While some photographers think of film as the prerogative of hipsters trying to look cool, for most film photographers film is a more organic method of photography. It allows you to slow down, focus on taking pictures, and wait for results.
There are a number of reasons that push photographers into film, and let’s talk about them.
Film photography requires more brains than digital photography. Every time you press the shutter button, you pay. Under this burden of financial responsibility, you’ll more quickly learn how to manage camera settings and composition rules. Shooting a roll of film with 36 frames will cost you about $1 per image. If you shoot 200-300 frames at a time, as you do in digital photography, you’ll realize how cheap digital photography is and how frustrating it is.
When you can shoot a series of 100 images, you don’t have to wait for the right moment. Just shoot and you’ll find a decent shot in the series. Most commercial photographers do just that. You don’t have to worry about the right exposure because you see the image on the display and adjust the exposure in the process.
Film photography is not about hundreds of images. It’s about 36 frames, or even 2-5 frames. You control the exposure and composition in each shot.
With digital, it’s easy to become a lazy photographer because you have 100500 frames and your mistakes are offset by the amount of material. For 1000 frames, even a monkey on probability theory will get one. With film you will always be conscious and creative.
Film looks great straight out of the camera, whereas digital photos can require hours of post-processing. Most popular editing presets mimic film. If you want a picture to look flawless without wanting to waste time on editors, shoot on film!
Digital photos styled like film are the photographic equivalent of oak laminate. Yes, it’s cheaper. Yes, it’s more practical. But it’s not oak flooring! All in all, film looks amazing and requires virtually no editing.
In film photography, your ISO is fixed. You can’t change it when you load the film in the camera, because each film has its own fixed sensitivity.
You are forced to think. What if there is not much light and you are shooting at ISO 100? Can you slow down the shutter? Can you hold the camera with your hands without blurring? Or is it better to open the aperture and sacrifice depth of field? How do you get a great shot in difficult conditions? Film photography poses questions to the photographer, and answers only after developing.
One shot on film costs about $1. That seems like a lot. But if you look at the cost of a high quality film camera compared to something like a Canon EOS R5 (about $5000 with lens), you’ll see that film photography can be budget friendly.
Even if you spend $1,000 on a film camera and lens, you have $4,000 left over for film. Quality film cameras retain their value. In fact, the value of many film cameras is going up. If you buy a film camera and sell it after 5 years, you can make a profit. With digital cameras, you invariably lose money and disastrously fast.
Ask yourself: what do you enjoy most about photography? Taking pictures or trying to figure out the best image out of 100 identical pictures? Do you enjoy seeing and spending hours editing a photo to make it look perfect? I can’t stand processing, especially when you compare it to the pleasure of taking pictures. It may be different for you, but shooting on film sharpens my skills. Film helps me get cool results right away and I spend less time at the computer.
Shooting on film is a great way to learn more about photography. It’s a reason to think about composition and exposure. Film can drag you out of your rut and immerse you in a new level of creativity!