Why Film Photography is Loved Among Creatives
30 Aug by Peter Lyng
Sometimes it is better to go slow than to go fast. Many creatives are more interested in film photography than digital photography, although film takes time to develop and requires more expertise. So, why are so many creative people choosing film photography in their creative endeavours?
Well, today digital photography is everywhere. Most people have a smartphone with a good camera and many people have thousands of photos on their phone, but does that make them photographers?
Film photography sparks a creative fire in a lot of people because it requires a strong intention. Film photography is an entirely different way to photograph, where you have a limited amount of photos and those will take time to develop before you can see the result. Yes, with an iPhone you can take as many photos as you like and see and share them instantly, but somehow that also diminishes the value of the photo. When you use film, you are forced to take time to think about your photo before you take it, because you only have 36 shots in a roll.
Limitations can boost your creativity.
Many artists, who live very free lives without following a lot of society’s rules, talk about how limitations can boost creativity. It is the same with film photography, which can force you to become more creative and intentional because it is not so easy and quick.
Of course, the aesthetics of vintage cameras also attract creative people who appreciate beautiful design. Not only are the iconic cameras like the Hasselblad 500cm or the Leica M4 amazing cameras that have stood the test of time, but most of the film cameras built half a century ago were made with high-quality materials to last a lifetime.
Tactile & romantic.
Using a film camera is a tactile and romantic experience that is special because it is a mechanical machine, that works without anything digital. You have to load a roll of film, and then shoot each photo often pushing a lever to advance the film for the next photo. After finishing the 36 photos in a standard roll, it will take quite some time to develop them.
When I shoot with a digital camera I always spend half the time looking at the screen on the back to see if the photo was good or not. With a film camera, you can stay in the moment and look at what you are photographing and enjoy the experience. Then after the photos have been developed, perhaps a week later, you will have the pleasure of discovering the printed photographs in their physical form. Because some time has passed, here I often feel quite surprised and proud of my photographs and appreciate them more. It is also nicer to look through a few rolls of photographs than to look through hundreds of digital photos, photographed without many aspirations.
More recent developments like Photoshop and Instagram are also reasons why creatives are attracted to film photography; which is often completely unedited. Of course, these inventions like the digital camera are amazing, but they are becoming so powerful that people start to crave more simplicity and authenticity. Just like how people appreciate craftsmanship and creativity more than fast fashion, or how people are using vinyl records instead of digital files.
History and tradition.
There is a whole history behind a film photography. Every photograph has been developed through a technical chemical process that requires a lot of skill and knowledge to do well. This artistry behind the photograph results in a unique picture you can hold in your hand and keep forever. There is also a lot of history behind film photography which goes back two centuries. Especially, if you think of photography as fine art, the first years of photography are very interesting. Perhaps when you read about photography, you find an artist that you like and you can try using the same camera as them if you like the colours and the style.
Film photography vs Digital photography.
Film photography is not better or worse than digital, it is just different and requires more of the photographer. You can easily mix the two methods because the technology of digital photography is incredible and we should take advantage of both.
You can use your digital camera when you want quick photos and enjoy the convenience of having a great camera on your phone.
Film photography is best when you have a purpose for your photography. For example, you might walk through the streets of your city and enjoy taking street portraits of the people you see. You can equally well use film for a big photography project where you spend days preparing the perfect photo.
Film photography requires intention.
Creatives are attracted to film photography because it forces them to be intentional with their photography and because it allows them to see the world through their own eyes, not through a digital screen.
In every field where people are passionate, a niche emerges where people choose not to do what is easy but to do what feels right. In painting, acrylic paints are easy to use, dry quickly and function on lots of surfaces, they are practical and convenient. Oil paint, however, takes a long time to dry and is more complicated to use. But these limitations are cherished by artists who appreciate the long heritage of oil paint and the advantages of working slowly.
It is the same with people who are passionate about watches, where a digital watch can tell time perfectly and be very cheap. These people would prefer to spend a lot to buy a mechanical watch, made by hand, which is more fragile and slightly inaccurate, but which they consider more beautifully made and a pleasure to wear.
Using film cameras is about taking a step back and enjoying a slower medium of creative expression. It is fine to say that the world is overwhelming and that a bit of authenticity would be welcomed.
Film photography makes it possible to be intentional and to take pleasure in the beautiful process of photography and, in the end, to be more raw and authentic.
To learn more about how to use your camera, check out our Photography for Beginners Certificate.