(In the meantime I call myself a hybrid-shooter, what means half digital and half analogue).
Let me start off by saying this article isn’t an argument on how film is better overall than digital, I’m not that ignorant. Rather, this article is meant to show how shooting film is still relevant for photographers today. Shooting film nowadays seems like a novelty reserved for grandparents and hipsters, but does it still hold its ground in a world where everything is digital? We have Instagram, VSCO, Photoshop and so on. Hundreds of other applications that will emulate the look of film, so does shooting actual film make a difference?
I Give You 4 Reasons Why Film is Still King.
I’m going to make a bold claim and say that shooting film in natural light is better than shooting digital in natural light. Of course, there are thousands of other scenarios where digital will sweep the floor with film, but when it comes to natural light photography, film is still better. If you don’t agree, hear me out first, I’ll give you four reasons.
1. Film Controls Highlights Well
One area where I see film having a clear advantage over digital is in natural light. Film is meant to be shot in natural light, and that’s where it thrives. It is much more forgiving when it comes to overexposure, and it doesn’t blow out highlights as easily as digital cameras.
In this photo, the Portra 400 (the film) is doing a great job controlling the highlights of the sky, the soft graduation of the film makes the pictures looking soft and is pleasing to the eyes.
2. Film Blends Light and Color Better
Digital camera sensors, are made up of millions of tiny squares that give us an image. Film isn’t split up in such a linear way, and because of that, it naturally blends light and colors better. I think film is meant to shoot in natural, available light and it really shows that in that picture.
in the photo, above we have a beautifully blended scene I have yet to come across a digital camera that can blend light and color as well as a film camera.
3. Film Has Aesthetically Pleasing Grain
One of the worst things about digital cameras is also one of the best things about film, the grain. The grain that you get from film is much more pleasing and natural than digital cameras, and it adds to the texture and character of the photo.
4. You Can Shoot Medium Format Without Selling Your Soul
Shooting film has given me the opportunity to shoot on a camera format that I wouldn’t have been able to shoot with digital, just because of the high costs. What’s the big deal with medium format, and why does that matter? Let me simply say, shooting medium format has changed the way I approach photography.
Because of the larger film size, the perceived focal length of the 80mm lens shortens to about 50mm. So imagine taking photos with your 50mm, but getting the compression and depth of field from an 80mm lens. I’m able to compose and frame my shots with the versatility of a 50mm lens, while still getting the shallow depth of field and bokeh of an 80mm lens. Of course you can get a shallower depth of field with a faster 50mm lens, but when you’re shooting them both at f/2.8, the 80mm becomes something really special. It’s one of the best things in my life right now.
5. One extra Reason: The process of shooting film.
When I shoot with my film cameras it’s totally a different approach. I know film cost me money, time and effort to get a good photo. But it slows me down as a photographer. Let me think, let me work with the camera.Let me carufully look at a scene, measure the light and finally press the shutter button on the camera. Film means work but definitely makes me a better photographer, just because I learn and grow through the process. Shooting film gives me also something back in return, the craft of photography. You create an image, you don’t just press a button.
How I Shoot Film
Film is great because there are so many different types of cameras and stocks of film to choose from. You can easily develop a style of photography by simply choosing a type of film you like, and sticking with it. I’m gonna go through a couple of my favorite types of film I love to use.
Most of the gear I use aren’t in production anymore, like the Nikon Fm3a or my lovely Mamiya C330. That’s the cool thing about todays digital world no one wants to shoot this cameras these days, so you can get ‚em very cheap.
The film I mainly use for my personal work is:
- Kodak Portra 400 35mm
- Kodak Portra 400 120
- Kodak Ektar 100 35mm
- Kodak Ektar 100 120
- Fuji Pro 400H 120
- Fuji Pro 160NS 120
- Kodak Tri-X 400 (BW) 120
Conclusion & Learn More
My journey as a film photographer started as a curiosity, then grew to an obsession when I fell in love with the results. I used to be a stubborn digital photographer who thought film had no merit other than being a novelty for people who enjoy ironic things. But one day I gave film a chance, and in a way, that’s what photography is about for me. Photography is about taking chances and looking at the results, if you don’t like them then you move on, but sometimes the results can pleasantly surprise you.