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Why shoot on film in 2023?

We live in a time when most photographers were born in the era of digital photography. Why would they want to take pictures on film now?

Here’s a typical reaction to my film ad (a real comment):

What’s the point of film when you can apply all kinds of filters, even in mobile Lightroom, and it’s as good as film or glass. In general, the advantage of film continue to convince only the most stubborn fans, I already thought such a long time ago disappeared five years ago.

I just made a point about the alleged advantages of shooting on film. They only exist in the minds of adherents. It’s about the same as audiophiles who are convinced that gold cables transmit sound better than ordinary copper ones. Well, people skipped physics at school, what can you do? It’s about the same with film.

Let’s see… First of all, I’m not trying to convince you to switch to film. I’m not advocating film photography. And all of the following is my subjective and extremely one-sided judgment. I’m basing it on my own experience.

Now let's talk about film photography in the 21st century

Why do people take photos on film in the 21st century? In my opinion, to get this kind of result out of the box, without any processing:

film photography in the 21st century
film photography in the 21st century
film photography in the 21st century
film photography in the 21st century

Pay attention to color, dynamic range, hue, and plasticity. You can do this with digital photography. You might even find it a simple task. It is even possible that some of my readers don’t see it as a big deal and every day they use a preset to “fry” RAW into such great photos. That’s possible. But not me.

I don’t like sitting in an editor. I don’t like Photoshop with its twisted interface and logic. I feel sorry for my time with this nonsense.

I believe that all (exactly all) modern digital processing and retouching strives for one thing: to replicate a film photograph. I see that the highest quality and most expensive retouching actually looks like an ordinary film photo taken on professional film like Fujicolor Pro 400H. Digital retouchers have nothing else to look at. Only examples from the film era. Strangely enough, I’ve only recently realized this.

I see fancy instagram people selling their preset sets. I see retouching classes where they stamp out skin pores because modern lenses are now sharp as diarrhea and expose skin flaws with the frankness of a microscope. And it makes me laugh. Because the result of all this manipulation is a bonus. For free. For free. As a bonus. If you take photos with an old film camera for 20 thousand rubles.

And I understand photographers who love retouching. They are drawn to their roots, to the photography they saw in their parents’ albums and old magazines. These people hate to see the original RAW from a digital camera. I’m like that myself. I’m itching to do something with the digital camera source.

Clean even skin, proper skintone and artistic processing is already in the film box. A film photo doesn’t need to be processed. It needs to be properly prepared and you’ll be happy with the result in the fact.

Film makes you a photographer (that's not for sure)

Film makes you think. It makes a mediocre photographer into a good one. Or it won’t. That depends on your luck. But I can tell you: you won’t have as much money to spend on a film camera as you would on a DSLR or iPhone. You’ll be thinking before every shot: “What the fuck am I doing? Do I need this shot or is there nothing to it?

That’s the approach of mature photographers. Who take the least amount of shots with digital. Film teaches pragmatic photography, teaches “to see”. It teaches artistic taste.

Whether it teaches you, I don’t know. It doesn’t really depend on the film. Film is only a limitation that is necessary to start the process. It doesn’t make you a photographer by itself; our parents’ photo archives are an example of that. But I believe that film is one of the easiest ways to make yourself develop as a photographer. That’s partly why I take photos on film.


In my article I didn’t touch such charms of film photography as the manual mechanical technique, the manual magic of development, and the effect of waiting for the result (when you have already forgotten that you were photographing it).

All of these things I love, too. But it doesn’t define my love of film. I prefer Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Pentax electronic film tubes to mechanical cameras. And modern autofocus lenses. That’s solely because I haven’t found “my” mechanical film camera. I guess Leica will wait for me. And I’ll sell off everything else. In the meantime, the mechanics I’ve been using aren’t working for me.

As for the magic of developing, I’m a total ignoramus and prefer to develop in a darkroom, followed by film scanning.

As for waiting for the result, I should say that my preferred option for getting film photos is an hour after I shoot them. The faster I get them, the better I feel.

That’s my opinion. You may have a different attitude about film. That film is expensive, difficult, incomprehensible. That film is gone forever (no).

Why I take photos on film

I didn’t mean to hurt you. And I won’t talk about money anymore. Soul photography is not about money at all. Film photographers don’t count money.

Here’s my story, my experience, which explains to me why film photography is better.

I love to travel and I take pictures on trips. A typical trip is a backpack full of digital gear (never an amateur) and a film camera with 1-2 films.

I bring 2,000-3,000 digital photos from a week-long trip and develop a couple of films. I like less than one percent with digital. I like everything on film. The coolest and most soulful shots are on film.

I’m seriously thinking of not taking any more photos on my travels with digital, but shooting video with it. There’s film for photography.

I’m not trying to convince you to switch to film. I tried to summarize in the article what I talk about with my film customers. What they tell me, not what I tell them. Many just dabble or want to impress at an event. Some of them are hipsters who can carry the crappiest quality camera in their pockets.

But more often than not, film photographers have some sort of background: they are professionals or have done a lot of film photography in the past. They usually don’t deny digital photography. Neither do I. It’s just different worlds for them. Film photography has its own purpose: when you want to take pictures for yourself, for your soul, for the process.