I read an article a few weeks ago asking photographers to please stop camping.
The writer didn’t mean stop striking out with your tent and camera bag. But to stop forming “camps” that claim their way of photography is the right way. There are film purists and digital believers; those who swear by Photoshop and others who cry blasphemy at anything beyond basic touch-ups. And the list goes on.
Digital photography is what got me into the art of creating pictures out of light. However, I’ve begun taking pictures with film, and find it a more thoughtful photographic experience, and a different aesthetic. I would never say it’s better – but different. And I would recommend any photographer who joined the art post-digital revolution to shoot with some film now and then.
How’d I come to this?
My first good cameras were digital. Before that, I had some cheap cameras that used the diminutive 110 format film. It was horrible, and the cameras I used it in were even worse.
I had two early fixed focus digital cameras – an AGFA 1MP digital camera, and a 2MP Fuji. Neither were very expensive and I used both to take photos that I could put on the web pages I was learning to design in my late teens and early twenties.
But it was the Canon SD400 that I won while working at Futureshop that gave me the creative capability to work in some composition. A few years later, I’d saved some money and bought a Rebel XSi. Then I was hooked.
Then I rediscovered 35mm film
First with my father’s 1970s-ish Canon FTb, and then with a EOS 650 circa 1987 that was given to me. Using film has a certain level of scarcity that makes a photo opportunity feel more precious. I find I’m much more thoughtful when I’m using my film camera, than I am with digital. With a 16GB CF card, I can take hundreds of RAW or thousands of Jpeg images in a single outing.
I do love my new Canon 7D, but when I pick up my EOS 650 (really, the 7D’s closest early relative) I feel like I’m holding a piece of magic, rather than the incredibly advanced technological marvel of the digital SLR. Granted, the 650 was a marvel in its own right when it was new.
I find the colour representation of Kodak Gold, and the grain of Ilford give a photo a personality. Sure, you can achieve similar styles with post-processing of digital. But then you can achieve beauty through plastic surgery too. It’s different.
If you haven’t used film for a long time, or if you’ve never used it, I encourage you to get yourself a camera and bring some with you on your next photo outing. Grab a few different types! It is a satisfying experience.