Why I love film

Today’s blog post comes from Bellamy Hunt, AKA Japan Camera Hunter. Be sure to check out the end of the post for a Film Friday giveaway!

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Why do you love film? This is a question I get asked a lot. Maybe it is because of what I do, but people always seem to want to hear a different answer. But in reality, there is no special answer other than the one that I always have felt. Let me try and explain it to you.

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I can vividly remember my first forays into photography, when I was a very small boy and I had a Kodak Instamatic camera which my mother gave me. I didn’t really have the first idea of what I was doing, but I enjoyed doing it, taking pictures.

As I got older my enjoyment of photography grew. I studied the process at college, I worked professionally in a studio using film, I did events and tons of personal projects using film. Which is what we all did, as there was no other way.

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When digital came on to the scene I thought it was a godsend. I could spend more time taking pictures, and I could edit the ones I didn’t like. But all was not good in happy valley. Whilst I enjoyed the convenience and the speed of using a digital camera, I found the images lacking something…they were too clinical. I also found myself becoming lazy, slipping. I would spray and pray, and continuously chimp to check images. This was not what I had trained to do, I should have been trusting my skills.

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So, I made the decision to switch back to film. It wasn’t a hard decision. I was working for a camera supply company so I was no longer in need of pro digital cameras, as I could rent them if needed. I sold my digital cameras for a pittance compared to what I had paid for them less than 2 years previously. And for that pittance I was able to buy myself a film camera that I had dreamed of owning as a teenager.

For me, film gives me the opportunity to present the world as I see it, with all of the flaws and the mistakes. The world is not a perfect place and I don’t take perfect pictures. I don’t want my images to be razor sharp every single time. With digital I strived for consistency, with film I revel in the inconsistency. Film has also pushed me back into being creative again. I am more thoughtful and aware of how and why I shoot. I mentally prepare projects and compositions in my head, as I don’t want to waste film or opportunities.

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Added to that I am a borderline luddite, with a dash of chemistry geek and a full dose of tactile process nerd. So film photography for me is the logical conclusion of my personality. I love the idea of allowing just the right amount of light to react with chemicals on a strip of plastic to create an image that is indelible. A single frame, frozen in time that will probably be around long after I am gone. Tell that to my hard drives (two of which I have lost in the last two years alone), I still have the negatives from that Kodak Instamatic.

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I mentioned in previous articles too that shooting with film gives me time. Everything in the modern world is so frenetic, it seems to come at you from all directions, a bombardment of information. Running JCH takes up a huge amount of my time (not that I am complaining, I love it). But when I go out and shoot I can disconnect myself from everything for the briefest period and take the time to calm down and enjoy the little things. Watching people, human comedy and the barely contained chaos that is a big city. I have no rush to see my images, no sense of urgency for a result. I don’t need to feel validation by running home and uploading 150 images to Flickr or whatever. This gives me a sense of balance. Getting my negatives back and checking them is something I can do on a quiet evening with a nice cup of tea on standby.

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But it is not just that. It is the look. Sure you can get filters and plugins now so that you can make your digital images look like a certain emulsion, but it is just not the same as the real thing. Because the real thing comes out that way, without having to change anything. And this is not about the megapixels or resolution or whatever. This is about the imperfect nature that is film. The slight uncertainty and the unique minute imperfections that make it such a pleasure to use.

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So why do I love film? Because film is like love itself. It is imperfect, irrational, sometimes frustrating and almost impossible to rationalize, but when it works it feels fantastic and keeps me coming back for more.

My favourite Kodak film? There is a constant, which has been a film I have come back to over and over again, that one is Tri-X. It is so perfectly balanced and easy to use, you just cannot fail with a roll of tri-x. I hope it lives forever.

JCH

http://www.japancamerahunter.com

photo

Film Friday Giveaway!

To make Film Friday even more fun, JCH has generously offered a selection of his film cases for a giveaway. These cases were designed by JCH after months of development and testing. They are made from a durable and tough plastic that will keep your film safe from the elements including light.

There will be two prize packages… each with

- One black and one white 135 film case

- One black and one white 120 film case

- A selection of Kodak film

To enter just leave a comment on this blog post explaining why you shoot film. We will randomly choose two winners by 2pm EST on Monday, March 17. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments form so we can contact you if you win. It won’t be seen by others. Good luck!

190 thoughts on “Why I love film

  1. I shoot film because I can. It’s as simple as that. I am old enough to have started photographing on film, I got into digital photography naturally but I soon picked up shooting on film again to a point where I shoot at least as much on film as digital. I always achieved good results on film and some of these results cannot be easily achieved with a digital camera – even considering filters and editing software. While many people are content with having their photographic process stop after having their negatives/positives scanned, there is one thing you cannot get from a digital file: a true black&white photographic print developed in the darkroom on quality paper. Sure, you can print a digital file with a myriad of printers, but none of these prints will compare to a darkroom print and all of these prints will be identical like clones. If you want a unique print, you need to have a negative. That’s why I shoot film.

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  2. It’s too easy to spend a long time editing a digital photograph until the levels and colours are perfect. With film, the colours are part of the film’s personality. The photograph is made when the shutter is released, not when the image is edited on a computer.

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  3. Hello,
    I started to shooting with film 6 years ago. There I was 9 years old and felt in love with an old Voigtländer. During the last 6 years I shoot mostly landscapes. But since I got my dream camera, a Rolleiflex, I shoot more and more “street-portraits”. I don´t know why, but I love to shoot “street-portraits” with a film camera, becaus the people be a moment another or a diffrent person and be (mostly) verry friendly too, wehn they see this camera and that´s the moments I love. It is also great to devolop the filmes at home and do my own prints and I don´t need a computer. Verry fascinating are the many diffrent kind of films and there special look.

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  4. I shoot film because I enjoy the idea of something always being in existence, always being a tangible object. There’s something romantic about the image that you see through the lens, from the time you press that shutter release, always being ‘something’, not just a bunch of zeros and ones. Being a young one, I’m growing tired of the digital world and look forward to abandoning it as much as possible when I’m first able to. Without the digital technology in modern cameras, life seems to move a little slower. Everything is more precious because you’re aware of how fragile it is and how you only have 36 shots on the roll and that’s it. It’s always there to see and to hold and to know that you did it, whether it’s bad or it’s good, it’s your work and always will be. I shoot film because existence-from real life to glossy print-is everything that it needs to be. No pixels. Just ISO.

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  5. The reason I love film is easy. I guess you could say that it adds a human element to photography. Like Bellamy said film is an imperfect thing and it doesn’t always react the way you want it to. Taking pictures in film gives me one of the biggest joys, which is getting a roll back with some prints. Passing the prints around with the family and choosing the ones we like and reminisce about when or where we took that picture. I don’t really get that with digital, I take a hundred pictures, put them in a hard drive and forget about them never to be seen the light of day. Film allows me to be part of the moment not just the guy checking a screen smaller than my phone every time I take a picture.

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  6. I shoot film because I want a different experience to digital. Film slows down that impulse to capture everything and helps me focus on finding something really expressive. I also shoot film because I enjoy the materiality of film cameras. There’s a real joy in finely made mechanical things. And for the same reason shooting film is a real, exposed, material process. Nothing’s hidden.

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  7. I love film because of its simplicity as well as its flaws. It slows me down; makes me think and visualize my shot before I press on the shutter. It makes me see light and shadows in a different way. I love film because of its romantic and rugged feel at times. I love the dynamic range and the tonality of both color and black and white film; they are perfect for my type of shooting. Film helps me capture what’s in front of me in an authentic way. Its limitations and imperfections might bother some, but I see those as a challenge and the results are usually surprising. I love film and I love film cameras. They make me enjoy photography in a different way and I will keep shooting film until it disappears; hopefully not before I do. Long live film.
    Tom

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  8. I shoot film so that I keep in the moment and come back to my images with a fresh mind after they have been developed. I find Trying to photo edit on the back of a camera is a sure fire way to miss the moment.

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  9. Film is romantic. Film is old world charm. Film is allowing yourself to make mistakes while the medium forgives you. Film is a reality check. Film is easy. Film is difficult. Film is fantasy, hopes and dreams. That sturdy Om2 you always wanted as a kid, being able to justify hoarding film and the magic of winding every shot is something digital can never compete with.

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  10. I love films look. It’s a totally different texture. Like a painting … You see what a person looks or looked like but the paint/texture give it a different feeling than say a digital image.

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  11. photography itself is an enjoyable things to do for me. as many people nowadays, early experience was with a digital camera. then I remember that My father had a SLR back then, asked him whether I can have them, then shot rolls of film. it was an automatic film cameras with aperture priority and such, the result were ok, we can enjoy the pictures, but something about the color which makes me loving more of films. it is not as clear, as vivid, as true as the digital but it really makes my eyes happily gazed through them. then something about black and white pictures that makes my eyes dance like jazz dancers. those blacks and whites are just stunning.. and then with film inside the camera, you cannot see the result right after the shot has been taken. it makes more interesting! so that is why I shoot films, I need to get my eyes dance like jazz dancers, my eyes need more ‘refreshment’ through the tones as well as expecting something through the rolls!

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  12. i shoot film cause it’s simply the bestway to preserve a moment in time.afterall that is waht a photograp is a moment captured for the eternity. plus it helps alot that every single emulsion has it’s own characteristics. I LOVE FILM

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  13. Man I love film. I have to agree with almost every word. Great article. I just started a job at a studio shooting family and portraits and here digital is a godsend. But it is hard and lacks soul. Film is pure soul. For my personal, paid (private) and fine art work I need soul and character. If I’m going to put it up for exhibition, or ask people to part with their hard earned cash, or trust me with an advertising campaign, it has to be film. It has to have soul and love and magic. I often refer to film as magic. I really feel like that.

    I shoot film because our vision matters and the emotions and moments we want to capture are transient. But I want them to live forever. I want them to sit in the room with me, not as ones and zeros, but as physical negatives, nestled away in a folder right next to me as I work.

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  14. I shoot film because now it is the best time for doing this: you can get good film cameras and lenses quite cheap, film is still available (and hope it continue to be here), there are lots of information on internet how to deal with the film. I do not see any obstacles why not to shoot film :)

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  15. I’m 61 years old. I fell in love with photography, I guess, when I was 12 years, when film was the only medium available then (no digital devices yet then). Specifically, I fell in love with an uncle’s Pentax Spotmatic, which just came out in the market. At that age, I also fell in love with a much older friend’s Nikon FTn. I guess my obsession with photography sprouted from my love of cameras. Film just followed naturally.

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  16. The sound of the shutter and the advance lever is what makes shooting film so fascinating. When shooting film, you look through your optical viewfinder and see your subject and wait for “THE” moment, yet before you press the shutter you just smile. This small smile is what renders shooting film so captivating. It is as if its your way of telling yourself that what you have just done is capture a moment forever.
    Beside this small mechanical love affair comes the outcome. And oh-my! doesn’t film deliver. The color that each roll of film produces and how distinctive it is from other rolls is what makes it so unique. This not only applies to color but to black and white as well. But what renders the colors so beautiful in all films is the contrast between each color. Colors become so clear and charming. Photographs aren’t so charming if it weren’t for Grain. Grain is what gives appeal and texture to pictures.
    Film is such technical form of taking photographs that it takes you away from your day to day problems and brings you joy and happiness. Now it is possible sometimes that the film you are using goes blank, you will end up not seeing any of the 36 photographs you took. You might get frustrated and a bit angry, but this only makes you more and more captivated into the beautiful world of FILM.

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  17. I love shooting film because it brings you back to the essence of photography. You need to take more care of the ligth, the event that you are gonna shoot. I love the smell of revelator and i feel like a kid when i am in a darkroom.

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  18. I did that journey myself, started doing all the process on film and later saw digital as a giant leap. The problem was the tool I though was going to give me more time to shoot, at the end started taking the magic out of the whole process, there was no more walking, analyzing, looking for the right light. That was gone, and I ended up missing that. I turned back to film 5 years ago, getting my hands on all sorts of different films and formats as i could and that feeling of receiving your prints back from the lab and later on coming back to making my own prints is by far the best.
    The great thing is it now something I can share with my kid, even if he’s born into digital world, he’s learning how to take his time and enjoy “saving memories” on film…

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  19. I love shooting film because it makes you slow down and think about the shot. It also makes you think more about the settings you need so you get the exposer you want. Then when the film is finally developed you get to see how you pics turned out which can be a guessing game.

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  20. I have been shooting for 11 years now, 9 of which have been digital. I have only come back to film over the last 2 years. The best part about digital has been the instant gratification and because of that it has greatly contributed to who I am as a photographer today. Having said that, film has made the ENTIRE photographic process gratifying. Not just the outcome of the final product, but even from the time I load the film, to the care, thought, and technicalities put into creating the image, the waiting (especially the waiting), and finally seeing the completed image. In an ‘instant-gratification-world’, shooting film has awakened within me two things we all have but a lot of us have somehow set aside: The beauty of patience, and the burning desire to work harder for better results.

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