Wait, why do you use film? – Film vs Digital

April 3, 2016

The idea of film never really crossed my mind until Annie, my future sister in law, mailed me her old 35 mm Nikon that had been living in her closet for a few too many years. It arrived in the mail and my brother explained that the lens was worth more than the body. He then joked that the camera used this stuff called film.

I immediately went to a local drug store and purchased batteries, popped in some film, and started shooting tidbits from my day. I noticed a lot of my snapping habits immediately changed.

After shooting that first roll, I fell in love. I felt like film put a unique mystery and romance into photography. After a few weeks with my 35 mm camera, (and with a nudge from Thomas) I invested in a medium format camera that I simply can’t get enough of.

This morning, I wanted to share with you some of the reasons that I love film as well as some of the difference between film vs digital photography.

Color: KT Merry has always been one of my favorite photographers. I have had her blog bookmarked on my toolbar since I knew that you could bookmark a website. Her images were always soft, gentle, and filled with pastel-like colors. No matter how much editing I performed, I couldn’t quite get my colors to look like hers. One day it clicked, ahh, she uses exclusively film. The colors in film are so much more softer, it is simply unbeatable. The greens especially had a different feel compared to digital images. Film has a greater range, and the highlights maintain their integrity with film, while they can often be blown out with a digital camera.

Feel: To start off, the feel of the camera itself is totally different. My Contax weighs quite a bit more than my digital camera. It also has a super bizarre shape. The feel of the images is irresistible. Film has a “soul” that a digital camera will never have. The images are softer, the depth of field is more shallow (the background is blurrier) and I believe that film has a more romantic feel to it. My favorite subject to photograph is couples, so a little extra romance doesn’t hurt. 😉 After I shot my first roll of film on my Contax, I finally found the feel that I was looking for.

Time: This a huge positive (and, I suppose a negative) for me. Using film really makes me slow down and look critically at every image. My camera’s autofocus don’t work quickly (and they stopped making the camera in 2005 so I can’t just call the manufacturer), so in addition to ensuring every setting is accurate, I also have to focus every image manually. I make sure the image is perfect before I click the shutter release, because each image costs over $2.00 (cost of the film itself + developing+ scanning + shipping). I don’t have the luxury of taking 3 (or 12) duplicates of every image. Every roll only has 16 images, so after those 16 images are finished, I have to swap out the film, which takes a minute or so. In addition, after I’ve finished shooting for the day, I have to mail the film off, as CVS doesn’t process medium format film. Currently, I send my film to Richard Photo Lab, a processor in California. As for the less awesome part…it usually takes 2-3 weeks to ship, process the film, scan the negatives, and email me the scans. While this is slightly painful, I wouldn’t replace the anticipation for anything. Receiving the email that your scans are ready to download is like waking up on Christmas morning – it is simply the best feeling.

Art: Nowadays, nearly anyone with a digital camera can call themselves a photographer (hey, you gotta start somewhere!). I truly believe that using film has allowed me to put art back into photography. It has forced me to slow down, perfect every image to the best of my ability, and offer a new perspective to a nearly everyday event (now that cameras exist on cellphones).

I absolutely love it and I hope you can see a difference!

Below, you will see film and digital images side by side – film is on the left. Digital is on the right.

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