As a photographer who uses both film and digital photography, it feels like an age-old question at this point (although the usage of digital photography has only been in common use since the mid-90s). It can come in a few different ways; which is better? Why do you use film at all? Isn’t that too much work?
The thing about photography is that it isn’t about which is better. Photography is a passion. And when there are so many kinds of avenues for photography, that passion can expand into each of those many areas.
For instance, there is a quickness to digital photography that cannot be overstated, when compared to using film. The accessibility is another big checkmark in the favor of digital — while full frame digital cameras aren’t always affordable, everyone has a camera at their fingertips now, which is great for recording everyday life in a way that we have never been able to before.
There’s also the fact that you can delete photos that you don’t like. It gives you the freedom to take as many photos as you want (or as many as your current memory card will allow). All it takes is some time looking through your photos to find your absolute perfect shot. It gives you the chance to be more spontaneous with what you’re photographing.
So, it brings up that question again. Why shoot film, if you can do the same thing with digital, and you don’t have to worry about wasting film?
I won’t say that it’s for everybody. There is a dedication to shooting film photography that isn’t as prevalent with digital. There’s buying the cameras and the film, and then getting the film developed (or doing it yourself) and getting prints. They’re all worth it, when you love film, but they can be scary when you’re used to digital, and the lack of permanence therein.
With film, the shot you take is the one you get. You’ve got to be brave, and trust yourself, and sometimes, it takes more practice. And there’s a tactile aspect to shooting with film that is different from when you shoot with digital. Loading the film, winding for each shot, the snap of the shutter, and much more.
These aspects, combined with the necessary patience it takes to shoot film and find the shots you really want, have personally helped me, especially when it comes to patience. In a roll of 35mm film, you usually have 24 shots to take. If you’re shooting with 120mm, there’s even less than that—between 10 and 12. It’s worth it, and still certainly exciting, just in a different way! With the time between shooting and development, there’s more suspense in finding out how the shoot went.
If this all sounds like too much work, film may simply not be for you. But I’d challenge you to try anyway, even with a disposable camera. There’s a permanence to it, each shot is its own with no possibility of deletion or erasure, that can lead to some very special photographs. I’d urge anyone to try film, if given the opportunity, because you might just find a medium you love.