Why have I started shooting film again? There are several reasons:
- It improves me as a photographer.
- It saves time.
- I love the film look.
- The wait.
- Nostalgia. I grew up shooting film.
Shooting film improves my photography
With film, you have a limited number of shots per film—24 or 36 for 35mm film, 10 for 120 film (I shoot 6×7). You have to make each shot count. Plus, each frame costs (film purchase, developing and scanning). Not a lot, but it adds up.
Film cameras are old. Many are fully manual. You have to know how to use a camera. You need to understand ISO, shutter speed, aperture, depth of field and focus. There is no instant preview to see if your settings are right. You need to know what you are doing. You need to get it right.
When shooting film, I take more care. I compose and frame the shot, I take light readings (Sekonic L398A), I check for distractions, I think about shutter speed, aperture and depth of field. All my film cameras are manual focus, so I need to get that spot on manually. Then I take the shot. Each photo has meaning, purpose, and intention.
Consequently, most of my photos shot on film are keepers. Probably 80% of my digital photos end up being binned.
Shooting film saves time
Saying that shooting film saves time may seem odd, particularly after saying that it improves my photography by slowing me down. But it’s true! In digital, I shoot RAW. That means that straight from the camera, the photos look rubbish. They need to be edited. I spend ages on each photo.
Shooting film, I take more care to get it right in camera. Most of the scanned images look great. Film has been around for ages. The film manufacturers have spent a lot of money perfecting it. It is also very forgiving; overexpose or underexpose by a couple of stops; the chances are the photo will still look good. Any post-editing is minor; straighten the horizon, tweak the contrast, that sort of thing. It takes seconds.
The film look.
What is the film look? Ask ten photographers, and you’ll probably get ten different answers! Some might struggle to answer, but they will all agree that it exists!
I think it’s a subjective thing, and it varies. Different films and different cameras have their distinctive characteristics. I believe it a combination of the following:
- Film grain (especially in black and white)
- Exposure latitude
Whatever it is, most photographers agree… Film has soul!
Shooting film does not produce instant results. First, you have finish the film; then you have to get it processed and scanned or printed. If you have to post the film to a lab, the whole process can take several weeks. But when the results come through, it’s like Christmas.
To speed things up, I plan to start developing my own films. I used to develop black and white film before. It’s easy! Watch this space…
I grew up shooting film. My first camera was a Kodak Instamatic 104. Under favourable light conditions, you couldn’t go wrong. The camera even had built-in flash (sort-of); it used flashcubes with 4 bulbs. It got me interested in photography, but I wanted to take better photos!
Later, my father let me use his 35mm camera. I can’t remember what it was, a 35mm Kodak of some sort. It was better than my Instamatic, but not by much.
I bought my first SLR camera, a Pentax MX, in 1978. For me, this was a phenomenal camera. Compact, simple to use, and it produced wonderful photos. I shot colour, black and white and even set up a modest B&W darkroom. I was in photo heaven!
I went digital circa 2007 when I bought a Nikon 40x. That was a game-changer. Instant photos, view and edit them on a PC and no film purchase and developing costs. Nikon 7000, Nikon 760 and a Nikon Z6 followed.
However, I missed the old film cameras. On Flicker, it looked like the number of photos shot on film was increasing. And they looked great! I just had to try it again.
So I’ve started shooting film again!