I love film photography; there is a special quality that analog photos have that digital could never match. However, I never shoot with my film camera again. Why not?
The first camera I shot with was film, and I continued shooting analog until 2006 when I switched to digital. Shortly after the move, I took digital photos exclusively and continue to do so today. However, I still have a few film cameras (most recently a Nikon F100) and occasionally pop a small Fuji Velvia into them when I go somewhere special.
However, although I want to film more with him, I find him gathering dust on my living room shelf. But why is this? Did I fall in love with my film camera? Or is it because the quality of the shots is inferior to my digital camera? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that – some obvious reasons and some more obscure ones. It’s probably the same kind of issues that many readers of this article will also have, including convenience and size of living spaces.
Unable to view images
It’s obvious, I know. But it’s important to remember that when shooting a movie, you literally can’t review the footage you’ve taken. At a time when we’re all so used to immediately checking exposure, composition, depth of field and more, we’ve become much more reliant on that brevity. I think it’s partly due to self-publishing.
Even those without any technical knowledge can now apply a filter, adjust the brightness or sharpen images before sharing them online. There is very little latency between taking the photo and the adjustments, so a larger gap between the “click” and the finished photo as with the shooting movie can be jarring.
Double your equipment
Almost all of my photography work today is delivered digitally. So if I’m going somewhere to take great pictures with my film camera, I’ll also want to capture them digitally. This is because I don’t have a darkroom at home, nor do I have the time to spend preparing and developing negatives or transparencies at home.
This means waiting for a lab to process the stock before I get my final result. For this reason, I also tend to pack my digital camera so I can share my images faster. But inevitably, that means doubling up on gear, which makes my camera bag much heavier.
You’re stuck in a mode
Want to film outside on a nice sunny day? Great, throw the daylight balanced ISO 200 film in the camera and get out. But if you’re planning on staying outside all day and shooting into the night, you might want to reconsider, especially if you’re planning on going inside at any time. Unfortunately, you can’t adjust ISO or white balance at will like you can with digital cameras. So you are always limited in the scope of what you can and cannot capture, and this limitation is what deters me from filming with my film camera. I love the flexibility digital gives me, and if my plans change throughout the day or night, my camera changes with me.
Waiting for prints
As I mentioned before, I don’t have the time or the space to develop my own film at home. I’m in a situation similar to many people around the world, where rents are rising and living spaces are shrinking. Every time I shoot a film, it’s sent to the lab for processing before I get the results. If I’m working on a construction site, this long wait can really bother me, especially if the client wants the images the same day. I understand that there are places that do rush jobs and expedited processing, but it’s more overhead that cuts into my profit margin.
Use photo labs
My local labs are great at developing film, but getting it done for me takes a lot of the artistic input out of my photography workflow. If I’m digital, I import into Lightroom, make my choices, apply edits, and maybe even finish in Photoshop for detailed work before delivering it. I control every part of the process, from setting up the composition to choosing the output resolution. The labs are great, but I lack control over my workflow, and as an artist, that depresses me.
So what does all this add up to?
Basically, the reasons above mean I’m less inclined to use my film camera, not that I don’t. I never manage to dust it off and put it in the camera bag. The last few times I took it out, I didn’t bother to shoot it, and it became a bit of a lead balloon (both figuratively and literally when it weighed me down in my bag) . While I understand the film’s place in the world and still love it so much (and I’m aware there are plenty out there who regularly make films), I just can’t justify it as anything other than a fun hobby for me. But maybe you found the opposite? Leave me a comment below; I’d love to hear your thoughts on why you do or don’t make a film.