I’m an analog lover- record players, film cameras, my vintage Timex wristwatch. Of course I’m not alone- it’s hip to appreciate cute old fashioned do-hickeys. They’re endearing in this modern age of instant knowledge and easy listening.
Film photography is a hobby that has weaved in and out of my life for the past six-ish years or so. The other day I brought a coveted roll of Portra 160 to be developed and what do you know, half of it turned out under exposed, half over exposed, and at least four photos had an inexplicable pink glow cast over them. But a few turned out awesome, and that’s enough for me.
As a millennial, there are 5 main reasons I love using film:
1. The Aesthetic. Film photos are inherently nostalgic. The colors are usually a bit more dreamy, the grain simulates recalling a fuzzy memory, twisted from time. For me, that translates to beauty. No matter what you do to manipulate and perfect digital images, there is something more beautiful and natural about film photos.
2. It forces you to accept imperfection and embrace limitation. In a roll of film you work with a limited number of exposures, usually 24 or 36 and after that you have to take physical action before you can shoot more. That’s incredibly limiting. You can’t be nearly as shutter happy as you can be with digital.
The light and ISO are also limiting factors- a roll of film has one way of accepting light that you have to work within; whereas with digital cameras you can usually work even in the pitch black, which is how astrophotography is possible. Film photography also has limited post-processing options, whereas you can theoretically rework a digital photo all day without ruining its integrity.
In the digital age we have unlimited room for revision. Backspace and delete are almost always options; editing and v2 and v3 are the norm.
Film forces you to you succumb to the medium, to be imperfect and to accept smaller boundaries to work within. It’s relieving, in a way.
3. Whereas digital is about safety in numbers, film is about thinking. Because you are working with finite resources, you are naturally more thoughtful about the shots you take. You think more carefully about the composition, the exposure, the light sources, the story you are telling, because there might just be one shot.
Taking it slower and thinking more creatively upfront allows you to connect more vividly with the surroundings. It draws you into the moment much more powerfully and when you look back at a certain film photo, oftentimes you clearly remember the emotion you had when you took that shot and exactly what you were going for.
Digital photos also have this effect, but I find that compared to scanning through hundreds of similar digital images from the same day shoot, the moment I took the film photo is much more clearly etched into my memory.
4. This brings me to my next point: Slowness. We live in an incredibly fast-paced world where most things are instantly available and impatience is a widespread learned behavior. For the same reason I enjoy walking instead of driving, I relish the time it takes to shoot a roll of film- sometimes over the course of months- and then waiting for it to be developed. That whole process is a lesson in slowness, in taking my time and not demanding instant gratification.
5. Which brings me to: delayed gratification. It’s fun waiting to find out what shots I nailed, which ones turned out like crap, and which ones I totally forgot that I took! The suspense, surprise, and giddiness associated with picking up a developed roll of film is unparalleled in my life.
Nevertheless, film is an expensive and dying breed, and one day I’ll probably give up on this hobby altogether, so I might as well enjoy it while it lasts. I hope you enjoyed my grainy imperfect photos! =]