5 Reasons to shoot film

Jul 19, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

5 Reasons to shoot film

Jul 19, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Yeah, I know, quit with the “X reasons to shoot Y” already, but here’s the thing, people are still interested in this stuff, and none of these types of posts are really trying to make you give up what you’re doing and completely rethink your photography life choices.

They’re simply to give you more information, so that you can make more informed choices about what you want to do. I shoot film and digital, as does Mattias Burling who presents his 5 reasons to shoot film in this four and a half minute video. If you’re curious about shooting film, then watch it. If you’re not, then don’t.

YouTube video

As well as film, Mattius shoots both a Leica M8 and a Leica M9, so isn’t one of those “digital is the devil” film purist types, but he makes some interesting points.

1. Film Cameras are Cheap

film_cameras_are_cheap

Sure, film cameras are pretty cheap, but it’s getting to the point now where older used DSLRs are also cheap, and they’re still not bad at all as long as you understand where their limits lie and can comfortably live within them.

I still have the pair of Nikon D100 bodies that I purchased in 2002 for $1,750 each and they’re just as good today as they were 14 years ago. These days, you can pick up a used D100 for as low as $50.

They won’t shoot video, or have lightning fast 3 million point autofocus systems, but they’re still going to let you get a good image once you learn how to use them. I still use my D100 bodies regularly for timelapse work.  6.1MP is easily enough to satisfy 1080p video.

2. Medium Format

medium_format_is_cheap

The second point about medium format kind of blends into the first about cameras being cheap. While older DSLRs have gotten seriously cheap, medium format digital is still out of the realm of many budgets, even if buying used equipment.

Medium format film cameras can be picked up very inexpensively, and the film & developing costs are also quite low if you know where to find deals on film and develop it yourself.

3. Processing

film_developing

Mattius’ third point is that processing the film yourself can be great fun. It can also be a big pain in the backside, especially if you’re working with a new film stock or developer that you’ve not used before.

You might end up burning through two or three rolls before you get your method spot on. Unlike digital, though, if you do screw up the developing, there’s no way to go back and start over.

Sure, there’s databases on the web where you can get a rough idea of a starting point, but I’ve found a lot of these database contain very inconsistent data, and people get what they believe are great results with wildly different methods.

4. Digital can’t keep up with film’s aesthetic

digital_vs_film_aesthetic

This one’s a highly subjective thing, but I can see where he’s coming from. I shoot film for black and white. For colour, I prefer the clean look of digital, but for black and white, I like that grungy organic nature of film.

For me, it’s not really a “one is better than the other” kind of thing, it’s just a personal preference and I like nasty grainy black & whites.

5. Grading & Experimenting

grading_and_experimenting

This is an interesting one, but one that I don’t think really applies to most people who don’t have their own darkroom or make their own wet prints. Experimenting with different film stock, developers, and developing methods can be done without a darkroom, of course, but having a darkroom lets you take things so much further.

Filters, toning chemicals, and other techniques allow you to make many prints from the same negative or slide, and produce very different looks in the final result each time.

It definitely can be a long and laborious process, though, that many people simply don’t have the time or the patience for. While I love spending time in my own darkroom making prints, I certainly wouldn’t want to do it all the time.

One reason to shoot film or digital

Ultimately, you only really need one reason to shoot film and that’s to shoot it because you want to. If you want to shoot just digital, that’s fine, too.

I shoot both, and I’ll keep shooting both. I regularly go out and shoot with people who only use digital, and also with people who only ever use film. It’s never an “us vs them” thing, it’s all just personal preference.

So, when you see posts like these, don’t think “oh god, another one trying to convince us to switch!”, because most of the people who talk about the benefits of one format over another really aren’t trying to do that, they’re simply trying to help you realise something you might not have known before.

Do you shoot solely film? Do you shoot just digital? Do you shoot both?Have you thought about trying film, but need to learn more about working with it first? What’s holding you back? Or are you just sick of the whole “film vs digital” thing already? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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3 responses to “5 Reasons to shoot film”

  1. catlett Avatar
    catlett

    This is an article that really NEEDED to be written. Not nearly enough on this topic. https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=why%20shoot%20film

  2. Ralph Hightower Avatar
    Ralph Hightower

    I shoot film along side digital. I enjoy photography whether it’s film or ones n’ zeros. My two film cameras still work; the Canon A-1 is 36 years old and the New F-1 I bought used in 2013. With my DSLR, I turned off image review since I don’t use it and the white balance is normally set to daylight. I’ve been shooting film since 1980, so I don’t mind not having immediate results.

  3. Brad Trent Avatar
    Brad Trent

    “DIGITAL CAN’T KEEP UP WITH FILM’S AESTHETIC”

    I’m sorry, but I don’t even know what the fuk that means. Seriously. There is nothing in the film universe that can’t be duplicated digitally. Period. Get as warm & fuzzy about film all you want, I can do it all with a digital camera and still make it look like I pushed Tri-X to 6400 if that’s the ‘nasty’ feel I was goin’ for.