One question that I am often asked is, “Why do you still shoot film?”, and it’s a great question. In our world of digital everything, it’s sometimes hard for others to understand why I haven’t adapted to the times and embraced the technology that is available. Digital has so many advantages over film. I can’t deny that. It’s easier to process, easier to share and less time-consuming. In fact, it’s my job to know the ins and outs of almost every digital camera on the market to help our customers choose a camera that is right for them, so I’m very familiar with what digital can offer me. There are a number of reasons for me to go to digital but I prefer to shoot film. Here are a few reasons why.
- Instant gratification vs. delayed gratification:
Digital cameras have made viewing your photos as simple as looking at the back of the camera after taking a photo. Instantly, you have an image right in front of you and from there you can send it to friends and family, post it to social media, or delete it to never be seen again. It’s all at your fingertips.
Shooting film is a little more complicated. Some would argue that this is a huge disadvantage to shooting film, but I find that this is one of my favorite aspects of it. In order to see what I have photographed, I have to process my film. That takes time. I have to mix my chemicals, bring them to temperature, unload the film from the canisters, load them into a developing tank, keep an eye on my temps and times, then rinse and dry. It sounds tedious, and in some ways, it can be, but after putting in all of that work, being patient, and taking care through each step of the developing process, the reward of seeing the result of my efforts is greater than anything instant gratification can offer me.
- The process of processing:
One of the reasons I fell in love with film was the art of processing. My senior year in high school I took a darkroom class and that was the first time I had any real experience with film. I had been using a DSLR until that point, but I wanted to try something new. I bought a used Canon EOS Rebel G with a standard zoom lens and that’s when things changed for me.
I was introduced to all of the tools necessary for developing: dark bags, tanks, reels, chemicals, thermometers, and timers. I hadn’t realized how much work was necessary when shooting film. All I had known was digital and the idea of having to put work into my photos in order to see them intrigued me while simultaneously causing me anxiety. “What if I mess something up?” “What if my photos don’t turn out well?” These thoughts went away after successfully processing my first roll of film.
When I pulled those negatives out of the developing tank, I saw the images on the roll and at that point, I fell in love with the process. For the rest of the year, I spent any time I could in the darkroom and found a respite from all of the things that were troubling me.
- There’s something special about film:
There is no question that most full-frame and APS-C digital camera sensors have surpassed the resolution quality of 35mm film and for some that is enough to go digital. For some, the sharpness and sensor resolution is the most important element when choosing a camera or lens. I do consider how sharp my lenses are and what film I’m using to get the best quality I can from my negatives but, that isn’t as crucial to me as capturing the moment and capturing it well.
My cameras shoot as fast as I can depress the shutter and advance the film. There is no “continuous” mode. I do not have the option to delete. When I process my film and get to see the results on my negatives, I can see every moment as if I was there again because I was absolutely present when I clicked that shutter.
When shooting film, I have to be aware of my surroundings, of the light, the metering. With only 24-36 shots per roll, I have to know that I’m getting the shot right. When I do get it right and I get to see the photos on the negatives, that feeling of getting it right and knowing that I worked from start to finish to get the result is what makes the experience so special to me.
- Shooting film has helped me improve my photography:
One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that I need to embrace my mistakes and learn from them in order to grow. Shooting film is no exception. Film cameras don’t offer the same features that modern digital cameras offer. For instance, there is no live view to preview a photo before you take it and most digital cameras have an automatic mode that will ensure that you get a photo in almost any situation. But when you’re trying to learn how to be a better photographer, relying solely on the camera to make a great photograph doesn’t offer any room for growth.
If the camera takes a bad photo in auto mode, it’s not my fault. It is the camera’s fault, and if the camera is to blame, then what do I take away from the experience? I have to take responsibility for my mistakes and correct them if I want to have a better result in the future. 99% of the photos that I’m not happy with are a result of an error or oversight on my part. Rarely is the camera or the film to blame.
I’m not saying that the same can’t be done with digital, but it’s much easier to fall into the trap of firing off a thousand shots shooting at 10fps and hoping to get a good shot. When shooting film, I don’t have the convenience of live view, high frame rates, reviewing photos or a memory card with a 2000+ photo capacity. I have to work a little more to get the results I want and for me, I think that has been a benefit to my photography.
These are just a few reasons why I have continued to shoot film in our digital world. I am not saying that you should stop shooting digital and move to film, nor am I saying that one is better than the other. The most important thing is that you enjoy what you do. I know that I enjoy shooting film and I will continue to because it’s good for me. I do what makes me happy and you should too.
If you’d like to see more of my work click here: @ciggy__tardust