When I first started photography many years ago, shooting film was the only game in town. Inexpensive digital cameras were not really a thing yet, yes I am that old! If memory serves, my first camera was a 110 camera which was a hand-me-down from a family member.
Some years later, having gone through a whole series of digital cameras and a few film cameras, it is now 2019 and once again, I only own a film camera. This time around the camera in question is the brick that is the Nikon F4 and I couldn’t be happier. How did we get here?
This all came about as a result of me deciding to pick up a Nikon F4 to use alongside my digital camera gear. I should note that I frequently had simultaneous digital and film kits but during one particular trip (to Northern Sweden), I found that I was enjoying the analogue experience so much more, that I really didn’t want to shoot with the digital at all.
By the time I got back from the trip, I decided to sell the digital camera and thus I became digital cameraless (although guess I technically still have a digital camera on my phone), oh the feeling of freedom!
The truth is I have always been somewhat frustrated with many aspects of digital photography: the constant desire to check the photos on the screen, the multitude of shooting options causing you to second-guess every shot and having to spend a lot of time behind a computer. I found by returning to film that all of these concerns were gone. In addition, I have to take a more considered approach when taking photos and thinking more about the composition because of the limited number of shots.
As a byproduct of this, my keeper rate has gone up significantly. It is bliss!
This also came at a time when I decided to minimise many things in my life; I got rid of some of my social media accounts, although I still have an Instagram account, on which I occasionally upload some of my favourite film photos. For me, film photography works very well with my minimised life, this is because you don’t need a whole slew of extra accessories like you do with digital photography (e.g extra batteries, charger, cables, SD cards etc), just some rolls of film and maybe an extra lens.
What I love about film photography is that the film itself is a big deciding factor in the image quality, so in that sense, most film cameras of the same format are somewhat equal. This offers a real contrast to the specification obsession and pixel peeping of digital photography.
I also really like the look of film, I never really enjoyed the over processed digital look which some digital photos can have. I want a photo to set the scene, not just in the visuals, but almost invoke sounds and smells. Some digital photos to me invoke all the emotions of a green screen. Funnily enough, when I did shoot digital, my preferred editing style always resulted in a film look.
I also like the delay with film photography, usually, there is some time between finishing a roll of film and getting it developed. So when you finally get to see the final results, you see them in a whole new light and more often than not you are greeted with quite a few pleasant surprises. With film, there is no frantically transferring your photos to a computer or tablet within an hour of leaving a location and then deleting them all in a huff because they didn’t meet expectations.
I should say, that what I have discussed is only what works for me and is not everyone’s cup of tea. I understand that there are photographers who need various settings to give greater flexibility and that rear screens are invaluable to ensure their vision is met. For me, however, photography is like therapy, an excuse to be outside somewhere new or old, alone or amongst friends, to just enjoy being and not stressing about camera settings or how the photo has come out. For me film photography bears witness to life, it does not control it.
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