Updated: Sep 1, 2020
So film. It's not modern, it's not cheap, and it's not foolproof. So, why film? Lots of reasons - and the reasons are as numerous and varied as the people who still choose to shoot it. We're not going to get into is film better than digital here because frankly it's not even up for debate. They're both good and they're both great at different things. So now that that's settled, we can move on.
1) If you want to learn how to really see light, shoot some film. Particularly black and white. Why? Well, while film is more forgiving than digital in the exposure department, it is not forgiving about not having light on your subject(s). With a lit subject, you get beautiful, soft tones and a real 3-dimensional look while and unlit subject appears flat, dull, and a bit soft. Also, when you remove the color from an image, all you have is light and shadow to create interest so it really forces you to consider where your light is and isn't before you depress the shutter. This is a concept that really translates well to your digital photography. Really, really well.
2) Preconceptualization. No, this isn't freshman psych. This is forming an idea of the shot that you want before hitting the shutter. As we mentioned before, film ain't cheap, so making every shot count really becomes a thing - no spray and pray here. And let's be honest, with digital there is little thought required when you can shoot, check, shoot, check, shoot, check, etc. There's no real need to get a shot right the first time. Enter film: You've got 24-36 frames to get the job done. Because no, you don't need 20 frames of the exact image. And who wants to go through 1000 images that were taken during a 45 minute shoot? Nobody, that's who. Learn to slow your roll by shooting some film. We think you'll see that you get more quality images with less frames in your digital photography.
3) Accept that life isn't perfect. With digital images and editing we see a lot of perfection: Perfect skin, perfect sunsets, perfect everything. But let's be honest, that's not how the world around us looks. Reality isn't pixel perfect, it's not always sharp, and sometimes the colors are muddy. And that's okay. Really. Have you ever seen a photo of Marilyn Monroe that you thought was pretty meh? No. Are all the photos of her tack sharp? No. Are they all with the perfect amount of depth of field? No again. Does she look fabulous always? Yes! The point is, that with the ability to obsess over images like we do with digital we've lost a bit of the humanity that has been inherent to photography for ages. It's time to embrace imperfection as the perfect representation of reality that it is.
4) It's tactile. There is really something about physically loading and unloading film, depressing a shutter release that makes a forceful click, manually changing an aperture and feeling the clicks as you turn the ring, and if you're really dedicated, printing your images in an enlarger. With film you can take your images from start to finish all on your own. And there is something that is completely gratifying about that feeling. Taking pictures becomes a sensory experience instead of just an action.
But that's just us and our feelings about it. Everyone has their own reasons for enjoying film photography. But really, the only way to really find out what it's all about is to pick some up and try it for yourself.
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