Photographers who grew up shooting digital are making the switch to film. In a survey published last year, Ilford learned 30 percent of film shooters are under 35 years old and 60 percent of them have been using film for less than five years. And many of them use film just because it’s fun.
I definitely fall under these categories. I discovered film in June 2015 when I was given my great grandma’s old Minolta X-700. It was 35mm, so I definitely wasn’t attracted to film because it has higher image quality (though I shoot medium and large format now, which reach better quality than digital camera). I liked it because it made me feel more deeply connected to my photographic process.
Here are three ways film changed the way I shoot.
- Film is physical.
Before I started using film, I rarely had the opportunity to handle my images. Prints were the only way I could access my work. With film, the process is touchable from the start. My shots take up real space in the physical world before they became fully fledged works of art. Therefore, each photo feels important and is a tangible product of my efforts. This increases my investment in my work.
- Film changes the way you think about shooting.
Shooting on film makes photography less automatic. A roll of 35mm film can only hold 24 or 36 images. If you’re shooting medium format, those numbers drop down to 12 or 15. Because I don’t have an abundance of money to buy lots of film, this forces me to shoot more deliberately. I find it difficult to go through more than one roll in a day, because I will often shoot only one image per subject. With digital, I might have hundreds of images to sift through at the end of the day.
The fact I can’t look at your images immediately after shooting (known as chimping) also works as an advantage. This improves my skills by forcing me to envision your images in my mind’s eye.
- Film isn’t instant. And that’s a good thing.
Waiting for the lab to develop my film is one of my greatest joys. My lab, University Camera (UPDATE: Closed as of April 2018) typically takes three to five days to finish developing and printing my images. During this time, I have the opportunity to reset so I can view my finished images with fresh eyes making me a better judge of their quality and composition.
That gratification of finally finding out whether my image is pure gold or garbage just isn’t as sweet when it’s instant.