Why Film?

Pentax k-X & 50mm F1.4

Pentax k-X & 50mm F1.4

It’s a fair question.

Why, in this modern age, would I choose to shoot film over digital?

The answer is not a simple one. (and I don’t want to get all techy on you)

There is a part of me that wishes I could bond with the digital medium. Find a camera system that really gets me excited to go out and shoot. I have yet to find it…and I’ve tried.

You could say its a bit of an “old dog, new trick” situation. I’ve invested a lot of time and money in the medium of film photography. Not simply cameras and film, but education as well. I’d hate to throw that away to start all over.

Many people believe photography is photography. If you know how to take pictures, then any camera (digital or film) should do.

Now let me explain why this notion is misguided…

You could hand me any DSLR and I could find my way around it well enough to take a decent image in manual mode. I started using my Pentax k-X, straight out of the box, with out looking at the manual. I applied the basic principles of exposure: ISO, aperture, shutter speed and white balance and was on my way.

But, try handing an old Pentax K1000 or Canon AE-1 with a roll of 35mm film to a photographer who has never shot film in their life…it’s my bet they wouldn’t have much success. There are no “modes” or presets on a K1000. I know people who couldn’t even load the film!

Said person could very well be an extremely talented photographer with a portfolio and resume that kicks my ass! I am not trying to sound like I am the master of all things photography…my point here is that film and digital are different mediums. It’s not apples to apples. They each require a different skill set beyond an “eye” for light and composition.

Digital cameras are computers with lenses attached to them. Truly. Even in manual, shooting RAW files, the computer inside the camera body is affecting the image.

Film cameras, generally speaking, are metal or plastic boxes with a shutter, a glass or plastic lens with an aperture and film. Some of them don’t even have a light meter or a battery. When I click the shutter and expose the film a chemical reaction is taking place, right then and there. An image is burned onto the film, latent, until the next step…development.

There is magic happening inside that box. That’s one part of my love affair with film.

Rolleiflex 3.5 & Kodak Portra 400

Rolleiflex 80mm 3.5 & Kodak Portra 400

The other reason why I love film so,  is the tangible quality of the negative and the print.

No one prints their pictures anymore. It’s all images on a screen; be it a computer, a tablet or a phone. I know that is a sweeping generalization but I’m not exaggerating that much. I am guilty of it myself!

I have 100’s of digital images on a hard drive, from a brief honeymoon with my new k-X after our second child was born, that have yet to be viewed in print. It’s crazy.

Now let me be clear, this isn’t about which is better. Film or digital.

The images I see on Flickr, Tumblr, 500px & Instagram that photographers create with digital cameras are beyond impressive. True artists.

But what these crystal clear, super sharp, near perfect images lack, for me, is less about the image & more about the camera and the tools used to create them.

For me, film has soul. It has depth. It has grain. It has layers. What happens inside a film camera is magic.

So until the last frame has been shot or film becomes so expensive that shooting it becomes impossible and unreasonable, I am sticking with my metal boxes that catch the light.

One thought on “Why Film?

  1. Absolutely love the way you described the ‘magic’ of film.

    There’s something raw, unpredictable, and truly magical about the process of “catching the light” as you say, and developing it into something entirely new.

    Not just a moment suspended in time. But a new way of looking at it, remembering it, and feeling it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *