Why I Shoot Film in 2018

March 01, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

An explanation for why I continue to shoot film in 2018

black and white image of locomotive 711 of the Great Smoky Mountains RailroadGSMR 711, 2016black and white image of locomotive 711 of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

When I started this blog back in 2015 I published several articles to explain why I recommend photographers to continue shooting film.

 

Film photography is making a great comeback, with increasing numbers of photographers going back or starting with film and new and existing film manufacturers producing new types or restarting the production of previously discontinued film. The latest example being Kodak, who announced to bring back T-Max P3200.

 

While I have several 35mm and medium format film cameras, I still am using my X-Pro1 more than my film cameras and I love the versatility of digital. For me these are two different worlds, and I am lucky I can live in and with both

 

So what are my reasons to continue shooting film?

black and white image of a DSB-5 Dauntless bomber of the Commemorative Air Force, showing the engine and propellorDSB-5 Dauntless Engine 2, 2017black and white image of a DSB-5 Dauntless bomber of the Commemorative Air Force, showing the engine and propellor

You need to be disciplined and follow a set process

Most of the older film cameras do not have any auto mode settings. You all have to do it yourself: transporting the film to the next frame and cocking the shutter, setting the shutter time, choosing the aperture, focusing, and of course taking the picture. In some cases you even have to do all these in a specific order to prevent damage to the camera. As a consequence, shooting film will slow you down quite a bit, helping you to really think through why you are making specific adjustments to your settings.

Furthermore, you only will see the results of your actions hours, days, or even weeks after taking the pictures. No chimping... You better spend some time on making sure that the composition is right, that your lens is clean, and that you exactly have in your frame what you want to be in it.

 

You need to know your photography theory

As I mentioned in the first post on this topic, most of the older film cameras do not have any auto mode settings. You all have to do it yourself: transporting the film to the next frame and cocking the shutter, setting the shutter time, choosing the aperture, focusing, and of course taking the picture.

Since you have to change settings manually, you really need to know what you are doing: why for example are you choosing a specific aperture, or a specific shutter time. You also can not switch film sensitivity between shots (some medium format cameras however have changeable film backs, which do allow you to actually use films with different ISO values). Yes, even before you go out to take pictures you need to think about what kind of images you want to capture. Is it very light outside, or dark? Do you need to freeze motion, or do you want to blur motion? To answer these questions and make the right decisions for the pictures you want to achieve, you need to know a bit more about photography and light theory than when working with a full automatic digital camera that can adjust ISO settings 'on the go'.

 

For some shots film is just better

In my opinion film still has more detail retention in highlights and shadows than electronic sensors can capture. There is no need for HDR photography, because film is HDR. Film has a huge dynamic range, with even gradation from dark to light tones.

Of course, it is up to you to choose the right shutter speed and aperture to achieve this. Keep in mind however, that there is no such thing as the 'right exposure': you decide what feeling, mood and effect you want to create with your shutter speed and aperture selection.

And then there is that specific film look: blogs are filled with discussion about whether film images actually look different from digital images. And what to think about the numerous "film" presets available for digital post processing software. Probably a lot of personal taste is involved, but to me for some pictures film just works better.

color image of the life jacket of the pilot of a P-51 Mustang fighter, lying on the right wingLife Jacket, 2017color image of the life jacket of the pilot of a P-51 Mustang fighter, lying on the right wing

You spend less time in post processing

First of all, since you only have a limited number of exposures per roll you probably will be more selective about taking a picture. As a result you will have less pictures to go through per session, which of course will save time when reviewing and selecting your best images.

But even more important, it is my personal experience that a well taken picture (i.e. correct shutter time, aperture and sharpness for the result you want to achieve) on film needs less post processing than a well taken digital picture.

Here I have to admit that at this moment I am only shooting film, not developing. I send my rolls to a professional lab for developing, scanning and printing. I upload the scans into Lightroom for minimal post processing and publishing on my portfolio pages.

 

You actually will have pictures in your hand

Although I love to share my pictures via Zenfolio, I sometimes also want to have the tangible product. When shooting film it is just easier for me to get actual prints: I usually order them when I have the film developed and scanned. No need to go through the process of preparing the image in Lightroom for printing and taking or sending the digital file to a lab or printer, or printing it at home. And to be honest: as a result of these additional steps needed, most of my digital pictures only live in the digital world.

This was the last post in this series about five great reasons for shooting film. There is actually one bonus reason: it is just fun to fiddle with the mechanics of a film camera, going through all the actions to make sure all settings are correct. It is just more fun than working with the digital stuff, even if you are shooting your dSLR or mirror-less camera in 'full manual' mode.

 

So do I like to shoot digital? Yes! Do I like to shoot film? Yes! Depending on the situation I choose for a specific medium and way of creating images. I strongly believe both digital and film have their merits, and I will continue to use film as long as there are film cameras and as long as there is film.

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I hope you enjoyed this background story about my reasons to continue to shoot film. Don't forget to subscribe here, to ensure you will receive new information like this, and Haiku, PicTales, and other stories delivered to your email inbox the moment they are published.

 


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