Photography :: Why shoot film?

To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.
— Marcus Tullius Cicero

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll have heard me badgering on about my new found love of film for a while now. I purchased an EOS 3 from eBay a couple of months ago and have taken that long to shoot a whole roll of film. Frankly, I found the whole thing pretty terrifying. I am young, and all of my photography experience has existed in the digital world, and shooting film is a lot harder in the respect that you have no instant results and you really have to know what you're doing in order to not have a roll of duffs returned to you on developing the negatives. However, conquering film has been something I have been heavily focused on for a while now, and I really wanted to talk about my reasoning behind it on here, so I can reference future clients back to why I choose to shoot film in a digital era. 

1. It makes me a better photographer.

Although shooting digital certainly isn't easy by any means, it can be a tad lazy. If you are in a tricky situation or you are looking for a specific moment, you can take the trusty 'spray and pray method' and shoot like crazy just to be sure you capture what you are looking for. This is easily done when you know you have a limitless supply of memory cards in your camera bag and you can check the back of your screen after to make sure you got what you were after. There isn't really anything wrong with doing that, of course, but it is definitely not necessary. When you calculate the cost of purchasing film combined with the cost of developing, we're talking about 70p per shot, and let me tell you, there is absolutely no way I am spraying and praying and spending £3 pounds in the process when I know I am capable of getting that shot in one if I only concentrate. Shooting film slows you down, forces you to be present in the moment and makes you evaluate each individual shot. You can't shoot film successfully without making every photograph count. I want every 70p to be worth it and however shallow that motivation that may be, it sure works for me! I never shoot for the sake of it on my EOS 3, and I am only ever looking at the subject through the viewfinder rather than the back of my camera.

2. it looks better.

Sound obvious? Well, you'd be surprised. There are a lot of people who feel shooting film is going back in time, and in a lot of ways that is true. Digital cameras can do some amazing things that a film camera could never achieve, and they most certainly have their place. I'd never trade out my 5d mark iii for a film camera at a low lit reception, for example. Digital cameras are freaking awesome. But stick with me here. Film looks better. And that isn't subjective, it isn't an opinion, it is just true. Getting technical here, film processes colour and retains highlights in a way that digital just cannot achieve. Digital sensors just aren't capable of retaining the same amount of highlight information as film negatives are. For this reason, you can overexpose film, which makes skin look amazing, makes grey days look whimsical and bright, and makes the shadows in your image softer. Film also renders colour in a completely different way to a digital RAW file. If you see an unedited RAW (the equivalent of a digital negative.) straight out of a camera, no matter how great the camera or the photographer is, it will not look great. All of the colour correction involved in making an image look great is done in post, the image is completely neutral and therefore the colours are very bland and the images can tend to have a very 'meh' look about them. Each film stock has its own quirks and colour renditions, and therefore the image will often look 'complete' straight from being scanned.

Film Scan

Unedited RAW file

It also has greater density and contrast, which is what gives it that 'fine art' look, and although digital cameras don't have grain (well, they kind of do, but lets not get into that!), I kind of love the grain that you get with film anyway. 

3. It's Really, Really Cool

Film is for photographers what Vinyl is for music lovers. It's a pathway to your art form's origins. Its the crackle over the clean. It's the authentic. Having physical negatives to send off for scanning is just so much better than having a memory card to pop into the side of my macbook. Film doesn't just make me a better photographer, it makes me a happier one. I get a thrill shooting digital, of course, but shooting film gives me a kick that I never get when I shoot on any other format. It makes me feel inspired and makes me feel connected to my art. I am shooting in the same way as some of the big guns of times past, I could shoot the same film stock as Richard Avedon if I wanted to, and that is pretty awesome. Here are a few of my favourite shots from my first ever roll of film:

Bethany StanleyComment