5 Things I Have Learnt About Film Photography

For everyone that hasn’t read my previous posts, I only got a serious interest in photography sometime in 2014 through shooting film cameras. Since my ‘photography career’ started I have only really shot film (I probably only a few hours racked up in digital camera use). So, here are some things I have found interesting about shooting film.

1) Film has a consistent look – Photographs made on any type of film have a timeless look – and I love that. I’m not sure I am being completely literal here. Perhaps it is just the impression that film makes on me that I just don’t get from slick, perfectly exposed digital images. Or perhaps it is because when I look at a photograph that I have shot on Kodak Portra 400, for example, it makes me think of great photographs shot on the same film and that inspires me for some reason that I have not yet worked out.

Anyway, rambling aside, the consistent look of film means that shooting an entire project on one film means that the editing process is very easy. You do not have to worry about getting technical in Photoshop or Lightroom as all your photographs come out the same (well, providing you use the same lab etc.) I find this to be a great part of shooting film as it means you can just focus on making the project in hand and shooting more pictures instead of worrying about having to edit the pictures to get a consistent look. Thus helping you live in the moment of picture taking – isn’t that what we really love the most?

2) It looks good – The beauty of some films, to me, is irrefutable. I love the smooth tones of portra 400 so much so that I will deliberately imitate it when doing digital work – but then I think why should I imitate it when I could just use the film itself?

3) The process is very enjoyable – I believe that a lot of focus in life and in photography, is on the product rather than the process. In life people may focus too much on earning money and force themselves to do things that they do not enjoy in order to pursue this product. In a similar way, in photography, people may obsess over image sharpness, extremely accurate colour reproduction and perfect exposures in their final images – which I do not consider to be as important as just enjoying the entire process. Shooting film encourages this mindset as before shooting you know that the images you produce aren’t going to be tack sharp, perfectly exposed (especially in my case as I shoot manually without a light meter) or have completely accurate colour rendition due to the nature of film.

Also, just the feel of using old cameras is great to me and thus makes the process of making pictures so much more enjoyable. I am currently using a first edition Canon F1 and 50mm f1.8 lens and I love it. The weight, the dials, the manual focus, the metal body and don’t get me started on that film advance lever… Joking aside, I really do enjoy using film cameras. They have obvious drawbacks of course. Maybe I will change and prefer using digital over analogue, but for now film is the one.

4) Film helps you stay in the moment – This is an obvious one – well, it is to me anyway. Every man and his dog knows that most digital cameras of screens that can be used to see the picture that has just been taken. Certainly this is a good thing in many aspects but it is also a negative thing in a few.

I believe that not having the ability to ‘chimp’ and review your photos immediately after taking them has the positive effect of making you stay in the moment you are in as you are not spending time reviewing on an LCD screen. This could mean you see another shot coming and are able to quickly advance your film and take the shot. Additionally, it could mean that you are more inclined to enjoy the environment around you when shooting film as you can simply take the photo and forget about it ergo freeing your brain to enjoy the things around you.

However,  I must confess that the last point seems to be more easy in theory than practice for me right now. I have only recently started measuring light with my eyes and so far have shot a few rolls doing it. This has caused worry about ruined shots – which of course would have not been a concern if I could immediately review my image on an LCD screen. This therefore, is negative – albeit one that I think will be overcome when I have more experience and confidence in my ability as a photographer.

5) Sooner or later you WILL ruin some film – Is a hard reality I learnt when first shooting film. You never know when you will ruin a roll, but you will. It could be in loading it or it could be in developing a roll that you believe is filled with absolutely mind-blowing images (sadly, to which you will never know).

This is a definite negative aspect of shooting film. But hey, memory cards and external hard-drives can die too. So the loss of images is to be expected in photography using either ‘sensor’.


3 thoughts on “5 Things I Have Learnt About Film Photography

  1. ” Additionally, it could mean that you are more inclined to enjoy the environment around you when shooting film as you can simply take the photo and forget about it ergo freeing your brain to enjoy the things around you.” So true!! Good luck with continued photography.


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