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Using Film

Film is an incredibly interesting medium, although many see it as inferior and old technology in comparison to digital photography, i see it as simply a different way of working. A similar argument can be said for painting, why use oils or acrylics when you can simply paint on a computer or tablet, there you can delete things and make subtle changes to your work as you go. And i feel that the argument for both is the same, it's how i like to work and it allows me to create something that I'm proud of.

For me there are a few benefits that really stick out to me and that's what I'm going to talk about here.

Film IS a lot more versatile than digital, to me you can get a very specific look to an image depending on the film you use, you have to consciously choose the film and thus the "look" that you're going to get with that roll, yes, you can just choose a preset in a digital camera but other than that you have little control. Even between colour (C41) and slide films, although both produce a colour image as the end result, they have very different way of capturing those colours and this can be a key feature. Furthermore, going for an expired colour or slide film can give infinitely different results (the disadvantage of this is that you don't know what that look will necessarily be). For me, i often gravitate towards colour films with more muted tones, such as;

Portra 400:

This film is specifically designed for portrait photography in mind but of course can be used for anything. It's got incredibly latitude as well as accurate colours which is always a bonus as you don't need to go a massive amount of editing to get them right, as this image has no colour corrections on it what so ever yet they all look realistic!

This film also has a very low amount of grain which is something i try to avoid most of the time. With smaller formats such as 35mm it will be more obvious but even then it still holds up.

I primarily use this film for portraits in 120 cameras as i know it can render subjects beautifully. This image is out of focus yet i still think that it captures the mood as i intended it.

Recently i have been looking into shooting Fuji Pro 400H for portraits so this may change.

Fuji Superia 200:

This is a film i used to shoot a lot more regularly when i was starting with my film photography endeavour, although i love this film for its colours and latitude, i found myself leaning towards something even cheaper. I mainly used this film for street photography with the occasional portrait. As it's only available in 35mm that was all i shot, Grain is passable but wouldn't want to blow any of the images from it up bigger than A4. After burning myself out on this film i moved to something different.

Kodak Colorplus 200:

I found this film to be much better for street photography and general documentary photography however does have the tendency to be slightly oversaturated for portraits as well as not having the best latitude. But for a super cheap film it really does the job, can throw it in a camera when i know I'm just going to be walking around snapping away then it doesn't make much difference to me.

Then it gets into the world of slide, I'm relatively new to slide film so will hold off on writing about it because my opinions aren't fully worked yet, from what i've had developed i really like it, but they are often have much richer colours which I'm not as much of a fan of, however this may change with the next few rolls i get developed. As a general overview however, latitude is not brilliant but colour accuracy is next level accurate and they capture something that looks as if you can touch it.

The next big factor for me when it comes to film is price, although many people argue that film is more expensive than digital it's not something i find myself having an issue with. Although in the short term film could be considered more expensive, the price of any digital camera is significantly more than most film cameras, meaning it could take a very long time to reach the price of a digital camera if you were only shooting film. I bulk load (putting a big roll into smaller canisters by hand) Kentmere 400 myself, this drops the price per roll by as much as £1.50 which, if you can be bothered, is a really good saving in the long run. Plus because you know that each image is going to cost you money to develop, you do think about what you're taking much more and I've often come home from photographing with both film and digital where i've shot 36 images on film and 100 or 200 digitally and theres a higher proportion of keepers in the film images. Slowing down and considering if an image is worth spending the money on is a great motivator to making images that you're happier with. PLUS, you can buy a film camera for pennies nowadays! For under £10 you could easily pick up a camera, a couple rolls of film and get them developed! One of the main draws into film photography for me was the fascination with all of the cameras available (as my Instagram demonstrates), and all of them are so different and have their own little quirks!

Another factor would have to be enjoyment/anticipation, not knowing exactly what you're going to get from your roll is one of the most exciting and nail biting experiences there is, if you've got the image then great, i'm sure it looks amazing, but if you missed it then it can be heartbreaking, you waited and considered that image to be captured on a piece of cellulose and to not have it come out really can be a nightmare, especially if it means you have to replan an entire shoot...

Finally, it's the physical aspect. Taking an image that you know is being physically captured is somehow much more satisfying to me than simply capturing one digitally, as when its digital it feels like it's not really there, because in a way it never is and never was. Whereas with film you get to hold the images and moments that you've chosen to capture and they're real and tangible, and you actually feel as if you made something rather than simply freezing a moment with a load of 1s and 0s, each grain of silver nitrate that makes up your image was actually there when you pressed the shutter. For me that makes a world of difference.

In summary, there are hundreds of reasons to shoot film, i've just outlined the reasons that are most important to me. The main thing to note is, that when someone says (and they will) "but why shoot film, digital is so much better", remember that it's a subjective medium, there is no right or wrong, just different ways of working and that's the best part about photography, everything is subjective and as long as there's something motivating you then drown out the noise and focus on it.

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