#1 Why every photographer should try shooting film

Introduction to film photography

Firstly I’d like to welcome you to this new weekly series of posts which will hopefully serve as a comprehensive introduction to film photography. In this series I want to talk about different aspects of film photography such as different sizes and types of film, different camera types available and their purposes, developing your first images and a lot more. But first I’d like to explain why I think every photographer (especially those who are new to photography) should try shooting film.

Film photography may seem like a thing of the past and no longer relevant in the modern age however I think it can still teach as a lot as we grow as photographers and this is why

 

1. Film slows you down

In the digital age we tend to overshoot either out of fear of missing the moment or just in general because we can. Doing so we often forget to think about the images we’re taking. Shooting film helped me cure this habit as it changed the way I approach a scene.

With 35mm film you only get 36 shots. I believe that this limitation is what makes shooting film so educational. Since I’m a student with a limited budget it made me think about every image I took and it made me more aware of compositions and planing my shots. The amazing thing however is that I rarely felt like the 36 exposures weren’t enough. More often then not the opposite would happen as I eagerly wanted to develop my film and see the images I had taken but still had a few exposures left on the film.

It is important to note that you should still shoot and experiment with all the images you want to capture and you shouldn’t let the thought of money slow you down. It should only keep you concious about the images you’re taking. Make sure the composition, light, exposure and subject matter all work, before you shoot. 

2.  Manual cameras will improve your understanding of  the exposure triangle

My first film camera was a used Zenit-E equipped with a selenium light meter. Since the camera was over 40 years old I didn’t trust the light meter’s accuracy. This meant I had to learn to properly expose the image without metering. Since I didn’t want to waste my shots I had to learn how to “read” light with the sunny 16 rule.

“On a clear sunny day set your aperture to 16 and match your shutter speed with the ISO of the film. This will give you a properly exposed image.”

I will be making a dedicated post about this so stay tuned if you want to learn more.

3. You realize that the camera doesn’t matter that much

Many people believe that good gear makes amazing images. This idea is quickly shattered as you start diving into film photography.

In analog photography the film serves as a camera’s sensor. This allows us to easily replicate a camera system used by a famous photographer in the past for a very low cost. We quickly realise that even with the same film and the same camera and lens combo our images can’t compare to said photographer.

This can be a humbling and a grounding experience as we lose our excuse in an instant. You will realise that it’s not the gear that makes an image, it’s the photographer behind it.

4. It is cheap to get started

As mentioned above it is very cheap to get started with film photography. You can usually find a good quality used camera and some beautiful lenses for less than a 100€. (I got my Zenit-E for 30€ equipped with the beautiful Helios 44m 58mm f2 lens with the famous swirly bokeh effect.) Additionally you can pick up some 35mm film for about 5€ to 10€. Making the final cost very affordable.

Just be careful when buying used to get a good quality camera with no light leaks. To check your camera for light leaks go to a darkroom and insert the film. Afterwards leave the camera on a shelf for about the day and develop the little strip of film. If the camera leaks light it will show up. For a more in depth step by step guide of this technique stay tuned as I will include it in the “Buying your first film camera” post. 

5. Experimenting with different films, camera types and developing processes is super fun

Final and maybe the most important reason to try shooting film is that it’s a lot of fun. You have so many options regarding camera types, different film roles and developing processes that shooting film is never boring. When you press the shutter and advance the film.. you have no idea if you succeeded. Maybe you underexposed it, maybe the person blinked, maybe you were a bit out of focus… You have to learn to trust yourself and your judgement. In time and with additional skills you will lower the number of wasted shots and slowly you will become confident in your decisions. 

There are many more reasons to shoot film but I’ll stop here. I fully believe that shooting film can be a great learning tool as it helps us gain confidence in ourselves without relying on technology. It helps us focus on the important things as we train our eye and grow as photographers.

If I managed to spark just a bit of curiosity in you and you want to learn more stay tuned. Next time we will discuss buying your first film camera. What camera should you get? What are the differences between different film types? And much more…

 

Let me know in the comments bellow. Do you shoot film? Do you agree with my points? Let us know what you think and what shooting film is like for you.

 

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