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Why I Still Shoot on Film and You Should too

There are many reasons to shoot on film rather then digital, and this post is all about those reasons. By the time you’re done reading, the question we no longer be, ‘should I shoot film?’, it’ll be ‘shall I bring my film camera or my digital camera with me today?’. Here’s what shooting on film does for you…

Helps you Learn the Basics

The great thing about film cameras (especially the older ones) is that it forces you to learn what each part of the camera does before you can even take a photo. This is something that many amateur photographers overlook when they first get their camera; they’ve seen what it can do, they just want to start taking photos. This often results in the camera being left in full auto mode or a preset, when with just a few clicks of the dial, they can learn to take much better photos.

When you choose a roll of film to put in your camera, you’re effectively setting the ISO speed as you can’t change the film until you’re finished. That leaves just the shutter speed and aperture to play with, and when you take photography back to basics like that, you’ll soon start to learn how exposure works, and how to best use it to your advantage. If you’re a kinesthetic learner like me, you’ll find using film cameras a much better way to learn about photography.

It Helps to Hone your Skill

We’re all guilty of getting a little bit snap happy with our cameras in the past and taking loads of useless photos of nothing in particular, just because we can. Well, that’s not really an option with film (unless you’ve got more money then sense) because you can’t just take a bunch of photos and transfer them to your computer, you have to actually think before you take a photo – it can’t just be of anything. This added pressure of not wanting to waste money on film and developing means that you become a much more careful photographer and you consider how else you might take the photo before you actually take it. Think twice, shoot once.

Mistakes can get pretty expensive if you’re not sure what you’re doing with your film camera so this forces you to learn quickly about what you’re doing wrong. There will be times when you go to take your camera out, adjust the aperture and shutter speed, and then manually focus and end up missing the shot. This is ok though as it’s all part of the process and you’ll soon get faster and better with your camera which will transfer over to your skills on a digital camera. Don’t worry about missing a photo, we all do it, chances are if you wait a little bit you’ll get an even better photo.

Cheaper

The cost of second hand, top quality, film cameras has gone way down since the advent of cheap DSLRs, making now a great time to get into film photography. Just because a lens doesn’t autofocus or fit onto a modern day camera, doesn’t mean it’s no good, infact, one of the best lenses I have is a cheap 50mm f/1.7 that fits onto my Minolta with a bayonet mount. Old prime lenses without autofocus have very few elements to worry about, meaning that that the overall quality is better.

Another great advantage is that you can get a ‘full frame’ camera for less, meaning that you get the most out of any full frame lenses you may have. I’m a Canon shooter and all their EF lenses from 1987 and onwards all fit on both their EOS digital and film cameras. What this means to me is that I can spend money on a lens and still be able to use it on my film camera, in full frame. I won’t go into too much detail about full frame cameras, i’ll just link to this post, but what I will say though is that modern digital full frame sensors are called full frame because they’re the size of a 35mm piece of film. If you don’t have a full frame camera, using film is a great way of seeing what you’re missing and a different perspective.

Better Quality

The first thing I noticed when I got into film photography was the difference in quality – it was almost shocking. A camera’s sensor is just an expensive imitation of the roll of film, and it has in no way caught up with technology decades older then it. Not only that, but a camera’s sensor is limited to a number of pixels that’s built into it, where as a roll of film is only restricted by the quality of the scanner that captures it – usually much higher. Remember, you can still get digital copies of your photos when you go and get them developed. All of that aside though, I just find photos shot on film to be sharper. 

Better Colour

The colour of the photos produced are much better then on digital as a roll of film doesn’t have the restrictions that a sensor has. Not only that, but you don’t have to worry about pesky white balance nearly as much when you’re shooting on film. Have a look at the photo below, this is one of my favourite photos because of how well it captures the purple, red, blue and brown without losing any detail. This was shot on my Minolta SRT 101 from the 1960’s.

Better Dynamic Range

Another thing I noticed when shooting on film was that I could shoot in conditions that I wouldn’t normally be able to and still get good result. This came from the dynamic range of the film that I was shooting on and if you have a look at the photo below, you’ll see trees that would normally have been silhouettes if I had shot on digital, now had much more detail on them. 

More Sensitive

In general, I find that film to be much more sensitive and handle grain much better then any digital camera i’ve used. Have a look at the photo below and you’ll see even though there is noise, it’s a uniform colour and it’s much smoother. The speed I shot on was ASA 200 and provided excellent results for the conditions I was shooting in. This photo is also another great example of how the dynamic range is better with film; there’s no way my camera’s sensor would have handled that shot as well. 

Physical Photos

You can shoot all day long on digital, but it doesn’t really mean much if you end up looking at them once and putting them on the computer. It’s great to have physical copies of photos that you can frame and hang around the house to be seen, the way photos were supposed to be handled.

What to Watch out for

No matter how much I rant and rave about film photography, it’s still a dated technology, so you will still end up having to buy second hand. Find a good secondhand retailer nearby and you won’t have too many problems as they know how to check the cameras before they sell them and will guarantee anything they sell. That being said though, make sure you check the camera yourself, because you can’t retake holiday photos that don’t come out. I once bought a camera and took it on holiday with me and it wasn’t until I got home and got the photos developed that I found that the shutter wasn’t going up fast enough and ruining my exposures. I got it replaced without hassle for a better camera, but the damage was done.

If you buy a range finder as apposed to an SLR, you will leave your lens cap on for a few photos here and there – that’s just a fact, i’ve done it many times. You become so used to being able to see your photos framed through a viewfinder, that you forget that a viewfinder is not connected to a lens on a rangefinder camera.

Something a little bit rarer then the above is light leaks which are usually found on much older cameras for a variety of reasons. In my photo below, I was using an old Olympus Pen (which used to shoot 2 shots to every frame), and the tripod mount fitting had falled out of the bottom of my camera and was allowing loads of light in, ruining the center of each exposure. There’s lots of lessons to be learnt when shooting on film, but the results are still worth it. 

— — —

Why I Still Shoot on Film and You Should tooThank you for reading my post, if you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

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Lightroom Presets (v6) by SLR Lounge

I do 98% of my processing with this package, here's why:

    • Over 300 presets to instantly transform your photography
    • Simple video tutorials to make amazing adjustments easy
    • Get that 'professionally processed look' in seconds

Enter 'expertphotog' at the checkout to save $15!

Check Them Out Now!

 

Related Posts

Comments

15 thoughts on “Why I Still Shoot on Film and You Should too

  1. DarrylT

    Love this article. I’m a film photography fan myself. I know that many people have switched to digital cameras, and that’s fine. But, given a choice, I always choose film. I think it takes a certain sense of art to correctly choose,frame, and shoot good pictures on film. Also, the tendency to shoot crappy photos is eliminated with film, because you know you’re going to have to pay to have that film developed. Even if you have a dark room and develop the film and pictures yourself, you still have to pay for your supplies. So, I think film forces us to be more discerning when taking our shots, as opposed to just shooting “willy-nilly” and producing volumes of substandard work.

    Reply
  2. Mike Pham

    well, the quality of shooting on film depends on how good and clear of a lens you have and the type of film you have right? because i’ve been trying to shoot on film for a while now but sometimes i can’t get it to be so sharp like those pictures you took above.

    Reply
  3. IMpopstar

    Yeah, so right, Josh – no point in having acres of pix on your computer you never look at – I do sometimes spend half an afternoon clearing up my gallery folders but the best option is framing and hanging!

    I’d like to make some of my best pics into huge glossy posters – any tips where to get this done? (Sussex UK).

    Thing is, we all take pics daily now and post them on facebook so we lose sight of printing pics out!

    Reply
  4. Olivia

    I have a Digital SLR which I bought after having several SLR’s for years. If you’re looking for an SLR/film camera, I recommend the Minolta SR-T 101 for a fully manual camera, or if you’re just starting out and want something that’s easier, the Minolta XG-9 (aperture priority). Minolta made very sturdy and good quality SLR cameras, and even though I love my Digital SLR, I still miss using my SR-T 101 :)

    Reply
  5. Laura

    Just a little grammar tip to improve your awesome website and helpful photography information . . . in almost every instance where you are using the word “then” it should be “than”, as in “The colour of the photos produced are much better than on digital”. This is better than that. Use than, then your writing will be even better!

    Reply
  6. Steve

    Hey Josh
    Couldn’t agree more – I still shoot lots of film, in fact I’ve just bought 2 more film bodies (I shoot Canon and have a bag full of ‘L’ lenses for my 1DSmk3) I scan all my films and use a digital workflow through Lightroom alongside my normal digital work and love the results.

    Reply
  7. Andrew

    2 words for the doubters.

    Skin Tones.

    Seriously, film just does it better.
    you don’t get that plastic looking skin tone that you get with cmos sensor cameras.

    Reply

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