I made my Back to Film video (above) in 2018 in response to a comment I received an earlier video feature I did 2014 on the subject of Kodachrome (see below).
Set against a slide show of my favourite film photos from 1981 to 2018, I explore the reasons why film is still an important and viable photographic medium.
I urge people to try using film because of its special qualities and because it’s important to gain experience with the old technology if you want to fully experience photography.
I make the important point that it’s not a choice between digital and ‘analog’ (I’m not keen on this word, hence the quotation marks!). In fact the two can be used together. I don’t advocate going back exclusively to film and ditching digital altogether.
A film camera can be an extra means of capturing photographs in addition to your digital cameras.
Here’s the script as well as a selection of the film photos I featured in the video.
I first discovered the power of photography in my final year at university in Dublin, when a friend lent me an Olympus Trip and I went on my first early morning city photoshoot. In the camera was a roll of Kodachrome 64 film. It was a magical experience.
I chose Kodachrome slide film because of its rich colours and fine grain and because I wanted to take more than just snapshots.
inspired by the classic photographers of the past, I wanted to capture the city in all its colours and shades. I became fascinated by the glamour of photography, cameras and the magic of film.
It’s amazing how much detail can be caught within the emulsion of that tiny 36x24mm film transparency.
I continued my photographic journey in New York, where I bought my first camera – a Fujica STX-1 – in a camera shop near Times Square. It cost me 70 dollars.
I started to experiment with exposure and composition. I taught myself photography from this book, the Complete Photographer by Andreas Feininger.
In 2009 Kodachrome ceased production and I made a video about it, featuring this photo. Someone replied and said ‘ Why don’t you try using film again and make a video about it?’. And so in this video I’m going to ask the question:
Is it time to go back to film?
7 reasons to use analogue photography.
And by the way I don’t like the word ‘analogue’.
And so my first reason to use film is…
1 – Film has a special quality.
There is something about the quality of the colours graininess that’s quite different from digital. There are filters that try to emulate film, some digital cameras are designed to look like film cameras, but why not use the real thing?
Reason number 2 – Film and digital work well together.
You can capture on film, scan the film and enhance in digital. I did that for six years before going mainly digital in 2000. It’s fun to transform film images in Photoshop, easy to correct colour casts and there are filters to remove dust and scratches.
3 – You can become a better photographer by using film
Using a film camera encourages discipline, patience and self-confidence. The pleasure of viewing is delayed. There’s no instant gratification. With 12, 24 or 36 frames, each photo is precious.
Reason to use film number 4 – You will set yourself apart from most other photographers.
Your pictures won’t have that ‘digital’ look. And your film camera will attract attention. It’s a talking point. By using a film camera you are helping to keep our photographic heritage alive.
Reason number 5 – Film cameras are inexpensive.
It’s tragic but equipment that used to cost a fortune is now available at a very cheap price. Manchester I went to the Real Camera Company in and got an excellent quality Olympus OM10.
6) You will learn a lot about photography.
You’ll see the aperture, f numbers and the shallow depth of field. The viewfinder is big and bright with split image focusing. You might find loading the film is difficult at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. Taking photographs with a film camera has a purity and simplicity about it and you’ll love the sound of the shutter. I always look at the back of the camera and realise this is a film camera. Today’s digital cameras are a hybrid, they use digital technology to capture and store the images, but everything else is inherited from film.
Reason number 7 – It’s cheap and easy to have the film developed and scanned.
I used a mail order service. The scans are available to download in a day or two. You’ll receive the film strips and prints, which are more secure than images stored on a hard drive.
So is it time to ditch digital and go back to film? No, of course not. Digital is today’s technology. The quality is good, the cost per image is very low.
But if you’re really want to experience photography to the full, then you need to try film. Really it’s just alternative form of image capture and storage.
If you’d like to learn photography, film or digital I’d love to help you. Take a look at my one-to-one tuition, photo walks and other resources. I’m proud to say, many people give them as a present.
So thanks very much for watching and I’ll see you again soon.