Why do you shoot film?

Posted on by Bellamy


Why do you shoot film?
This is a question I am often asked, by photographers and non-photographers alike. And the question is quite easy to answer, in theory. But the more I think about it the more I ask myself, just why do I shoot film?

Well, I shoot film because I can. It really is that simple. It is a lifestyle choice, just like being a vegetarian or a smoker. I have the had opportunity to shoot the very finest digital has to offer, and I still use digital cameras to take pictures of cameras. In my last job I was able to take pictures of cameras using a Phase one back. How about that? And it was great, truly. But I don’t have that kind of cash hanging about and that camera is not really suited for what I do in my personal work. For my work I like to take time over my pictures. I like to take time shooting and take time working out what images I like afterwards. I don’t like to fiddle around with white balance, or file formats or focus peaking (whatever that is).

From a commercial perspective there is nothing like digital, and the market demands it. But I don’t work as a commercial photographer. Hell, I don’t even work as an anything photographer any longer. This means I don’t have the pressure to supply images or anything like that. I am able to shoot what I want, when I want and with what I want.

One of the big things about film for me is the very fact that it is ‘outdated’. We are living in a society that documents every move we make. That covets our information on a scale not ever seen before, and we willingly give it. We go onto facebook etc and tell people what we are eating, and take a picture. We tell them where we are going, and take a picture. And I am not immune to this and I have done it too. But I don’t want my photography to become that. I don’t want my life to be consumed by that.

It is funny really, I rely on the internet. I could not bring this information or cameras to you without it. I need facebook for my business, but I find the whole facebook culture to be rather unpleasant. I sometimes dream of having a little shop, which only has a phone (an old rotary dial type), a cat and a kettle and stepping out of the rat race. But that is unrealistic, I have to feed my family. So for me film is also that little bit of escape from this frenetic hyper life that we are all becoming addicted to.

I don’t think film is for everyone. Someone called me a ‘film evangelist’ the other day, but I don’t think that is correct. That would imply that I coerce and push people to like or follow something, with unwavering belief. I feel that I am far more of a ‘film champion’. I champion film and I talk about it, sell it, and share it. But I don’t force others to like it, that is their decision.
I am not going to sit here and tell you film is better. It is up to you to work out what is better for you. But I am not going to tell you that your medium is shit/outdated/shallow/stale/soulless etc.

And this is something that I just don’t get. The majority of film users I have met are pretty easy going. They all own a digital camera too and they like film for a myriad of reasons, the main being the feeling of shooting something tactile and with constrictions that hone your abilities. They are often pretty easy going about the whole thing.
But the digital users that I hear from (and I get some pretty fruity mails/comments from too) seem to be a very angry bunch. I have variously been called a dinosaur, a luddite, a retard and something involving inserting my camera in a place I don’t think it will fit.
I think it is daft to attack a medium that someone else uses just because you don’t use it. We are not children. Take pictures with whatever you want, as long as it is what suits you. But don’t tell other people what they should be shooting with, that is not up to you. Unless you are a hipster taking an instagram of your lunch, then we should all be allowed to slap some sense into you.

I guess what I am trying to say is, shoot whatever you like. Just make sure you shoot.

What about you? Why do you shoot film, and if you don’t, why not?

70 Responses to Why do you shoot film?

Jukka Watanen March 17, 2013 at 12:02 am

For me the simple reason is that Film “Looks better”. Picture always appear sharp when the grain is sharp and with good enlarger or scanner that gives sharp grain, it gives a sensation of a sharp image, even if the image is all blurred. The other reason is that I mostly shoot Black & White, film looks better and is easier to manipulate than digital to achieve the result I am looking for: Grainy, punchy, contrasty “old school look”. besides, hehe.. when I have a couple frames left, I realize. “IT IS NOW OR NEVER”… the famous last frames.

Reply
gb hill March 17, 2013 at 12:05 am

Good words Bellamy. I shoot film because I love the whole process. My mentors, Winogrand, Freidlander, Eggleston & many others all shot film & eventhough I may never reach their status as a photographer, I feel I’m doing my part to keeping their tradition alive.

Reply
Mike March 17, 2013 at 12:14 am

I shoot film for two primary reasons:

1. The look of film, which I find entirely unmatched by digital cameras.

2. Film cameras, which are often works of art in an of themselves, and can be had for very, very little these days. Seriously, my 2 lens M6 kit cost less than my X-Pro1 body alone. A 500cm kit for under $1000?!?!

Reply
Darren March 17, 2013 at 12:19 am

I never really made the switch to digital, because it was too expensive, and too bothersome. What I got out of a digital point and shoot was dead and flat compared to the 35mm equivalent. I couldn’t afford a DSLR, and even if I could, I wouldn’t have known how to use it. I had a £100 SLR though, and it had two controls – shutter speed and aperture. That meant I could focus on the image.
I also enjoy the anticipation of waiting for a film to be developed – I’m going to pick one up tomorrow and I know on particular shot I took a week ago could be great (or awful!). It’s exciting! The other films in with it are more than a month old… who knows what gems and junk I’ll find?
It makes me more thoughtful, too. A fair percentage of the picture I take now are ‘good’. When every shot costs money, why waste it?
But I agree with you wholeheartedly about the personal choice issue. I really like flickr, but my heart sinks when I’m browsing through the discussion threads and I find one of those ‘Why do you hate digital?’ threads. I don’t! I just don’t use it! What a pointless waste of time.

Reply
Roberto March 17, 2013 at 12:37 am

I want to answer before reading what was your arguments, Bellamy: I was born with film, then when digital came poular and unexpensive I bough a compact camera and an entry level DSLR which I still have and sometime I use for some kind of photos. I though it could be the same to shot digital or film because it’s not the support the menaing thing, it’s the image itself. That could be true but the approach I have with the digital camera (and I guess it’s the same for everyone who use/used film) was very disapponitng and turned to void the act and all the things are before and after pulling that trigger. That’s why I shot film, it simple gives me a satisfaction in the present moment (and after) that digital won’t never do, the image on a film strip someway still belongs to the time, it gets old, it can be damaged, it won’t shine “arrogantly” for ever as data in a hard-disk.

Reply
Jasper March 17, 2013 at 12:58 am

I don’t shoot film because it contains dead animals. I would love to otherwise.

Reply
    peter March 26, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Well, they do not use animals directly but animal parts that are wasted. Hence, I have a free conscience when using film, and one should not bind a woman or man’s liberty to do so.

    However, if makers of film were killing animals directly in order to make film, I would have a problem with that. But these are waste products, and there are substitutes in order to make film.

    There are a lot of products that include this. Here is a quote from a website,

    “Human food is not the only “product” derived from the bodies of factory farmed and other animals. Animals or their parts not considered suitable for the dinner table are typically sent to rendering plants.

    Rendering plants take in a wide variety of source materials that include parts such as brains, eyeballs, spinal cords, intestines, bones, feathers or hooves as well as restaurant grease, supermarket rejects such as spoiled steak, road kill and in some areas euthanized cats and dogs from veterinarians and animal shelters.

    Such source materials are processed at the rendering plant into ingredients used in a number of products that many people do not associate with animals. Such products include soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, hair dyes, nail polish, photographic film, crayons, glue, solvents, shoe polish, toys, anti-freeze, ornaments, pharmaceutical products and cosmetics (including those not tested on animals).”

    Reply
    peter March 26, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Jasper I don’t mean to confrontational–that is the thing with the internet, there is no tone, but you have to be pretty darn consistent if you do not want to use products that have animal parts in them.

    For example,

    Have you ever walked on cement? If you have you cannot anymore because in cement they use animal fat.

    Have you ever brushed your hair? Now you can’t because they use animal hair for a lot of brushes.

    Have you ever put pasta in a plastic container? Sorry you shouldn’t cook pasta because they use animal blood for pasta and hooves from the animal in plastic. I am also sure that many camera body parts use plastic.

    Have you ever gotten taken to the emergency room? Next time you’d have to ask the EMT to take you elsewhere because a lot of medicinal material use parts of animal organs.

    Also, becareful when you play a stringed instrument because they also use animal organs. One shouldn’t play tennis too.

    You shouldn’t use shaving cream either because they use animal fat.

    You also have to tear down your wallpaper, because wallpaper uses animal skin and animal hooves.

    If you have grass in your front yard or backyard you should switch to rocks because in that fertilizer to grow the grass they use animal manure, but not only animal manure but also animal fat. Sorry for all the full time gardeners who are against using products with animal parts in them, they should quit their jobs.

    If your camera or watch is waterproof you should sell it because there is a high chance the manufactors used animal fat in order to make the waterproofing or resistent agent for that camera or watch.

    Your kids shouldn’t use crayons, they use animal fat.

    When you have a really bad headache you shouldn’t use medicine because there is a high chance that that Exedrin has animal skin or parts of animal brain in it.

    If you have animals, switch them off a diet that does not use hooves animals for pet food.

    Painters shouldn’t paint because in paint there is animal fat, sorry Leonardo Da Vinci.

    You shouldn’t drive your car, take a taxi, or ride on a bus, because parts of rubber is made from animal fat.

    Don’t use candles on a birthday cake, candles are made from animal fat.

    Don’t chew gum because chewing gum is also made from animal fat.

    Beaware of animal mixes they use animal blood.

    No more vitamens for my grandmad because it’s a fact that vitamens contain animal organs.

    I could go on and on and on.

    Most a lot of things we use, have animal parts contained in them.

    If you are going to say that about film, you have to be consistent and say that for thousands of other things humans use on a regular to frequent basis that include animal remains.

    Reply
      Matt June 19, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      Because we all need to be 100% consistent with every thought, feeling or decision we make, every day of our lives? I forgot about that! And if we’re not consistent, what exactly will happen? We’ll be open to criticism on the internet?

      Reply
      Michael Ward February 16, 2014 at 11:40 am

      Congratulations Peter,
      That was, well to the point; a description of life the way that most Western country humans are totally ignorant of, or have forgotten. We have sanitised our existence to the point where a huge majority live in a cloud of delusion when it comes to the reality of nature and what man has used its elements for.

      Reply
Tomas Tengler March 17, 2013 at 1:04 am

1) because of film “look”
2) because of ratio between bad and usable pics is better when I shoot film
3) because I want

Reply
Jamie Zucek March 17, 2013 at 1:11 am

Spot on Bellamy!

I shoot film simply because I enjoy doing so and I prefer the results under most circumstances.

I shoot a lot of digital too, especially of my family. But given the opportunity I prefer the analog route.

I work with high tech all day… it is much more relaxing to take pictures on an older camera that doesn’t make me feel like I am fighting with a computer.

Reply
Maciej March 17, 2013 at 1:34 am

I use film for many reasons.
First, I really enjoy using old mechanical cameras, most of them are beautiful and very solid.
Speaking of film… It’s about excellent quality of pictures…
It’s about gradation of tone, wide dynamics ( no burned-out highlights)…
It’s about contrast.
It’s about grain.
It’s about colors ( Transparencies are so beautiful!).
That’s it.
M.S.

Reply
Jukka Watanen March 17, 2013 at 1:50 am

It`s not the usual Digital to Film battle. I had the CFV on a hassy, I had the D3s Nikon, I just didn`t like them so I sold them away and bought a nice Turbo car instead. I love my leicas and like my hasselblads with 70mm filmbacks and 6 cans of 500ft 70mm Aerocon II B&W film… That`s enough for the rest of my life 600 rolls of 120 lenght middle format film, does not cost anything, as it is already in my fridge…Simple as that…

Reply
Marco Castelvecchio March 17, 2013 at 1:53 am

I shoot film because it’s fun. I like the noise of mechanical cameras. I take them apart and fix them. The joy of putting a new roll into a camera you brought back to life is magic. When I open my tank and take out developed negatives, I feel I created something. I live and work in a digital world, yet I yearn for a place like you described, a little shop with a wooden sign and an italian coffee moka. The smell of lubricant, coffee and film. That’s my little dream.

Reply
Bernd March 17, 2013 at 3:25 am

I grew up with film and changed to digital when it became affordable about 10 years ago. Initially small digital “point-and-shoot” than APS and finally a FF 5D mk III. My photos did not get any better, just the camara bag got heavier. I felt more and more dragged into a pixel race and was analyzing “scientific” reviews and test reports. What a waste of time. I sold my complete gear and got a Fuji X-E1 with the 35mm 1.4. This was the best decision I took since a long time. It slowed down my way of shooting and the pictures became dramatically better. I am now on the edge of getting a used film Leica with a 35 mm lens or MF Fuji 670 rangefinder to build on the Fuji X experience. I am not missing ultra fast autofocus or 20 pages camera menus at all.

Reply
M Sharp March 17, 2013 at 5:55 am

I enjoy using mechanical cameras, and they usually happen to use film as their medium. Even when the technical quality of digital imaging surpasses that of film (has it already?) I will still enjoy turning on the darkroom lights and seeing my 4x5s floating around in the tray.

Reply
Warren March 17, 2013 at 6:26 am

Good topic Bellamy. There are a few reasons why I shoot film.
I grew up only knowing film and my father loved photography and had our own darkroom set up. There is something about the smells of film and developing that I always loved. To this day when I raise one of my NIkon F2′s up to my face I can smell the leather of the half case and the film inside. It’s a sweet smell that you never get with a new digital. I have a Canon 50d and it’s a great camera but it’s kind of dead as far as tactile feedback. I have to admit that the main reason I have returned to film is the cameras. They are works of art and the fact that they are still working perfectly after 40 years says quite a lot about the workmanship that went into them. I also like the process of taking a picture on film. Much more thought goes into it. For me it’s more of a creative process than digital. I know that’s not the case because digital is just as creative but it’s just too easy to try again with digital. With film it’s too late once you have tripped the shutter, you need to think more about what you’re doing.

Reply
David March 17, 2013 at 6:49 am

For the sheer joy of getting back the prints from Dwayne’s and finding the hidden gems somewhere in the stack of prints. For the feel of metal, the snick of the shutter, and wondering whether Ilford Pan F or Ektar 100 will be the right choice for the next 37 exposures. For the power of simplicity with a totally manual tool, and the annoyance of using a light meter before every shot. For the confidence that my cameras can be repaired, CLA’d, and ready to go for another 40 years.

Reply
Steve March 17, 2013 at 7:11 am

When I got into photography, I started with a DSLR. A few years back, I switched to film for a variety of reasons, many similar to those already stated: the tactile quality, the grain for black & white (which is all I shoot), and the ability to own an inexpensive rangefinder. To note, if it wasn’t for digital, I probably wouldn’t have taken up photography as a serious hobby, and I still use a digital scanner.

Anyway, if interested, I wrote a long (verbose) piece on this very issue last autumn. I don’t keep a regular blog, but I felt compelled to have an “answer” ready since I found myself frequently repeating my thoughts while participating, or should I say debating, on other photography forums: http://27-303.tumblr.com/post/31017936386/film

Reply
elevensixty March 17, 2013 at 7:46 am

I shoot film because..
It’s fun
I like the cameras
I like the flow
I feel it’s romantic or something waiting for development
I like the nature of having a physical tangible medium I can handle and manipulate
It looks good
I can get great cameras,lenses for the price and experiment
I like film photographers,I like the way they think,and shoot.
I like film.
PS I don’t hate digital,but like film more

Reply
Nicholas Cowen March 17, 2013 at 7:56 am

I shoot film because when do you ever print digital images???

I do shoot a lot of digital and for things like wildlife and sport I don’t think film is a good idea. But when I’m taking pictures of my girlfriend/family or if I’m on a trip it’s a good feeling knowing that I’m going to still have these images 20 years from not long after my hard drive fails and I lose my digital images because I didn’t back them up.

It’s good to hold the image in your hand, plus I love the look of film.

Reply
Francois Gaboury March 17, 2013 at 7:57 am

I like the moment of loading film and unloading it, licking the tab, bringing the film to the lab, coming back a few days later to pick up contact sheets, looking at them at the lab, talking with the staff at the lab about whatever, going back home, looking at the contact sheets and making discoveries, this one is good, this one soso, this one we can forget, going back to the lab and getting a 20 x 24 print made, talking to a kid who just brought his film and asking me how I did it with photoshop and telling him that photoshop was not used and for plenty of other reasons but I guess just the sheer pleasure of using film and amazing cameras that were made by human hands 40 or 50 years ago.

Reply
Lachlan March 17, 2013 at 8:21 am

All due to one simple word. Love. I just love every aspect about film. The process from beginning to end. It all carries a charming aspect which still to this day I get the tingles from.

Reply
mafl March 17, 2013 at 8:41 am

I predominately shoot digital after years of shooting film (pre-digital). I like the immediacy of digital and the ease of changing settings with changing conditions to get better images. I feel I can use its more disposable nature to improve my skills more cheaply than exposing large numbers of rolls of film. But that said I am getting back into film, to explore medium format mostly, and am re-enjoying the wait to see if anything has worked how I wanted!!
I think both have their merits and will no doubt settle into using both as I grown in confidence with my own skills. Love the post though – it’s interesting to read people’s motivations one way or the other!!

Reply
thejonpoon March 17, 2013 at 10:25 am

If I could afford a digital leica I’d go for it. I like rangefinder, and film ones are all I can afford.
Also, with so much of our lives dependent on computers, I’d like to find hobbies that take me away from them. Analogue music (or live), photography, seeing art in person (gallery), theatre, etc.

Reply
Teace March 17, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Hi there,

Thx for your articles. I enjoy them a lot

Film, particularly Lomography, and particularly the Diana got me sucked into photography big time two years ago. Because I am a travelling musician with little time I switched back to digital. I dont have to scan the negatives, or worry about them in the xray machine (I know theres a lot to be said about this).

I try to shoot with a film mind set when shooting digital. because I know I still need time to edit and I dont have a lot of time…

Nik helps me give my photos a film look. Its not the real thing, but it does the job for now.

Cheers
T

Reply
Brian March 17, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Black and white film is in my DNA – me and film go back to 1965, when I first set up a darkroom at school, using a broken enlarger I found in a box. My science teacher said, ‘yes’ to the project as long it was me who did all of the research and worked out what was needed etc.

From that day I was smitten with film, ending up working in an advertising studio and running the darkroom. Film-wise, I’ve been fortunate to use everything from Rolleiflexes, 5×4 (MPP), Pentax, Alpa 6C, Nikon F2 and 20×16 inch process cameras.

My first decent camera was a Zorki, then I bought a Pentax SL, then a Nikon F2, then a M4-P, then a Minolta CLE and its three lenses, and a Olympus XA, which I have still.

Yes , currently I own a digital camera (Nikon D90/18-200 – my first digital was a Nikon Coolpix 8400) but three film cameras: Olympus XA, OM2/50-f1.4, 28/f2.8 and a M6TTL back paint/35f2ASPH black paint. The M6 is my ‘go-to’ camera and the one I most enjoy using – it’s always in my bag loaded with B&W, usually FP4, Tri-X or Fomapan 200.

It’s really very simple. If there wasn’t black and white film I wouldn’t be able to use my film cameras, would I?!

Long live film!

Reply
Michael Ward March 17, 2013 at 5:11 pm

A very good post Bellamy. I shoot both more digital having grown up thrifty when using film I consider every shot as if it were the last frame on the film. So in some ways I probably get better results. If I never see the inside of a printing dark room again it won’t be too soon. The print chemistry is not good for human health or the environment but by the same token I would never deny anyone the wonderful experience of photographic printing. Developing films is a bit easier and good quality scanning can be learned by anyone in a few hours. So that way I honestly feel we have the best of both worlds now. Make your choice film capture digital output or digital capture digital output just enjoy it, life is shorter than you think…

Reply
Theodore Grand March 17, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Firstly its the cameras, the absolute feel of them.

and Second, film provides me with that archival back-up.

I always know in that worst case senario where a file becomes corrupt or I save an unwanted change i can go back to that real unchangeable original, and scan it.
With digital I am always second guessing what i just did with ‘that file’, where i put it on what media.

TG

Reply
Olivier March 17, 2013 at 7:48 pm

I shoot film because I don’t have to make a living out of photography, otherwise I would stick to digital.
Shooting film is simpler, more straightforward. It is useful to start with film cameras, as they have little customisation features. It is the basics: speed, aperture, focus, framing. Ni fiddling with menus and parameters.
Digital is now objectively superior in many ways, but not all ways, as you guys know. I suppose it is firstly a matter of choice, however film seems closer to the reality which is captured by a photo. Documentary and street photo seem to rime better with a media which ultimately is a finished processed bit of negative / positive. On the other hand, digital files can always be re-processed, and the impression of virtual which goes along with, seem less real than say – a BW wet print or a film strip -.

Reply
RW Boyer March 17, 2013 at 10:09 pm

I have shot film since the late ’70′s – I have shot digital since 2003 as well. You name it I have had the opportunity to shoot it on various jobs. One of the things that has kept me shooting film is that I like the actual devices much better – this affects the way that I shoot, my mindset, and in some cases they way my subjects react to me.

Even though I believe I achieve about the same results at this stage of the game no matter what media I choose to shoot I still shoot an equal mix of film and digital of things I really care about – like my family – for the simple reason that I have never ever said to myself in retrospect “I wish I would have shot this on digital”. There are many many times I have said to myself a few years down the road “God I wish I would have shot that on film”…

I am extremely capable of producing results that are virtually indistinguishable under just about any conditions when shooting digital and film side by side – I couldn’t have said that 5 or 6 years ago depending on the scene but here’s the thing – I LIKE that I am constrained to some degree with a “look” at the time that I shoot. I LIke that I choose black and white or color or a certain palette and contrast ratio and am done. The choice has been made. No matter how hard I try it’s a different mentality when I am actually making the photographs and that comes through.

The last point is that I consider film my benchmark with how an image should look. It informs all of my digital output. It’s one of the reasons I have very few “polyester leisure suits” when I output my digital. I fear that if I stop shooting film my output will slowly subtly start to drift in to the look of the day and I will start to produce images that I will absolutely HATE in retrospect because of the “post processing” treatment. In other words shooting film keeps my digital output from looking like graphic art vs photographs.

RB

Reply
ned March 18, 2013 at 12:28 am

i shoot film because i love:

- photography and life, and i don`t have to make my living out of photography… because a digital camera is a rational choice and decision, a film camera is a emotional one.. and in all arts, the emotion and feelings are so very important
- the feeling of posession, to HAVE the image in your hands, to feel them, to look at them in the light…
- the space that it imposes between the moment of making a photograph and the moment of seeing it, that space is very important in my opinion… it let`s me live stronger the moment, and re-live it (stronger again) when i see the film strip
- because i feel alive when i`m out shooting, and i feel the time more intense.. photography is an acute feeling of death in a split second, it makes you understand deeper and feel stronger…

Good light to you Bellamy and all your readers!

Reply
Rolf Schmolling March 18, 2013 at 12:39 am

well, I feel at home with film – I love the haptic feeling of nice analog gear – for me that means older fully manual bodies. I have never felt at home with program automatic autofocus et. al. Today gear I would never have been able to afford, fully professional gear is in my reach – and hands. I develop and scan my own black & white and embrace the convenience of a hybrid workflow. Nevertheless I constrain myself more or less to things I would be able to do in a wet darkroom.
With color film shooting and getting development & scans from a good professional lab almost always what I shoot is the result, no hours spent applying filters and filters.
Film feels natural to me, I understand it and explore it even more, every time I take a picture.

Reply
Dan Bachmann March 18, 2013 at 1:08 am

While I mostly shoot digital, I shoot a few rolls of film a year and I’m always looking at old film cameras. My reasons are different than most people, but they will be understood.

my practical reasons to use film:
* Film cameras can operate without batteries or batteries last a long time, so I can go traveling/camping without power and not worry.
* Used film cameras can be had cheaply, so you don’t need to worry too much about damage due to weather or loss due to theft.

my personal reasons to use film:
* During the Winter, I spend a lot of time at work behind a computer and have little free time. I don’t have time to review photos then, nor do I want to spend my little spare time at a computer again.
* I have access to an excellent dark room.
* Using film cameras prooves (to myself) that I’m still good enough not to rely on chimping!
* There’s something special about using old machines and keeping them working. A classic camera owner/user can relate to a classic car owner in many ways.

Reply
Ralph Hightower March 18, 2013 at 1:42 am

Like you, I shoot film because film is still available; that, and my 30+ year old Canon, that I bought new, still works. I have realized the ROI (Return of Investment) from my A-1; okay, that’s a technicality since I haven’t made money from photography. But I plugged the price that I probably bought my A-1 of $350 (USD) into a “today value calculator” which came up with about $800 (USD). In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the Canon A-1 camera was state of the art. I can’t buy a full featured 35mm DSLR today for $800 (USD). Later, I added on a motor drive, handle mount flash (Sunpak 522), a telephoto zoom lens and a cheap super telephoto. I reckon that “retro” is my style: my car is a retro styled car, Chevrolet HHR; I also own two obsolete computers: a Digital Equipment Corp VAXStation II/GPX and a Sun SPARCStation IPX.
2012 was the year I shot exclusively using B&W film. It was a year of growth for me, to visualize in B&W, to experiment with B&W contrast filters. Did I have regrets about my decision? Sure! Particularly when I saw a beautiful pastel sunrise with clouds.
I want to get a DSLR, but my A-1 won’t become a “shelf queen”. Two Christmases ago, my wife was wanted to buy me a DSLR. But then, I found her budget was a Canon Rebel T3i. Since this would probably be my “last” DSLR, I started doing research. First, I picked the Canon 60D, finally I settled for the 7D. But it is an “arms race” between Canon and Nikon with each introducing new models on a quarterly basis with new features. I talked my wife out of buying me a DSLR. What I covet is the 1Dx. As a consolation for not getting a DSLR, she bought me a used wide angle lens, Canon FD 28mm f2.8, which I thoroughly love!
I joined the local camera club to learn more about photography because the basics of photography don’t change between film and digital. There’s composition and also the exposure triangle of ISO, f/stop and shutter speed. I am in the minority as a film shooter; another member has a Mamiya 545 and RB67. One of the monthly “Show and Tell” themes was “Panoramas”. I was going to leave it to the Photoshop guys, but I found that PaintShopPro can do the same. A panorama that I created was featured in the monthly newsletter.
Last week, I was at the Lake Murray Dam (South Carolina) to photograph the comet Pan-STARRS. As I was heading back to my car, I passed a group of photographers and asked how they did. It turns out that they were from the Midlands Astronomy Club. One of the guys asked “Did you get it?” I said “I hope so”. The guy seemed puzzled “You don’t know?” “No, I’m shooting film.”
At a post launch celebration party of the final Space Shuttle mission, a woman came up to me and asked “You shooting film?” “Yes.” “Cool!” And we exchanged fist-bumps.
My day job has been programming computers for the past 35+ years. I have seen external storage formats change from 5.25” to 3.5” floppy disks, Zip drives, to CD, to DVD; tape is still around. Are you going to transfer your old images to a new storage media before it’s obsolete? Likewise, file formats change. JPEG is a photographic standard; but will JPEG maintain backward compatibility in the “Star Trek” era of the 23rd century? With film, even negative film, one can see what the photo is.

Reply
Chase March 18, 2013 at 5:03 am

I very recently got into film with a bronica sq-a with a wlf. It is such a treat to use, the loud shutter makes its feel like the shot i just took is so important. I often let friends hold the camera and look through the finder. I have yet to have someone look through the VF and not smile. Usually this is followed by “this is the coolest thing ever! can I take a picture?” This is exactly how I feel every time. I have yet to have that feeling with a digital camera… it just feels right. I cant explain it but its fantastic. I love my digital cameras as well, but those i feel the product is more important than actually shooting, the inverse for me when shooting with my bronica. (just my opinion). I would be perfectly ok shooting with the bronica, even if I could never see what the photos looked like. Is that weird?

Reply
Geoff March 18, 2013 at 8:34 am

Film…
grew up with it, then shelved it for a few years.
Came back to it years later, went digital, watched a $1,000.00 camera become worthless a few years later… lost more then a few images along the way,
pulled out the film camera storage box, loaded them up and…
the past became present again,
and more…
Mechanical beauty, the sound and yes, the smell and the wait for the results…
Yes I shoot digital for the advantages we all know,
But for the love of seeing the world slide by…
It is still film…for the other reasons film users know.

Reply
Tim March 18, 2013 at 9:02 am

I love the Look of Film, also i like being able to switch the “sensor” of my camera. One thing is 100% definite: After being a user of mutltiple DSLRs the full switch to Film made me a better Photographer in all respects. Now im “full manual” with an M2 and my iPhone as Lightmeter and im having the best time i ever had.

Reply
Jason March 18, 2013 at 9:18 am

There are a lot of good reasons to shoot film, but aren’t necessarily my reason. Bellamy has it right, “We shoot film because we choose to.”
- film sizes (6×6, 4×5)
- meditative process
- cheaper than digital (especially with larger formats)
- tactile process (I spend enough time in front of a comptuer everyday)
- the excuse, “I can’t show you the picture officer, It is film.”
- no batteries
- film cameras last longer

There are still many advantages to digital cameras. And in light of the modern mentality of quickness and instant feedback; there is undenyably a place for digital. (even in my own bag – in addition for most others)

Reply
Christian March 18, 2013 at 1:57 pm

I shoot film because its fun. As simple as that. But I also enjoy shooting digital a lot, with all of the opportunities and options it brings. What looks the best depends on what kind of picture I want to take.

Reply
Kyle Bromley March 18, 2013 at 9:17 pm

I shoot film because it gives me results that I never got with Digital. I shot on Digital with a Nikon D700 and Mamiya / Hasselblad medium format digital with Phase One IQ backs. Out of curiosity I loaded a roll of Ektar 100 into a film back on a shoot, and when the film came back the images looked 150% better than the retouched digitals. I now shoot with a Mamiya 645 AFD with Kodak Portra and Ektar mainly, and I not only respect my work but have trouble selecting the images to use as they’re all great. Film has freed my to shoot how I really want to especially with Portra’s WIDE exposure latitude, I can push film into situations that digital had a hard time with. Bottom line film has changed my workflow but also my work, and its work I can stand behind and be proud of. TAKE THAT FILM HATERS!! :-D

Reply
N March 18, 2013 at 9:33 pm

One says : people do like a game, not because it’s easy, but because it’s difficult. That’s it : manual exposure, manual focus, “manual” timing (no smile detection, burst or whatever), the cost of film, film processing. All this make shooting film a rather difficult experience, and therefore a more rewarding experience. I’m not saying shooting digital is always easier. But you have to admit there are some conveniences analogue does not allow. As long you are not professional, shooting film can be a way to produce very good image quality, at a relatively low price, giving you a really “straightforward” experience of what photography is : framing a good subject, in good light, at the right time. No worries about battery, awkward settings or whatever.

And as an engineer, I am always impressed by these pieces of genius engineering that can be old mechanical cameras. It’s not being nostalgic or hipster : these cameras will often live as long as you and I. Sometimes longer. This is simply fantastic.

Reply
simon kidd March 19, 2013 at 12:09 am

I ‘make photos’ with film and paper because it feels like I’m actually making something rather than just ‘taking’ it and throwing it away. I still make photos with digital but the process, to me, feels a wee bit empty.

#BelieveInPrints is the future!

:)

Reply
Martin Earl March 19, 2013 at 12:45 am

I appreciate your response to the question, why I shoot film: “because I can.” Once one has gone back to film (most of us have worked with digital at one point or another), and once one is again in a film mindset, taking pictures, developing negatives, scanning, printing, editing and what have you, the whole analogue/digital debate begins lose importance.

That said, the debate still rages on. One way to look at this issue, in real terms, is to compare the “before and after” work of some of our favorite photographers, those who spent a good part of their lives working in film (since that was how one did it before the new millennium), but who switched to digital image capture subsequently, usually in the first decade of this century.

I can think of three right off the top of my head: Constantine Manos, Martin Parr and Anthony Suau.

Then consider other photographers who might have, but never did switch (or never “seriously” switched) from film to digital: people like Elliot Erwitt, Larry Towell, William Eggleston, Trente Parke, or incredible medium format photographers like Olivia Arthur and Robert Adams.

Finally take a look again at some of the few still practicing large format photographers, outstanding artists like Mitch Epstein, Alec Sloth and Guy Tillim. The work of all of these photographers, looked at individually, felt collectively, should draw us back to the work of the great 20th century photographers. Traditional still photography, and the film photographer’s special relationship with the visual world will have much to teach contemporary photographers, most of them now fully immersed in the terminally fleeting moment of digital capture.

Reply
Clive France March 19, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I shoot film because I always have, I only possess film cameras and, most importantly of all, I have a darkroom, which is where the raw and often dull images on my negatives come alive, and where, once in the bluest of blue moons, magic happens.

Reply
Erica March 20, 2013 at 4:00 am

I shoot film when I have the time. But most of the time I shoot digital, because of the “fast” results. When I shoot digital I mostly use the “film style”, I compose and recompose so I have to do very little to none PP.

Reply
Tim March 30, 2013 at 6:20 am

I shoot film because I enjoy the process, limitations and the results a roll of HP5+ produces. I aslo shoot digital and its fine but it doesn’t give me the same pleasure as loading up a roll of film and the excitement of opening the developing drum and seeing the results.

Reply
Matt Callaghan March 31, 2013 at 8:07 am

I shoot film to obtain the raw materials (negatives) to print. I like darkroom work. It’s both technical and creative. I like the endless possibilites of interpretation available with grey, multiplied by toning. I like the tactile aspect mentioned in earlier posts, perhaps the ‘me time’ of shutting out day-to-day stuff while I’m in there.
I also shoot film because it works. It’s a mature science (technically) without the bleeding edge/latest fad syndrome associated with other media. The ‘limitations’ of film encourage vision, planning and intent. I like the way my ideas & interpretation evolve as I learn more methods of manipulating my media.
Thanks to the other posters and host for sharing too.
MattC

Reply
ZDP-189 April 5, 2013 at 12:09 am

Film speaks to me.

Digital is for imaging and for commercial use. If someone wants to pay for me to go and take images, they expect and get digital.

Film is for me. It is my artistic medium. I create with film. It has a synergy with my vision, paints the light I see. It is honest, fickle, rewarding.

Reply
TanYK April 19, 2013 at 3:52 pm

…because mechanical camera a good photographic tool to high altitude mountain
…because no worry about battery when hiking few months
…because I have been shooting film since 60′s
…because no other eye consciousness ever lay on personal private collection
….because I can always burnt the negatives and positives before I say goodbye.

Reply
Mike April 29, 2013 at 12:02 am

Hi there,

A while ago I wrote this article about using film; I suppose it’s partly because I like the look of film, the feel of the cameras, and being able to control the image more easily. But here is the article!

Thank you

Mike

Why I shoot film

I acknowledge that there are lots of blog sites out there telling the world why they shoot film. I think they have a lot in common, but not everyone agrees on the most important things. So, I thought I would assemble my own list for discussion. Bear in mind though – I choose to use film, but I’m not dismissing digital. It’s great for convenience, that’s for sure. But… I love film, and here’s why.

Manual film cameras

I am exploring classic film cameras. At the moment I’m concentrating on 35mm although I’m thinking about getting a Bronica at some point, which I used on my studio course and really enjoyed. Classic film cameras are often more compact than modern digital SLRs, unless you’re using a four thirds camera or mini four thirds. They’re nice in the hand. I like manual focusing, since you never end up focus hunting and unlike autofocus, you don’t have to point it directly at what you want to focus on. You can just point in the right general direction and stop turning the barrel when you’re happy.

Presently my Olympus OM1n has taken over, although I have a Nikon FM2n which needs some exercise!

Part of the film thing is indeed the appeal of the cameras themselves. Often made of metal with mechanical shutters, they are charmingly sturdy and reliable and rarely break down, unless they are absolutely ancient of course. I believe because of their essential simplicity they are more reliable. But another good reason is – why give up on a century of film cameras just because something else now exists?

Films

Using films frees you from a lot. Using digital, photographers mainly agree that the way to obtain the best quality from any camera is to shoot RAW then process it. As far as I can tell, this is not because of any real problem with JPEGs, although they do reduce the information in the picture a little, but because digital really does require more processing than film does, with sharpening and applying tone curves, colour boosts and additional contrast. But with the right film, if you like what it does and you expose it correctly, this is more or less done for you. No need for HDR; film has loads of fine detail in the shadows and highlights already. In fact, the only reason for HDR to exist other than to sell the thing is that people want to recreate the brightness levels of projected slide film.

Films are greatly varied in speed and tone, character and colour. They offer a personal choice far superior to fiddling about with sliders in Photoshop. Higher ISO films show more grain. Grain adds character to your photograph. High ISO films do not lose most of their contrast which can be a common problem with digital. I admit this is getting better with digital. But ISO 400 films can be wonderfully, superbly grainy. Rich and patterned, layered and magical, artistic. That’s now a very low ISO in digital terms. Nobody has ever talked about ISO 400 digital being superbly noisy – because it’s horrible, it distorts the image, loses stacks of detail and contrast and generally wrecks the image. Chroma noise also appears at high ISOs making it even worse. Why do people spend hours at the computer trying to make digital appear like film? Because film looks great – and they know it!

Slide film

Slide film is worthy as a reason in itself. Perfect when it comes out of the developer. Frame it. Go project it on a screen and enjoy the fact that it’s enormous, superbright and looks like you can walk into it. Now, I hear you almost saying that with the highest resolution on the latest digital cameras which might be 24MP or more you can do this. Well, not really since you have lower image brightness range and even then, it’s not as sharp as a transparency. Not to my eyes anyway!

Also – I am not a luddite. Yes, I love films, film cameras… but also scans. I love the internet. I love sharing pictures. I’ll even occasionally adjust the contrast a little before posting – shock! So, I have my slides scanned. The result is cleaner and sharper than digital, and there is much more detail in highlights and lowlights. Fantastic!

Only thinking about the next shot

Photography is often about being in the right frame of mind, focussed, thinking about the image before, and during taking the picture. On film anyhow. On digital, there is an awful lot of looking carelessly thinking it can be fixed later, shooting stacks of unnecessary duplicates because you can, checking the image on the back of the camera and trying to change it or worse – thinking it’s fine because at 3” across, most images look clear. That’s not for me. And what about when you are checking your image? You’ve lost the scene; whatever was happening before, something else is happening now – and you’re too busy staring at the back of your camera to catch the pictures! On film, you’re ready to take the next image, hunting around, knowing your environment. And if you miss something – who cares? You can crack on and get more photos in, all of them different, no repetition, staying in the scene, in the zone.

Stop worrying about the last picture. Think about the one you’re taking now. How do you know what it will be like? It’s right there in the viewfinder. Look at it. Take more care with it. Ever spent so much time doing this with digital? No? That’s why film cameras have the edge.

The lenses

What? Surely the newest lenses are the best!

Well… no, and the reason is this. On a digital camera, apart from the very expensive full frame cameras, the lenses from your film camera don’t do the same thing for you. Stay with me now, you’re dropping off at the back there. Now, on most crop cameras, a 50mm on a film camera will end up about 75mm on a crop camera, or greater. That changes a standard lens into a medium telephoto. Fine if you’re shooting things at a distance – a free zoom! Ah, but what if you like interiors, cramped spaces and want a wide angle? Well.. tough. This can’t be fixed. Especially if you like the compositional qualities of your film lenses. On my Olympus e-510, which is a lovely camera except for a few things that annoy me, it has a 2 x crop. This means that to shoot an image from a given position the way a film lens would, you now need to use 25mm if you want to film the frame the same way. “It’s the equivalent!” bellow the marketing departments. Except… it isn’t. It’s a 25mm lens. It shoots the way all 25mm lenses do. It’s a wideangle, except now, they only use the part of the image in the centre. This means that no matter what, you cannot obtain a compositional equivalent on digital. This isn’t just barrel distortion, although that does happen frequently. It’s simply not the same at a given distance. Lenses and their images may be very nice, but there are no equivalents and that’s that! Remember the old instructions about how lenses change the visible proportions within the image? Distortion with wideangles? Yep, there’s lots and lots of this on digital images, because unless you’re using full frame, you can’t get away from it.

Another thing about lenses: the latest digital lenses are the largest lenses ever used on SLR cameras. They are enormous beyond imagination. I’m not even sure why. But have a look at a 35mm 28mm lens and a digital camera 28mm lens and see what I mean.

Not having to upgrade

Yes, with film you don’t have to upgrade your cameras. Wait – you’re saying the same is true for digital cameras? Why, yes, it is! But: will your digital camera last that long? Will the formats and memory cards remain the same? Will the camera itself, now produced using as much plastic as possible, actually survive more than a few years? Lots of people believe the marketing hype about cameras being essentially ‘rated’ by their MP figure, as a kind of mark out of x, x being whatever they can come up with next year. So, our hard drives all get bigger and bigger, we can’t get moved for the memory requirement as cameras escalate to dozens of MPs, and wait… why is this? Didn’t we take great photos on 6MP cameras? Ah yes, but then, a bigger number is always better. 2 is better than 1! 20 is better than 10! Look… it’s double! And other nonsense. But film cameras are just great. Use film and scan it for brilliant results.

Image permanence

Use a film you like. It’s timeless. You also get a permanent image in the form of the negative. It’s hard drive will never fail on you. You can not lose that picture unless you throw it away. No corrupt memory cards here!

Smaller cameras

Film SLR cameras are smaller! No – not your EVIL cameras – they are not SLRs. Thank you at the back there. Most DSLRs are on the enormous side. I am not sure why this is, or why this is necessary. Looking at an Olympus OM1n camera, which has a bigger ‘sensor’ than anything but a full frame camera like the D700 where the sensor is the same size as 35mm film, I can’t help wondering: why are they so large these days? They scare the horses. More importantly though, for street photography they attract too much attention and are too imposing. They scare the subject.

Use of low ISO film at night

Yes, I do use high ISO film at night. But it’s only good for some things. Lots of fun things at night are about moving subjects rendered as streaks of light – vehicles and tail lights against fixed backdrops like roads and bridges. Lots of photographers have given up on tripods, knowing that they can bump their ISO up to 25,600 or something patently unreasonable. This will produce a low contrast image but most importantly, won’t permit the creation of such images – and that’s a pity!

The pictures

Yes – this is what photography is all about! I find with film, I take more care with each photograph, craft it more, and I am much more happy with the results. They are compositionally accurate with the appropriate lens length. They can be as grainy, or not grainy as I want, with no loss of detail or contrast. They can be more or less colourful depending on the choice of colour film. I can shoot more black and white, with its huge exposure range, far more than anything on digital. It’s actually easy to create accurate exposures with film. In fact – why did we ever give it up? I think the answer is that to keep going, companies must sell and re-sell. It’s not enough to have an alternative – they need to shut down making the old one and make you buy the new one, or they go out of business. Mind you, that’s not so bad, it’s the same system that produced all of my favourite cameras.

36 frames. A limited number of photos. Decide how many you want to shoot. Go out and take photos. You’re done. A sense of completeness. Not carrying on until you are fed up or run out of ISOs. Not worrying about whether they are ok or not. Well, not too much. More importantly, now you can relax and enjoy the anticipation of seeing how they come out some time down the road.

Depth of field. What is it? Well, manufacturers don’t talk about this so much any more. This is because, since the invention of sensors which are smaller than 35mm frames, it’s optically more difficult to blur depth of field. Ever seen a photo with a hugely blurred background? That’s probably a film photo. Accordingly to something I read recently, you need twice the f stop number to create the same blur with digital. And no – Gaussian blur is not the same, Photoshoppers! So: for the equivalent of f1.8 on a film camera you might need f0.9 on a digital camera. Good luck with that! In fact, manufacturers don’t like us talking about this, because on all the EVIL cameras, micro four thirds, four thirds, and all the handheld small digital cameras, you just can’t do anything like this at all whether you want to or not. My four thirds can blur the background a tiny bit; but it’s hardly perceptible. Give me a film camera any day! Again, digital cameras use lenses differently, you can blur backgrounds more easily in macro close up and at a huge distance, just the same as with a film camera, but not at reasonable distances with standard length lenses. Those f stops just won’t work for you the way they used to. And I like the way they used to.

Give film a chance. You can pick up a perfectly decent camera from Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta, or Olympus, or ANY well known manufacturer of film cameras for about £80 or so in the UK, with a lens on it too. It will be just fine. Buy from a dealer. Go put a film in it. Think about everything you’re doing – you only get one chance per image. No deletions. Think how good it will be to have a roll of great pictures! Psych yourself up for the challenge. Go out and get those images! You will not regret it. Give it a try!

Reply
Grace Hughes April 30, 2013 at 9:50 pm

My father shot with a Nikon F3 all of his life. He only owned this camera, and only used this camera ever. He has boxes of photos with writing on the back, written to me and my mother documenting his work life in a country far from us so that I can read it as an adult and see what he did for us when he wasn’t around. My father documented every part of his life, allowing me to touch every photo as if I’m in that moment in time. I have since then done the same for my kids. I photograph their lives in real time, real lighting, no manipulation, and in a form they can touch/feel/see for the rest of their lives. And one day when I’m old and their older – the feelings will be the same as when the photos were taken of that raw moment. A physical part of a memory others may never get to see again had it been digitally on a computer.

Reply
FeetfromShore August 17, 2013 at 2:19 am

I like the way you talk about film without discrediting digital cameras. As an amateur photographer I started to learn photography (I’m still on the process) with a DSLR camera and I haven’t tried film. I don’t know if its for me or not yet, but I appreciate that you are not trying to force anyone to like it. I can definitely understand your reasons why you shoot film, it really is more personal and emotional. Good work on this post.

Reply
Jason Carden February 15, 2014 at 10:34 pm

Don’t you also choose to shoot with film because it is more authentically photographic in nature? After all the defining characteristic of the photograph is it indexicality. If you take the modernist, medium specificity definition of art then the control over the indexical, symbolic and icon signs of the digital photographer over his image is too great and the definition of photography as art and as a document breaks down! It is true that the the majority of chemically derived photographs are now scanned and converted to digital file formats but I personally whether I shoot digitally or on film am loath to alter anything but the most basic technical faults to keep the authenticity of the photograph intact.

Reply
Jukka vatanen February 16, 2014 at 1:49 am

This is my third answer: Yes I shoot FILM, but I also shoot Digital. Both are B&W. I have now perfected my digital parametres/technique so that they look both identical, except Digital does not have grain. As I don`t shoot for money, I love to shoot just what I like. I dream pictures, love to have dreams where I produce new images. Those images are always on film, never on Digital. I grew up with film, I have done it since 1961, when I first picked up my dad`s camera. I hope to make the same kind of images I have done in the early beginning, then my vision was “pure”
http://www.jukkavatanen.fi Check it out!

Reply
Paul February 16, 2014 at 6:58 am

I had bought the old A-1 Canon a few months ago, and shot 3 rolls of film. I want films to be developed and scanned into the digital files. However, I found the process is pricey and a bit hassle. It costs around $10 per roll to be developed at CVS or Walmart; they don’t scan for you. Sending to the shop in the other states is the only way to get the full service. You have to learn their price chart and send the right amount of check. It is not cheap, and I am not sure I would get my films back. So, my 3 rolls of film are still with me. Hopefully, I will have them developed and scanned one day.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

© Copyright 2014 Japan Camera Hunter, all rights reserved. Template by HK. Design updated and maintained by Ashkas Design