In a world of quick digital photos, a guide to why you should use film, the slow counterpart.
By Ryan Snider, Staff Writer and Artist
Film photography is slow, risky, and less convenient. Digital cameras are faster, safe, and easy since pretty much everyone has a camera in their pocket now. So, why in the world would I spend the extra time and money shooting on film?
Let’s back up and look at what I use.
I have a Pentax K100, and it’s all mechanical (besides the light reader). To take a picture, you need to pull the shutter crank, check ISO and shutter speed, adjust the aperture (so that the correct amount of light is let in), adjust the focus (so that it isn’t blurry), and click the shutter button!
And you’re done! Just kidding. You have to wait two weeks to get the roll developed. And even THEN, you don’t know if it turned out well.
If too much light was let in…RUINED.
If not enough light was let in…RUINED.
If it’s blurry…RUINED.
If any light was exposed unto the film AT ALL during the developing process…RUINED!
Let’s contrast that to a digital camera. You can whip out your phone, and it will automatically adjust the settings for a perfect image.
“So RYAAAN, why the actual heck would I shoot on film then?”
Well, yeah, that’s a valid question. Let’s walk through differences.
So, digital cameras shoot with pixels. For example, high definition is 1920 pixels horizontally across the screen and 1080 pixels vertically. So, if I try to enlarge an image taken on digital, it gets all pixelated and crusty.
Let’s contrast that to film. Film is shot on celluloid. Since it’s organic, it’s all captured with grain, which is a lot higher quality than pixels. So, for example, 35mm film from the 1970s can be translated into 5k in today’s pixel measurement system. Talk about some legit-ness!
Okay, BUT film can take weeks to develop, so you can’t tell how it turned out until later. So every shot is a gamble. And digital photos can be instantly reviewed and deleted if bad.
Price-wise, digital cameras are way more expensive. They’re going to make your life’s savings disappear if you’re not careful. Not only that, but digital technology is constantly changing. So, within a few years, that digital camera is going to be basically useless because it’ll suck compared to the new ones.
HOWEVER, film would probably cost you more in the long run. The reason why is because you have to buy rolls continually. So every 24 shots, you need a new roll.
Film rolls have a vast price range. I use Kodak Ultramax 400, and that’s about six bucks. Then another 15 to get it developed. Start to see how it adds up? Digital cameras use SD cards, and they can store hundreds of pictures. Yeahhh…
So, why on Earth should you shoot on film?
On paper, digital clearly wins.
But, life isn’t always on paper.
When you take pictures on film, you can get imperfections. But I love that about them. Life isn’t perfect, so why should our photos be? Our photos should emulate the imperfections in life.
Digital photos are perfect. Too perfect. It seems almost inhuman. Whereas film has some grit to it, it more emulates the gritty-ness of life.
With that, I think film more accurately depicts life itself. Looking at film photos gives you a sense of nostalgia, even if you only took the picture a few weeks ago. Not only that, but think back of a memory. Chances are, you remember a warm and fuzzy version of what actually happened. Film does that to photos; it adds a certain level of stylization to the image that adds character to an otherwise ordinary picture.
Think about it, apps like Instagram and VSCO have tons of vintage filters to emulate the “film look.” Why add it when you could just do the real thing? It’ll look lots better (and it’s more fun).
But I think most of all, film photography takes time. To take a single shot, it’s an entire process. It forces you to learn your camera’s limitations and problem solve. You have to slow down and indulge in the art that is photography. You only have 24 shots on a roll, so you can only take pictures of what’s really important to you. It’s literally wasting money to take photos willy nilly.
Film and digital have many differences. And taking a single picture with a film camera takes time and has many steps. But that doesn’t make it bad. It forces you to slow down and appreciate what’s in front of you instead of snapping 30 pictures and hoping one is good.
So, yeah, film photography is slow, risky, and less convenient. But this begs the question, isn’t life?