Why I shoot film in 2015, and why you should too

Some may say that to shoot film today ridiculous. Well, in many respects, it is! But the reason I choose to shoot film in 2015 is simple: I take better photos when I use a film camera.

In comparison to digital photographs, the pictures are grainy, less sharp, cannot be enlarged to the same degree (with 35mm film) and contrary to what most film advocates will tell you, the dynamic range is no better than digital. Added to that, film can be expensive and availability can be an issue in Australia. 

It seems that with film there are a number of downsides and yet I am drawn to this medium again and again, so I will try to explain why.

Firstly, having no way of checking your photos after each shot for composition or exposure can be limiting, but by becoming used to it, I started to shoot with a heightened sense of awareness and concentration. Knowing this pushed me to shoot slowly, understand light and get the shot I was aiming for. More care brought better results and with that came more enjoyment.

Releasing the shutter indefinitely burns an image into a physical medium that cannot be undone, deleted or erased. With this in mind, you find your style. With digital I gave everything a try, pointing my camera at innumerate subjects whilst accruing thousands of pictures which may never see the light of day. Film made me think. It made me selective and my hit-rate improved.

Every click costs. Whilst this can be a pain (in the wallet), it’s likely on par with the depreciation of digital equipment. So costs aside, I see this as a blessing due to the mindset that is adopted when trying not to waste film. I started to see things differently, thinking more about the shots I aspired to create.

The final reason I shoot film, and possibly most importantly, is that with film photography I print my work in the darkroom. With digital, the process is over once the photo is uploaded to Lightroom and adjusted. Not so with film. The final product is a print which lives on into the future and the process of getting to that point is so rewarding it’s difficult to describe. Emerging from the darkroom with a print that I’m proud of is a wonderful experience. A print is the final interpretation, the finished product that cannot be changed. To quote Ansel Adams, “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance.”

In spite of its flaws and inconveniences I love the process and results of using film. It’s the process of analogue photography, after all, that keeps me coming back for more. I increasingly view my portfolio as the prints that I have made rather than the images I can show on screen. Knowing that I have taken the photo, developed the film and made the final print is something I’m proud of. If you’re a digital photographer with an inclination to give film a try I would highly recommend it. Just let me know and I’ll gladly donate your first roll.