Letters to an App Generation: Common misconceptions on film photography explained

Posted on by Bellamy


Letters to an App Generation: Common misconceptions on film photography explained
An article from Anjum Bhardwaj at the New York Film Academy for all those who are just joining the film fold after being part of the app generation.

To start with, this is not a rant on how film photographers are superior to their digital cousins. There is enough of that already in the blogosphere.

As long as you have a passion for photography, you’re in good company and should ignore anyone telling you how you should enjoy it. Nobody should feel bad about shooting on his or her iPhone.

At the same time, we’ve got to recognize the fact that a great many people are being turned onto film photography through the Instagram craze. As with vinyl music, film is seeing a resurgence of interest and that’s entirely awesome – however, new fans of the medium (and those hesitantly standing on the sidelines) often have some unfounded misconceptions about it.

Today we’ll bust those common myths. Do feel free to share the following with anyone you know who loves photography but doesn’t know where to start with film!

1) You Can’t Shoot Film on a Budget

Make no mistake – it’d be easy to blow $5k on camera equipment in a single afternoon, and it’s the price tags on some of the higher-end cameras that daunt people looking to get into film.

But just because you can blow a good three grand on a Nikon F6 doesn’t mean you need to. For example, the Canon AE-1, Leica R3  One and the Nikon F10 are all great cameras which can be found for around $100 or even less if you have some luck on eBay. You’d be hard pressed to find a digital camera with that level of value for money.

Another excellent aspect of film cameras is that they’re built to last. (as evidenced by the amount of fully operational vintage cameras on the market). Heck, you can safely throw some of them down a flight of stairs and they’ll still work fine. On average, a sturdy film camera will long outlive a digital counterpart so before comparing apples and oranges, factor in the cost of replacing kit every few years.

2) Shooting on Film Requires an Extra Level of Skill

While it’s somewhat true that iPhoneography makes the act of taking and sharing photos easier, it doesn’t instantly give people the ability to capture great images. If anything, it only provides a bunch of new and novel ways to screw up a photo (and a quick scan of Instagram confirms that a lot of people are putting them to good use!)

Joking aside, the only things that lead to great photography are a great eye for composition and a passion for the craft, and those are both device-independent. As such, there isn’t much of a correlation to be drawn between someone’s skill behind a camera and the type of camera they use. After all, just because there are more photographers doesn’t mean that there are more good photographers.

You can acquire formal training at NYFA School of Photography to really accelerate your learning and abilities, but other than having a good base knowledge of photography, getting acquainted with a film camera isn’t as arduous as you might expect. It will take a bit of patience and you’ll find yourself learning new tricks even years down the line, but that’s half the fun of film and even when things go wrong you can expect some happy accidents along the way.

In short, shooting on film doesn’t require an extra level of skill – it’s just a different skillset.

3) Film Photographers are Elitist

Aside from one or two individuals – who shall remain nameless (no, not Voldemort) – the film photography community isn’t as guarded as we’re reputed to be.

The reason it might seem that way is rather straight forward: you won’t find anyone as passionate about what they do as a film photographer (especially a pro) and this passion is sometimes confused with brashness. The same can be seen in communities dedicated to vinyl music, retro gaming, haute couture, foodies, etc.

Don’t let this misconception precede interacting with a film fanatic. If you’re a digital photographer, reach out and chat to someone online – we’re always happy to chat to photographers of any breed, aren’t out to convert anyone and more than open to learning new tricks.

4) The Film Photography Industry is Doomed

Indeed, because MP3s killed vinyl, streaming has killed DVDs and eBooks destroyed print literature, right?

The film industry isn’t dead. It’s barely even caught a cold. Thoughts on the topic have already been explored in depth on this site, but suffice to say that it’s still a vibrant niche within photography as a whole and shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to get into film photography right now…

… In closing, dive in.

The water’s fine.

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Please share your thoughts and comments on this subject below.

4 Responses to Letters to an App Generation: Common misconceptions on film photography explained

erik June 18, 2013 at 12:13 am

Nice article. Thanks for a good read. I’ve had the pleasure of introducing film photography to high school students over the last few years and their responses are overwhelmingly positive. Some have gone on to make film a central part of their photography. One fairly common reaction that I didn’t expect: some students told me that they felt anxious and uneasy not knowing if they “got the shot” or not since they couldn’t review it right away. After we actually went through the shoot/develop/print process a few times those feelings seemed to subside. I think knowing that the process is quite dependable and repeatable helped. I also encouraged them to turn that anxiety into something more like excited anticipation, like looking forward to seeing friend. Like any performance some nervousness will always be there but it can be used to stay focused to do things well and motivate you to get in there and develop that film.

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Hans ter Horst June 18, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Great article, I’m passionate about film photography myself but, like you, never really want to go into film is better than digital either. I do find that on film I do spend more time setting up the shot and come away with better photos, just because I am cheap and don’t want to blow 5 films on the same subject :-)

I think a great challenge for people interested in film photography is to shoot only 36 images on a photo walk without chimping and without deleting the bad ones. :-)

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