We live in a digital age of photography, that fact is quite obvious! It seems as though everyone from hobbyists to professional photographers are sporting the latest DSLR’s.
So, is real film photography dead?
The simple answer is NO.
While digital cameras make beautiful images accessible to many people, real film photography is certainly alive and well, lingering quietly next to its digital counterpart.
I was first introduced to photography at the height of the digital craze, and like many of you my first SLR camera was digital. A few years ago, however, a friend of mine was kind enough to give me her grandfather’s Minolta Autocord TLR. At first, I displayed it proudly on my shelf. But one day, I decided to shoot a roll of 120 film with it, just out of curiosity. Little did I know how much it would help improve my skills as a photographer!
4 GREAT REASONS TO TRY FILM PHOTOGRAPHY
Whether you are picking up a film camera for the first time, or just pulling your dusty film camera out of the closet to use once again, here a few great reasons to try Film Photography today!!
1. YOU WILL LEARN TO BE MORE INTENTIONAL WITH YOUR SHOTS
The most obvious difference between the two mediums is that with film, you do not have the “instant gratification” that you do with digital. Since this is the case, you will likely find yourself spending more time composing your shot, and will also find yourself putting more conscious thought into framing, lighting, and overall mood.
While you may very well put a lot of thought into these areas with your current digital photos, I guarantee that, by shooting film, your compositions with digital will improve, because you will become even more aware of your surroundings.
2. SHOOTING FILM WILL IMPROVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY SKILLS
A lot of film cameras, especially the older TLR’s (twin lens reflex), do not have a built-in light meter. With many of the 35mm SLR’s, they do have a light meter, but you have to adjust your shutter speed and aperture until the camera tells you that your shot is properly exposed.
Having a firm grasp on the principles of shutter speed and aperture will teach you to expose your digital photos just as you envision them. Sure, DSLR’s have Auto mode, but we all know that Auto will sometimes fail to capture a photo that is dreamily overexposed, or dark and moody.
With film, you will come to understand how to set your shutter speed and aperture to get your images EXACTLY how you want them, which can then be applied to your digital work, saving you time in both your shoots and post-processing.
3. SHOOTING FILM WILL HELP YOU REPLICATE THE FILM-LOOK IN YOUR DIGITAL WORK
One of the most popular styles of post-processing in digital photography at this point in time is the “film-look” or “vintage” processing. Isn’t it funny how so many of us with digital cameras are now trying to replicate the look of film?
While it is difficult to exactly duplicate the look of film on a digital image, if you shoot film, you will begin to see patterns – film grain, cooler tones, warm skin tones, natural vignette, light leaks, etc – all of which can be added to a digital image to produce a film-like effect, making your post-processing style unique in its own way.
4. FILM PHOTOGRAPHY ENCOURAGES EXPERIMENTATION
Film encourages you to experiment with different types of film and different camera models. We photographers are curious by nature and love to experiment, but sometimes, we can get set in our ways when it comes to the gear we use.
Film cameras have become increasingly affordable now that digital has taken over, so you can easily purchase a film camera (even an SLR and a couple of nice vintage lenses!) for a very reasonable price (Ebay and www.shopgoodwill.com are great places to start.
You will be amazed at how each camera will produce entirely unique photos, and different types of film will produce their own unique colors. For example, Fuji 35mm film has a completely different look than Kodak 35mm film.
The photo above was taken with a Nikon FM10, which is a 35mm SLR. You can have your film developed at a few box stores (Costco still offers these services). A few places have stopped sending you back your negatives and only send scans and prints. Be a savvy shopper and check to see what your store offers.
There are also places online that will develop your film for you. Two great options for online developing are The Find Lab and State Film Lab. Both offer film developing and scanning services.
If you are feeling really adventurous, you can even develop your film at home (see my linked tutorial for more on that)!
Another really fun type of camera to experiment with is a Holga “toy” camera (use to shoot the photo above). Holgas are made to shoot either 35 or 120 film. Mine is 120, and I am lucky enough that my local drugstore processes 120, however, in most cases you will have to send your 120 film off to be processed.
Another fun way to experiment is through the classic Polaroid camera. This shot was taken on a Polaroid Sun 600, using film from a company called Poloroid Originals.
Polaroid no longer makes film, but you can purchase film through Fujifilm (be careful, though – Fuji does not make film for all Polaroid cameras, so be sure to check compatibility), Poloroid Originals, and sometimes, if you are lucky, you can find expired film in thrift and antique stores.
Don’t be fooled by the word “expired” – some of the most amazing Polaroid shots I have seen were taken with expired film!
Here are a few additional links you may find helpful:
1. Description of 35mm Film SLR’s (and a few notable cameras you may want to research).
2. Description of Polaroid Cameras, and Film Types.
3. A great resource for finding deals on film cameras and lenses
If you have ever thought about trying film (and I know you have if you are reading this) give it a shot TODAY!
Do you have any questions or comments about Film Photography? Leave us a comment below – we would LOVE to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!
Anna Gay is a portrait photographer based in Athens, GA and the author of the dPS ebook The Art of Self-Portraiture. She also designs actions and