Why do you love film?

Posted on by Bellamy


Why do you love film?
I wrote this piece for the Kodak 1000 words blog, and it has been really well received, so I thought it would be good to put it up on here too. And if you go to the Kodak site and comment, you might even win some film and film cases. Cool huh?

Why do you love film? This is a question I get asked a lot. Maybe it is because of what I do, but people always seem to want to hear a different answer. But in reality, there is no special answer other than the one that I always have felt. Let me try and explain it to you.

I can vividly remember my first forays into photography, when I was a very small boy and I had a Kodak Instamatic camera which my mother gave me. I didn’t really have the first idea of what I was doing, but I enjoyed doing it, taking pictures.

As I got older my enjoyment of photography grew. I studied the process at college, I worked professionally in a studio using film, I did events and tons of personal projects using film. Which is what we all did, as there was no other way.

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When digital came on to the scene I thought it was a godsend. I could spend more time taking pictures, and I could edit the ones I didn’t like. But all was not good in happy valley. Whilst I enjoyed the convenience and the speed of using a digital camera, I found the images lacking something…they were too clinical. I also found myself becoming lazy, slipping. I would spray and pray, and continuously chimp to check images. This was not what I had trained to do, I should have been trusting my skills.

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So, I made the decision to switch back to film. It wasn’t a hard decision. I was working for a camera supply company so I was no longer in need of pro digital cameras, as I could rent them if needed. I sold my digital cameras for a pittance compared to what I had paid for them less than 2 years previously. And for that pittance I was able to buy myself a film camera that I had dreamed of owning as a teenager.

For me, film gives me the opportunity to present the world as I see it, with all of the flaws and the mistakes. The world is not a perfect place and I don’t take perfect pictures. I don’t want my images to be razor sharp every single time. With digital I strived for consistency, with film I revel in the inconsistency. Film has also pushed me back into being creative again. I am more thoughtful and aware of how and why I shoot. I mentally prepare projects and compositions in my head, as I don’t want to waste film or opportunities.

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Added to that I am a borderline luddite, with a dash of chemistry geek and a full dose of tactile process nerd. So film photography for me is the logical conclusion of my personality. I love the idea of allowing just the right amount of light to react with chemicals on a strip of plastic to create an image that is indelible. A single frame, frozen in time that will probably be around long after I am gone. Tell that to my hard drives (two of which I have lost in the last two years alone), I still have the negatives from that Kodak Instamatic.

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I mentioned in previous articles too that shooting with film gives me time. Everything in the modern world is so frenetic, it seems to come at you from all directions, a bombardment of information. Running JCH takes up a huge amount of my time (not that I am complaining, I love it). But when I go out and shoot I can disconnect myself from everything for the briefest period and take the time to calm down and enjoy the little things. Watching people, human comedy and the barely contained chaos that is a big city. I have no rush to see my images, no sense of urgency for a result. I don’t need to feel validation by running home and uploading 150 images to Flickr or whatever. This gives me a sense of balance. Getting my negatives back and checking them is something I can do on a quiet evening with a nice cup of tea on standby.

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But it is not just that. It is the look. Sure you can get filters and plugins now so that you can make your digital images look like a certain emulsion, but it is just not the same as the real thing. Because the real thing comes out that way, without having to change anything. And this is not about the megapixels or resolution or whatever. This is about the imperfect nature that is film. The slight uncertainty and the unique minute imperfections that make it such a pleasure to use.

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So why do I love film? Because film is like love itself. It is imperfect, irrational, sometimes frustrating and almost impossible to rationalize, but when it works it feels fantastic and keeps me coming back for more.

My favourite Kodak film? There is a constant, which has been a film I have come back to over and over again, that one is Tri-X. It is so perfectly balanced and easy to use, you just cannot fail with a roll of tri-x. I hope it lives forever.

JCH

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Film Friday Giveaway!

To make Film Friday even more fun, I  have offered a selection of his film cases for a giveaway.

There will be two prize packages… each with

- One black and one white 135 film case

- One black and one white 120 film case

- A selection of Kodak film

To enter just leave a comment on the Kodak blog post blog post explaining why you shoot film. We will randomly choose two winners by 2pm EST on Monday, March 17. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments form so we can contact you if you win. It won’t be seen by others. Good luck!

Kodak 1000 words blog link

Please remember, comments on this site don’t count towards your chance to win some stuff. You have to comment on the Kodak blog.

JCH

12 Responses to Why do you love film?

Michael March 15, 2014 at 10:49 am

This nails it. I shoot both digital and film, as each have their benefits. Adjustable ISO, ability to check exposure, and no film / lab fees make digital awesome. But I feel as though digital has turned too many of us into pixel peepers overly concerned with sharpness and resolution. Yes – I said it. Sharpness is NOT the most important aspect of a photo.

With film I take my time (because it costs 30 cents per shot), and I am only focused on the picture I am taking or the next picture I will take. There is no going back and checking or deleting. Of course, with a strong will I could do this with digital too. But despite my best efforts, I always find myself checking some digital photos right after I take them.

And with film, you can get GREAT gear for pennies on the dollar these days. My Nikon FM2n was $90. Can you imagine this 10 years ago? ?

Love your website!

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Hingwa March 15, 2014 at 11:33 am

I started shooting film again only a few months ago ever since high school (4 years ago) because I started to get in a slump with my photography. Consistently only shooting digital and just doing the same thing over and over again without thinking for every shot. Film forces me to think about every shot and it’s much more enjoyable to not know the outcome of my images until after it’s developed. I love it and it makes me force myself to make theist of every shot rather than “spraying and praying.”

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Paul Schofield March 15, 2014 at 3:14 pm

“Film is like love itself…” Nice.

It’s funny how you just get drawn to particular film(s). I really want to like HP5 but it just doesn’t do it for me. Tri-X does, every time.

It’s useful to occasionally ask “why do I do this?” The winter weather has curbed my photography recently but I spent an afternoon with the Pentax 6×7 last week and the satisfaction I got from taking 15 photographs was immeasurable.

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Damien March 15, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Maybe we should add to that well-tought article the joy of coming back to dark room work. I even wonder if I don’t sometimes prefer my time in the dark room to my time with the camera in hand. A 6×7 selenium-toned picture wet-printed on baryta paper is worlds beyond what you can get with digital in terms of depth, gray tones and blackness of black.
Choice of film, choice of developer, choice of paper, “tactile process” as you name it are pleasures that equal the fun of using old cameras. Second-hand 24×36 enlargers are dirt-cheap today. Every small town still has a darkroom somewhere with an old guy willing to teach the trade. The basics are learnt in half an hour.

Go breathe some funny chemicals in your neighbouring club lab today and run the risk of looking back for more! You’ll impress even the most hardcore hipsters when you’ll show them how to coat a wet collodion plate!

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Erik March 15, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Film photography is like being with the person I love most. I don’t know what will happen but there is joy on anticipating every moment.

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ivelisse March 15, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Great article!!! I am fairly new to photography and was totally dedicated to digital photography. That was until I came across JCH. I decided to try film and just love it! Am now looking into developing film myself. “Film is like love itself” So true!

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allegroandrea March 16, 2014 at 1:51 am

Photography is for me a rather melancholic endeavour by its very nature, being an illusive attempt at preserving fleeing instants. Naturally, our memories would lose more and more fine details with passing time, retaining only the contours of things, along with impressions and moods that yet may still feel vivid and tangible after decades. I want my photography to do the same, and I find my gritty images on coarse grain film just perfect for that.

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William Kazak March 17, 2014 at 12:45 am

I carried a film camera to grade school in the 50′s. It was a plastic twin lens. The teacher was so beautiful, she inspired me. In the 70′s, I worked in a photo studio in Chicago and I photographed the models who always needed pictures for their portfolios. I refined my techniques and I settled on T-Max as my preferred B&W film. It was not as grainy as Tri-X. I went to college and I shot film in my classes. I have photographed over 1,000 weddings using film. (500 in digital). I started digital with a pair of Nikon D70s bodies, graduated to a pair of Nikon D300 bodies. I just sold them for a major loss (digital rot). I am freightened to be using film again but I don’t know why. I had attainment using film. I am pulling it out of my hat again starting in B&W. T-Max, of course. Film is photography.

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Morgan March 21, 2014 at 9:18 pm

I couldn’t have put it better myself. Photography was always something I wanted to get into but always found an excuse not to.

I then purchased a digital camera and I found my pictures somewhat lacking, It felt like a show home, sure it’s a house but, it’s also devoid of anything else. I was never happy with them. They captured the moment but, not the emotion.

I bit the bullet and purchased a medium format film camera and I fell in love. It’s like the world slows down, I take my time, compose, get the settings right and fire the shot. I love film and all it’s imperfections for it is these imperfections that seem to capture the moment, the world in all it’s beauty.

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Benny Asrul March 22, 2014 at 2:33 am

film photography is like a fine dining food. a lot of preparations to be made, long process to follow before we can appreciate the food. we need patience, passion, dedication and love.
yes, it is definitely slow..
if we want something fast and delicious, instant noodle is the best option.

Reply

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