9 REASONS WHY FILM PHOTOGRAPHY IS ON THE RISE
by ARTBYPINO - Images by @JeremyRata
1. Authenticity & Credibility: Think of something handmade versus machine-made. You know that the person that handmade it put thought and effort into it; there is a certain amount of craftsmanship for which you are willing to pay a premium price. Taking pictures with a film camera is similar. Not everyone can do it well. It takes practice and experience to produce stellar film images that come with shooting rolls and rolls of film using different films and cameras. Each film type has its personality – a unique look.
If you gave a monkey a DSLR and it takes 1,000 images in an hour, a handful are bound to be great images. The film reveals a photographer’s true depth of knowledge, experience, and creativity, with only 24-36 frames available to shoot on a film roll. That number further reduces if they are shooting 6×6 medium format – it goes down to 12 images. If they are shooting a large format, now it is down to 2 images.
@jeremyrata Shot on Rolleiflex 75mm f3.5 - Film: IlfordXP2 400.
Given the cost of each frame or shot (£0.xx to £x.xx), a photographer must be decisive and conversant with photography to produce a pleasing image. The learning curve with the film is much steeper. Unless one thoroughly understands the Exposure or Photography Triangle, one is unlikely to get far in film photography. The yearning to be a real photographer contributes to film photography’s revival—authenticity and credibility as a photographer that results in a more rewarding experience. While buying fully automatic film cameras is possible, people who shoot with film do it for pleasure, the reward of controlling all aspects of creating an image. One has to evaluate the light quality, the angle, the film type (color or black & white, ISO), the lens, the aperture, and the shutter speed. People realise a difference between applying a filter on an app to a digital image versus shooting the real thing – on film. It takes creativity at a higher level than a digital filter applied to an image on a DSLR.
2. Richer Images: The film captures a dynamic range (the difference between lighting and shadows) that digital struggles to render. Theoretically, the digital sensor is better at capturing the dynamic range than a film camera (9-12 stops of light versus six stops on film). To get the same effect on digital, one has to shoot multiple shots at varying exposures using exposure compensation or bracketing. Then, you merge the images in the digital darkroom (Photoshop or Lightroom). This way, you have different exposures of the same scene that record the different light levels preserved upon the merged image and look equivalent to film but not quite. There is a certain depth in film images you don’t see in digital photos. If you learn to set your exposure right on film, you can capture that dynamic range in one shot. The images are classy.
@jeremyrata Shot on Hasselblad H3 35mm f3.5 lens - Film: Fuji Provia 100F
3. Unmatched Aesthetics: The film’s look is unique and imperfect – an unmatched aesthetic. Digital gives a clinical look to pictures. Crisp, sharp, vivid, and entirely predictable. Another way to think about this – listening to Bob Marley or UB40 on Vinyl versus a CD. There is a richness or warmth that you experience listening to a Vinyl record. Few photographers stand out with digital photography as the technology is within the masses’ reach. HDR had its time of glory. As did the bright, airy, and rustic presets. In digital, such looks start with one photographer, and the crowd immediately imitates it. With film, not quite the same. Not easy for the masses to recreate the unique look that a photographer gives to their images. It helps establish a unique style attributed to the photographer leaving her or his signature on every film image. In the film, the color saturation, depth, the grain adds flair to the photos. Each film stock has its unique flair. Yes, there are presets that one can use in digital to give it a film look. But then, presets can never replicate the entire film shooting experience. Only the most trained eye could discern between an image shot on film versus a digital image expertly manipulated with film-look presets on smaller screens.
@jeremyrata Shot on Hasselblad 503CW 50mm F4 Cfi lens - Film: Kodak Ektar 100
4. Therapeutic: Shooting with film is considered and calming. One has to concentrate on a deeper level than taking a picture with a DSLR and consider various factors. A film photographer strives to get the image right in the camera and relies less on post-production. Adding to the therapeutic value is the lack of instant gratification, waiting for the film’s results. We asked our Customers – 90% of those in the 18-25 age group – what attracted them to film photography. Typically, the number one response is ‘the look’ followed by delayed gratification, the mystery of not knowing the result. In the case of black and white film, deciding what chemistry to use as different chemistry allows different results from the same kind of film; it is almost meditative to shoot with film. With digital, while one has to evaluate some of the same variables, a burst mode of shots is possible or relatively affordable and move on to the next. It is not as deliberate of a process as it is with the film. With film, it is like the old saying, “measure twice (or thrice) and cut once.” Even if an app or film preset on digital emulates, the look of the film, where it fails, is in the inability to recreate the process of shooting film photographs. The entire ritual of thinking about what film to use – color or black & white? Then, decide what ISO film to use. Opting for black & white decides what chemistry you will use to develop the film after shooting. Each chemistry combination with film stock gives it a different look—a hands-on affair to get that unique photograph.
@jeremyrata Shot on Rollei 35 f3.5 Carl Zeiss Lens - Film: Ilford XP2 400
5. Making a print from the film is remarkably different from printing a digital image—such prints stand out. You have probably seen them in museums that display old photographic prints. It is not an image printed on a printer like digital images. But, to experience the sheer majesty of a film image, a picture is made from the negative by hand. It is a different kind of craftsmanship dwindling in the digital age. It takes an extensive setup to create a print from a negative. Outside of academic institutions offering film photography courses, few commercial outlets provide it. Yes, smaller-scale darkroom printing can be set up at home using an area with water access nearby, ideally, the bathroom. An enlarger is needed to create prints. The black and white photos are known as ‘true’ black and white prints as they use silver gelatin to create the picture.
@jeremyrata Shot on Rolleiflex 80mm F2.8F - Film: Ilford XP2 400
6. Simplicity: Once upon a time, you needed a proper darkroom setup to develop or process film. That was a luxury for someone pursuing film photography as a passion or a hobby. For one, having space and for another, the required array of equipment and plumbing added to the cost. Those days are gone unless you intend to make analog prints at home. If you are taking the hybrid approach as mentioned below, for about $200, you can put together the necessary equipment and supplies necessary to develop or process 35mm and 120 medium format films. Furthermore, companies like CineStill Film have simplified developing chemistry using chemical resources that were not in existence when film-developing processes were first invented. This has had multiple advantages – simplicity, lower cost, and, perhaps, the biggest advantage being safety (read more about safety on the CineStill Film site).
@jeremyrata Shot on Rolleiflex 80mm f2.8F - Film: Kodak Ektar 100
7. Longevity and cost of film as a medium: Interestingly, film photographers buy older cameras, some over 50 years old. Once such cameras are overhauled (lubricants dry out, and if you don’t get them cleaned, lubricated, and adjusted, it is a matter of time before a mechanical spring breaks), they will last another generation. Consider the longevity of the digital format, where photographers update their cameras every 2-5 years. Another consideration – look at the cost of medium-format digital cameras compared to shooting medium-format film that is scanned. The MF film costs are much lower. Also, film images are captured on a negative. Something tangible. Compare that to the horror stories of someone who had lost all their digital image files due to a hard drive crash. You get the point.
@jeremyrata Shot on Leica iiif 50mm f2 Summitar - Film: Kodax T-Max 400
8. Exclusivity: Well-known photographers are beginning to include film shots as part of their wedding/documentary work. Why? They are exclusive and not within everyone’s reach due to the costs associated with the cost of the film, the shooting, development, digitization (converting the analog image to digital), and printing or having prints made from negatives. So, for Clients wanting the best of everything in life, it is an allure to capture their special moments on film.
@jeremyrata Shot on Rolleiflex 80mm f2.8 - Film: Kodak Portra 160
9. Authentic Look: We are still determining if Covid-19 has had anything to do with this, but the trend is to capture folks as their true selves, which means no airbrushing and no photoshopping, but creating images of folks in genuine form. Folks want the real thing. Not a fantasy or make-believe image. They desire to be captured in a picture of their real persona. The film does this very well in a flattering way. Use a film such as Ilford XP2 400, Kodak Tri-X, or Kodak Portra 160 for a portrait shoot, and you will see what we mean. Be sure to get the roll developed at a professional lab for the best results. Why a professional lab instead of a low-cost option offered by someone down the street? A controlled developing process and better scanning from the pro lab.
@jeremyrata Shot on Rolleiflex 80mm f2.8 - Film: Kodak Ektar 100