The notion of film doesn't warrant even as much as a fleeting thought for the majority of photographers around the globe these days. And, seriously, why would any photo enthusiast, photo artist or professional photographer want to dabble in film anyway? It's more expensive than it's ever been and that's just to mention the $5 cost of a little canister of sprocketed polyester.
Add to that the $15 going rate to process and print a roll of 24 frames, an extra $3 to burn the images onto a CD for later digital work and archiving, and the added cost of gasoline to physically bring in the roll, compared to simply uploading digital images.
Yup, and then there are the other hassles associated with the use of film in the year 2015. If you are a photographer who has a history with film, but haven't used it in years, you'll probably be surprised to learn how few options to process exist currently. Most grocery, department, drug and warehouse stores that routinely processed film in the past no longer handle the stuff. The few remaining shops that still run film in most larger cities have generally reduced their film service to a once-per-week schedule. Your only other option is to send your film by post to a mail order lab that may take up to a few weeks to turn your work around.
Well, despite all of these disadvantages, you just might want to drag out your old SLR camera (or your medium format Hasselblad, Leica, Bronica or Rollei), dust it off and consider loading it if for nothing other than a trip down memory lane. If photography really does run in your veins, though, chances are you'll find the experience extremely enjoyable, liberating and, well, downright fun! It may even make you appreciate both the traditional format as well as digital with new eyes.
Stephen Kristof, one of the writer-photographers and the Director of Creative Content for FreePhotocourse.com recently revisited film and found the experience to be uplifting and challenging. It also took him back to his photographic roots and reminded him of the reasons that he was and continues to be passionate about the art. "In my role as a photo and media educator (another hat I wear), I routinely introduce the concept of manual exposure to my photography newbies by having them shoot projects using 35mm film and completely manual SLR cameras, like the hard-to-beat Pentax's vintage Pentax K-1000 or Spotmatic F models and Canon's legendary AE-1. Interestingly, although I've been loading over a dozen cameras with film every few months for the last - well - many more years than I'm willing to count, I have not personally photographed with film in several years."
Kristof went on to explain that, just for the heck of it, he decided to shoot the rest of a roll of film that was unused and that had been sitting in one of his cameras for who knows how long. The result was not quite what he expected, even though he evaluates 35mm images on a regular basis. He said that looking at the digital scans and prints after processing revealed the staggering difference between film and digital; something he had not considered for quite a while. The film treated light differently, producing greater contrast and latitude than he was used to. He was also surprised at how grainy the images were; even with a relatively low 200 ISO film. The pictures looked like they were photographed a few decades ago. It wasn't that they were worse; just different and a bit retro. The colors were in some ways truer to memory. And the clarity seemed more believable than digital's often 'off-the-map HD technical' appearance.
He discovered something else. "The intense feeling and emotions that flooded through me when I held that old camera and began to press the shutter came out of the blue and brought me back to my high school days, when I shot a lot of the pictures for my school's yearbook. I began to remember all sorts of things that I had long forgotten and many of them had to do with what I initially felt was special about photography. A huge part of it was the anticipation of what processing would reveal. Whether I was in the darkroom watching the images appear in the developing pan or simply going to the photo shop to pick up prints from my roll of C-41 film, the anticipation of the unknown was fun, a bit scary (especially if it was an important photo session) and was ALWAYS something I would look forward to!"
The digital world is responsible for the loss of that special feeling; the anticipation is gone. In a way, photographing with a digital camera is a bit of a let down, because you know the results almost immediately; the rest of what's to come is simply editing in Photoshop or Lightroom and if you have a lot of images to get through, that can seem more like work than play.
In the final analysis, film is more grainy than today's top cameras. ISO 200 film will produce quite a bit more grain than a good digital camera will at ISO 1600. Film provides far less resolution than today's digital sensor chips can produce. It looks different. Film can produce images that look a bit vintage. But, on the other hand, film is still interesting to work with, it continues to lend itself to unique artistic expression and it certainly isn't rushed. And, best of all, you just can't beat that feeling of positive anticipation; it's why many of us got into photography in the first place.
Perspective on Photography is FreePhotoCourse.com's official Blog. This is where you can find updates, stories, news, links to photo "finds" and more from FreePhotoCourse's contributing photographers and writers.