Sroyon
        August 10, 2020 at 10:17 am

        Perfect, thanks! The location thing is now sorted, and your lens approach makes a lot of sense. As I said I’ve only just started using it, so I hadn’t picked up on the fact that the app was learning and sorting. That’s very clever.

        • Reply
          Oleksii Novikov
          August 10, 2020 at 11:43 am

          No problem, hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions.

  • Reply
    Mario Scandale
    August 12, 2020 at 1:25 pm

    I started using your app and it looks great but I have a problem with the apertures. The app does not provide intermediate values ​​such as 3.5 and it is not possible to type them, how can I overcome this problem? Congratulations on your work. All your storage needs are integrated with just one app. Thank you

    • Reply
      Oleksii Novikov
      August 12, 2020 at 2:08 pm

      Hi Mario, thank you for taking an interest.

      All fields in Film Shots are completely editable and you should be able to type any aperture value you like, it will even remember it for you so next time you just pick it from the list.

      Could you please let me know what platform you are on?
      If it’s Android, also which version of Android and phone model.
      Do you use a custom keyboard app of some sort?

      it will probably be easier if you email me at [email protected] with details

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.