Back To Film, Back To Basics

Why shoot film? I've seen this question posted on various photography websites and blogs for a number of years now, and many of these arguments were very well crafted and passionate with sometimes indisputable points for the use of film. I think at this point in time, however, one can argue that there is absolutely no commercial viability to film photography. I feel sorry for the poor but eager soul who pursues the business of weddings, portraiture, advertising or even product photography with a penchant for the smell of darkroom chemicals.
On the other hand, I can go on and on about why I like to use film (from time to time, and just for my own purposes). The one reason, more than any other, that I sometimes prefer to dust off sixty-year old equipment and order supplies from Eastern Europe or somewhere else far away and spend part of a day, at the end of which I may get little or no tangible results, is simple. I love it. 
I will concede that digital photography is wonderful. It's the invention we've all been waiting for, forever. Digital cameras and image editing software have solved many of the problems we photographers have faced for decades, centuries now. It has solved problems we didn't even know where problems! Like film being too grainy. Now we have digital filters to get the grain back! We used to hate film grain.
Digital has completely transformed photography as well as all of the industries surrounding photography and also made it possible for the rest of the world to easily make great images and make them rapidly available for the world to see.
But sometimes, I like a challenge. I also love history. My old 4"x5" Speed Graphic Press camera like they used to use in the movies is full of history. I like how big and bulky the camera feels and how it contains no electronics. I like how it's been perfectly operational for at least five decades with no repairs, ever. It's a bit tricky. Unpredictable. Ugly. And heavy. I must think before I shoot!
But sometimes, I get tired of shooting with a "perfect" digital machine, one that our trusted camera makers have spent years and years and millions and millions of dollars perfecting every circuit and every control button to the point we now argue over how many autofocus points the camera has inside of it. Do I use these cameras? Yes. Do I love them still? Yes. But they do get boring.
I'm not going to preach about the "soul" of film or the quality of the black and white print. Well, maybe that one I will. But, the one thing shooting film forces a photographer to do is to really know the drill and master the basics. It's you the lens, the film, and the speed of light. That's it. There's also something a little thrilling about forming an image onto a chemical substrate (encased in darkness) that you can not preview on a glowing screen on the back of the camera. There's something nearly religious in experience about getting your fingers wet with smelly darkroom chemicals and watching the photograph slowly emerge on wet paper in trays in the dim red/orange light. You get one chance with this one. No edits.
I am happy to conclude that I am thrilled to have both technologies in hand. One is necessary for business, the other balances out the commonplace in today's sophisticated world. I would encourage any serious photographer who has never worked with film to take a chance. Ebay and Craig's List are only one click away.
Tony C.


Tony C.

Photoshop, Digital Imaging & Traditional Photography Instruction

20+ hours
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