In 1975, an engineer at Eastman Kodak designed and built the first digital camera. Hobbled together from a handful of electronics and camera components, this revolutionary invention marked the beginning of a gradual but steady decline for analogue cameras and their users. In the years following the arrival of the first digital camera, its analogue cousin began to fall out of fashion as the convenience and cost effectiveness of the digital camera became apparent.
That isn’t the end of the story, however; analogue photography is still alive and well! In fact, analogue photography is experiencing a resurgence in popularity as photography enthusiasts around the globe rediscover the joy of film photography. While digital photography may be easier and cheaper than analogue photography, analogue photography offers a plethora of unique opportunities that can’t be matched by the digital option.
So what does film photography have to offer that digital photography doesn’t? How can you go about dipping your toes into the waters of film photography? What is the film photography community like, and is it easy to become a part of the community? In this article, we’ll be answering each of these questions in turn. Let’s begin!
Why shoot on film?
In the age of digital photography, intuitive editing software and instant media sharing, you might be wondering why analogue photography is gaining so much momentum. Why shoot on rolls of film that can capture a mere 36 photographs when you could just as easily use a digital camera that can capture thousands or even tens of thousands of photographs on a small memory card?
The answer is quite simple. Film photography is more than just the act of photography; it’s a whole experience. It’s not just about the technical specifications or the end result of the photograph; it’s about the experience of taking pictures on film. Film photography offers a unique way of capturing your perception of reality, with an engaging and challenging medium.
There’s more to it than just this, of course. Film stock captures photos with a color palette and aesthetic that’s difficult to replicate with digital photography. The look and feel of photos taken on film is different from those taken on digital cameras, offering an entirely new way of looking at the world. In many cases, photos taken on film look incredible with minimal editing or no editing at all. Photos taken on film just look better!
Then there’s the actual experience of taking a picture on a film camera. Whether the camera you choose is an automatic winder or requires manual winding, there’s just something about feeling the film advance one frame at a time that can’t be matched by digital cameras. Feeling the shutter snap closed as you preserve a moment in time on a tangible strip of cellophane is just so much more gratifying than taking a photo with a digital camera!
Your first analogue camera
In order to get into analogue photography, you’re going to need two things: a camera and a roll of film. There are plenty of options available for both of these components, but it’s generally a good idea to choose an inexpensive film stock and an easy to use point-and-shoot camera. If you’re willing to spend a bit more money, you can spring for one of the more expensive options. It’s up to you!
Analogue cameras can often be found at thrift stores, antique shops, flea markets and online stores with ease, at very reasonable prices. Point-and-shoot cameras are a great place to start with film photography, as they usually offer automatic functionality and are quite easy to use. If you want more control over factors like shutter speed and aperture diameter, a manual or semi-manual SLR offers just this kind of functionality.
As for film stock, it’s usually best to shoot on inexpensive film so you can learn the ropes of analogue photography without spending a metric ton of cash. Kodak and Fujifilm both offer several excellent options for color and black and white film, while other manufacturers such as Ilford, CineStill and Lomography offer a variety of more anachronistic options.
No matter which camera and film stock you choose, you’re going to make mistakes. You’ll probably blank a couple of rolls unintentionally, overexpose a couple more and make many other mistakes. You’ll take rolls to the lab only to discover that you haven’t actually captured anything. That’s ok! Everyone makes mistakes when they’re learning to take photos on film, but the important thing is that you stick with it. In time, you’ll be glad you did!
Once you start taking photos on film, you’ll discover a whole new world of possibilities that will allow you to show others how you view reality. You’ll be snapping photos of everything, from portraits of your cat to snapshots of passersby on the street. Film photography is an addiction, albeit one that is healthier than most others.
This is where one of the most compelling aspects of film photography comes into play. Film photography offers a wide variety of ways to go further in expressing yourself, through a wide variety of photography and development techniques. Editing a photo on a computer can be done in a matter of minutes, making the end result feel bland and meaningless; but what if you had to manually edit your photos in the darkroom?
After you’ve been taking photos on film for some time, you’ll likely feel the need to experiment. You’ll start pushing or pulling your film, brightening or darkening your photos past the intended level of exposure recommended by the manufacturer. You’ll start winding film back for double exposures, creating surreal yet beautiful dreamscapes. Film is the canvas and you are the painter; the only limit to what you can do is your own imagination!
The journey doesn’t stop there. Far from it! Once you get comfortable with a wide variety of shooting techniques and tricks, you might take it one step further and start developing and scanning your own film. A basic development kit can be purchased for under $150, and a simple scanner for another $100 or so. There are a plethora of different development techniques you can try to make your photos your own. It’s all about expression!
Film photography may no longer be the top dog in the photography industry. It can’t match the affordability of digital photography, but there are more reasons to take photos than just these factors. There’s so much more to the art of photography than just the technical aspects. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start taking photos!