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!

181 thoughts on “Why I love film

  1. …”because I like it”… I couldn’t agree more. And, since I am not a professional photographer, and time is not an issue, I tend to do it in my on pace… and I enjoy the process. Every single moment of it!

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  2. Great post! Totally agree, you’ve summed up how I feel about using film! And as it’s been a while you’ve sparked me into action to dig out some rolls of Tri-x and get out there and shoot!

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  3. Your post describes partly what I feel, too. But to me, there’s also the fascination of doing something purely physical. We’re living in a world of bits and bytes, and every single day something that has endured for centuries is replaced by some digitalized form of it. So shooting film is not only a contemplative act of taking pictures, it is – at least partially – some form of conserving history.

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  4. I would say that I share similar views on why I use film. I love shooting film because the film negatives are something that feels tangible. It is a piece of my memories and experiences in physical form. Every photo, whether they were composed well or composed poorly, is a piece of my past. Plus, I don’t have to worry about keeping multiple hard drive backups of my photos just to make sure that I do not lose them from data corruption. As long as they’re kept in great condition, they can always be rescanned. Also, as a research science student, I thoroughly enjoy the developing aspect of film (color and b&w). I can continue being my scientist self when I am at home developing color film and b&w film with all sorts of the same supplies that I use in the research lab.

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  5. Lovely article! I had a quite similar experience and am increasingly reverting to film. I love the rendering right out of the camera, the more contemplative process – and particularly the defined limits of 10 (medium format) or 36 frames to shoot with. Please keep on producing those films, Kodak – especially TriX and Portra, which I’ve become a big fan of!

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  6. I use my film cameras so i can enjoy myself when out and about, and focus on what’s happening around me rather than what ISO/Aperture/Shutter i have and how sharp it looks on the lcd :)

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  7. I didn’t realise what I’d lost until I came back to film. It was like coming home to something warm and familiar. Film gives you permission to slow down and is completely absorbing. There is no digital equivalent to beautifully made mechanical cameras – loading up a new roll of film is always a joy, an act of intent that feels as natural as shaving or making coffee. The Scottish winter weather has curbed my photography recently but last week I managed to spend a sunny afternoon out and about with my Pentax 6×7. I went through one and a half rolls of Ektar 100 – 15 frames – and felt very happy indeed. Love this time of the year.

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  8. I got a M6 3 years ago. Since i havend touched my digital SLR anymore. I dont need to see every image immediatly. The way to take a picture isnt the same. The colors are just not comparable. I like the grain and didnt need the clinical high resolution. With a good Portra inside the leica even larger prints are no problem. When I show some pictures, people mostly dont care about digital vs. analog. Its just about whats in the picture. Even then some ask why these pictures always have a more natural look compared to clinical digital pictures hanging next to it. Thats just film.

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  9. My grandfather was a DOP, film was a bond between us.
    when he passed, he left behind his camera, loaded.
    I’m still waiting the right time to develop that roll.

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  10. It forces me to be creative, to concentrate on the whole process of making a nice photograph…
    It forces me to be selective, not just to snap away…
    It forces me to smell the chemicals…
    It brings me peace!

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  11. I’m certainly not against mp3’s, soft synths or digital camera’s. But there’s nothing like playing records, patching a modular synthesizer or shooting film. People are analogue too.

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  12. Allways nice to read passionate experience with film! I’m addicted to kadak film too and hope it will last for ever. Darkroom experience is something you will never get from “lightroom” !

    Keep on this good job for the film comunity!

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  13. I shoot because I want to not only remember times, days, friends and places but because I enjoy the creativity of it. I shoot film in particular because nothing comes close to giving me the satisfaction of the wait for negatives to give up their secrets. I compare digital to having unwrapped presents, it’s still nice but has no magic and mystery. Digital for me maps an inmage, film captures the imperfections and within those imperfections is life. It’s sometimes grainy, sometimes leaky and sometimes out of focus but I love it.

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  14. I shoot film because:
    – It forces me to slow down
    – I love the feeling of anticipation when the film develops
    – It gives my photos this special feeling of timelessness that digital photography definitely lacks

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  15. I’ve grown up with film. I’ve learned photography based on film. I learned to create black & white prints using film. Then I entered a period were my creativity was blocked, the images in my head appeared to be other people’s… the nights spent in the darkroom seemed to get me too little too slow. Getting my Nikon F3 stolen was just the last bit.

    Fast forward a couple of years, having kids & stuff. Taking pictures again.

    Trying out digital but hating it. Automatic, autofocus, fiddling with plastic wheels. For me a lot of creating photographs is about how it feels to use the necessary tools. Nowadays beautiful, sturdy, well designed gear is now affordable and even cheap. I currently shoot with an Nikon F2 Photomic, a backup FT2 and an Zenza Bronica ETRSi (645).
    Full manual mode is for me. Using film is for me, I get the results I want. Using film is easy, if necessary I shoot Tri-X 400 @3200 in my ETRSi with practically no penalty on grain and quality. The excellent Portra family of film processed and scanned by FINDLab, USA delivers.

    Now I can look for what I want to experiment to.

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  16. There is no reason for me not to use film. I don’t do commercial shooting, I have all the time I want. And time is really important for a good picture to emerge …. with film, it is easy to look at your pictures days, weeks, even months sometimes after you took them … and you need this distance from your photos to truly recognise the best ones, the ones worth keeping, or the ones fitting into your concept.
    Also with film you don’t chimp at your screen, so you are more easily in “flow” when shooting. I find chimping to be very distracting and unhelpful.

    Of course I also like the character of film, but this can be emulated in photoshop so nowadays it is hard to recognise a film photo/digital photo, expecially when viewing on screen, so it’s not the most important aspect to me.

    On the other hand, the availability of great cameras is a plus for film … I just want to shoot with a real camera and not some consumer level electronic device. Many great film cameras have no substitute in the digital world (Contax T, G line) or are just too expensive. (digital Leicas).

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  17. I shoot film cause it feels right. I shot so much of it in school and then when digital came round I wasn’t even really taking pictures. I had moved on. When I returned to making pictures again I naturally picked up a digital camera. Why would you buy a film camera in the current era right? Wrong… It never felt right. I waved the thing haphazardly at anything clicking as many images as I liked with no consequence or financial outlay. Too many things in the world have been ‘improved’ by technology and the original ways are lost forever. I shoot film because it feels right for me.

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  18. I totally agree. I’m only 18.. but when I shot my first roll of film 2 years ago I fell in love instantly. The depth and sharpness of fiom goes beyond the digital files. Film has soul, and with every picture you take, you expose a little bit of yourself.

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  19. It’s the tactile pleasures for me! Film cameras seem sturdier, more mechanical – from the lovely clack of the mirror, to the ratchety winding-on of the film advance – those are the elements I really do enjoy, when using film cameras. Digital doesn’t come close, sadly!

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  20. Great article!!! I am fairly new to photography and was totally dedicated to digital photography. I decided to try film and just love it! Am now looking into developing film myself. “Film is like love itself” So true!

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  21. My first contact with photography was already in the digital era. When I started to get more serious about it, I felt I needed to shoot with film and a mechanical camera so I could put into each photograph a good dose of thinking, to leave behind all the vices that digital and its instant gratification make us acquire.

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  22. Because film is organic, my mental said part of the world are captured in the film, not only light, but also dust, radiation, chemical, basically everything in the scene !
    Film is not tack sharp and clean as digital, but film result are more similar with memories inside my brain, u know, like your dreams, pleasing color.

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  23. For me, shooting film isn’t about the nostalgia or the “look” it gives me. It’s a way to connect with my parents, mainly my father. I started out with digital cameras and then played with some toy film cameras, but then I inherited my father’s camera, a Canon T50. I’m committed to shooting with it because I realize I’m doing exactly what he did, looking through the same viewfinder and focusing on my kids just like how he had focused on my sister and me. I’m truly thankful that film is still around, albeit harder to find processing, so I can share this experience with him.

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  24. Photography is for me a rather melancholic endeavour by its very nature, being an illusive attempt at preserving fleeing instants. Naturally, our memories would lose more and more fine details with passing time, retaining only the contours of things, along with impressions and moods that yet may still feel vivid and tangible after decades. I want my photography to do the same, and I find my gritty images on coarse grain film just perfect for that.

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  25. For me film is about the shooting experience. When you take a picture, you know it will look as good as the effort you put into making it, you know you did the most you could to get it right. You can’t check and delete it if you don’t like it.

    There could be no other oppportunity to reshoot, so this is it, you have to get it right. This makes you focus more on the picture, and less on the camera. And what is photography if not the picture?

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  26. I love film because, even though I’m in my 40’s I started with it. I continued to use it through the early digital era and even to present time. So, even now, I still have more years of film experience than digital and that makes me smile. Digital is what is now with photography but to have film still available is great and i make sure to use all my film cameras from that era. It’s great to pull out my Canon A1 or Olympus Stylus Epic and run a roll through it. I do it often. Hey, i’ve even bought/added numerous film camera recently and they get rolls too. Film keeps these millions of film cameras able to be used. People have them and they’re great…might as well use ‘em.
    Film is i fighter and I like to support that – and to add years to my film experience as the digital years also get added on.

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  27. The biggest reasons for me to shoot film are the tactile, physical nature of the process (loading rolls, rewinding the film with a winder, loading film onto the developing spool etc) and the slower, analogue feel it has. After spending all day at work on a computer, using a smartphone and so on, it’s refreshing to stare not at another screen but rather through a bright optical viewfinder!

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  28. My two reasons for shooting film is that it allows me to carry around a light load with a fairly unobtrusive camera yet still retaining a full 35mm frame.

    Film to me is also a very spiritual thing as you find you invite yourself into other peoples lives with your camera, a piece of them is transferred onto the emulsion. It’s simply a glorious process. The wet prints will also outlast my lifetime which I find boggling and hope to leave an impression of my times for family in the future.

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  29. WHY I LOVE FILM BY OLYBACKER

    Some years ago I realised that it is the whole craft of film-based photography that I enjoy, even down to washing prints, and – especially – that moment when you know that YOU have got it ‘right’. Not the computer, not the processing engine, the firmware or software, but you – the photographer – have created the final result.

    Then there is the look. For most of my childhood, the media that I saw was monochrome. TV was black & white and most newspapers & magazines carried a majority of monochrome photographic illustration. There was colour and increasingly so as the years passed. Even as recently as thirty years ago, it looked primitive compared to the 1990s but in both eras, colour film imaging had its own special character, usually related to the specific film & its manufacturer. Different digital sensors & memory cards do not really offer that; it mostly has to be added by firmware if not also by computer & software.

    I think I have a certain visual indoctrination & expectation (culture, if you will) of the photographic image that is less detailed, more or less grainy and has a certain type of fall-off in detail, either side of plane of focus, when compared to the super-sharp, super-bokehed or super-detailed images of the last five years. Images from film, a lot of the time, seem more visually true to me than the extremely sharp, grainless digital image.

    Finally, the anticipation and hopes, expectations, the fears even, that come pre-installed ;-) with every new packet of printing paper and every roll of film, especially that ten-pack in crisp, clear cellophane, are completely absent from new memory cards, let alone re-used, re-formatted ones.

    That is why I love and still use film!

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  30. Because it is so tangible and has so many dimensions. I love the smell and the feel of film. I love the unpredictability and the happy accidents. I love the sound of my film camera. Everything. :) <3

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  31. I shoot film and digital, but the thing I love about film is the imperfections. Film also seems to hold more sentiment, I have started to exclusively shoot my family shots with film and when looking back comparing the digital images with the film of my family, the film seems to hold more emotion and means a lot more to me, almost like the film image transports me back to when I made the image.

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  32. Film is honest.
    Film is eternal.
    Film brings out the best in us.
    Film is demanding.
    Film is delayed gratification. Like seeing the image you forgot you shot, and responding like it is a gift from on high.
    Film, in color, is better color than bits can ever produce. Saturation. Flesh tones. All superior on film.
    My film images don’t need adjusting. Actually saves time on editing.
    Film is selective. Who needs 300 shots when 1 will do?
    And the accidental double exposure, which, theoretically, in impossible. But they happen! And sometimes, it’s genius.
    Film is perfect, perfect, perfect mid tones.
    Batteries not included!
    Film is beautiful.

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  33. I love film for the only reason that it is what film cameras eat… It seems stupid but I never could establish any strong bond with any digital camera (though the Epson R-D1 may be a special case, just maybe). And when there’s that bond between me and a camera, then it just magically disappears leaving me in face of reality. So if film is instrumental in that kind of epiphany, so be it, let’s love film!

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  34. Shooting film is a life style, you have to care of every single thing you do, from choosing the film to choosing the camera, depending on the light, depending on the mood. At least this is for me, just about a better way of doing what I like.

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  35. I love the fact that film slows me down. 36 shots as opposed to 2000 on a card. No fluff shots, no quick grabs. Every shot is thought through, and intentional. There is also the anticipation of waiting a day for the film. It’s thrilling, I get giddy on the way to the lab… I know good things are on their way. Ektar 100 and triX, there just isn’t a better pair of films anywhere.

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  36. Film makes me slow down and take shots carefully, one at a time. Shooting digitally, I feel like I’m taking shots with a machine gun and sorting through the pile to find a good shot. I always seem to have more keepers on a roll of 24 shots than on a memory card with a 100 shots.

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  37. Because in the digital age, everyone’s obsessed with sharpness and resolution. And here’s what the master has to say..
    “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”-Ansel Adams

    Love how light wraps around my subject giving them a soft glow when captured on film
    Love how much depth and tonality film has
    Love how forgiving film is when I expose way over with it’s large latitude
    Love how I learn to trust my own eyes and vision instead of the LCD screen

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  38. Film is the experience of the light, the experience of our time over the time itself. Using film we are attempting time, space and memories, we are touching us with our intentions, with our believes…

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  39. I shoot film firstly because I deeply enjoy the results and secondly because it allows me to use all those wonderful technical marvels called film cameras!

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  40. Because it’s beautiful. Because I love all about it – physicality, it’s smell, loading and unloading, processing and all the rest. And of cause it’s look.

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  41. There is no lie, I love the way vintage things look. It just works for me, I get lost in any flea market. I started with digital and got hooked up into photography, so it was just a matter of time until I would start to shoot film. At first it wasn’t even about the process, enjoying pure photography or challenge my skills, I just loved the way film prints looked and I wanted to make my own. But after starting to shoot film, trying to develop at home for the first time, something struck me about it, in fact you have to think that most of the iconic photos of the human history taken so far were done like this, and you can empathise with how difficult it was to shoot film and the skill required to make every print worth it. I have to say that today I totally agree with your last sentence of why we shoot film.

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  42. Because I don’t like to care about secondary problems. I don’t wan’t to get excited about gear news, but focus on developing my own abilities – not equipment’s.

    Keep it compact
    , keep it slow
    , keep it light
    , keep it cheap
    , keep it choiceless
    , keep it real.

    Cheers
    Kacper

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  43. Because of everything around it and itself, i love the beautiful cameras of the past, the different emulsions with their unique looks as well as the fact that you do something with your hands. I just really enjoy it.

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  44. Film has soul. Its reactions are physical and non-changing. It does not give me many chances to capture the moments I seek, yet it is forgiving. Have faith, have film. Have no fear!

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