Last Updated on March 16, 2021
Film photography is gaining in popularity and that doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Other than the fact that it is on the upswing in popularity, there are a number of awesome reasons to shoot in film. In this article I will cover the top benefits to shooting in film. And if you aren’t doing so already, you will definitely want to start today.
Build a Strong Foundation Of Skill
Shooting a film camera is an excellent way to make sure you understand how a camera works and how to use all of its settings the right way. To see the models I recommend shooting with check out the guide for the top 35mm film cameras.
This is a huge benefit as most amateur photographers I meet do not spend enough time learning the basics. And if you read my guide on photography for beginners then you know how important this is. It does not matter what type of photography you shoot, knowing your basics is a must.
Amateurs who do not gain a solid foundation are much more likely to always shoot in full auto mode, which will leave a lot of great shots left un-pictured. Shooting with a film camera is a fun and efficient way to learn everything from ISO settings, to using your aperture, shutter speed adjustments and even the importance of focal length.
Let’s take ISO for example, to choose the right film for your camera you must understand how ISO works. And that is because the film you use determines your ISO speed. And once you choose your film your ISO is set until you finish shooting the entire roll. This will then force you to learn to adjust your shutter speed and aperture to the right settings for your environment and subject.
I love how shooting in film forces you to learn to use your settings and by not having the option to ignore it you will learn much faster.
Take Your Skill To the Next Level
One of the perks of shooting in digital can actually hinder us in raising our skill level. Because we can take so many shots without any negative consequences many amateurs shoot without really thinking about if the shot is worth taking. This leads to a lazy mindset that does not motivate us to improve our eye or our technical skill.
By shooting in film you are forced to be more mindful of each and every shot. This is because you can’t simply take a bunch of pictures and then delete the ones you don’t like (which will be MOST of them). When shooting in film you understand that you have to develop them and that there are a limited number of exposures per film. This has a huge psychological impact and will make you be more intentional with your shots. It has a powerful effect on you that will make you take each shot more seriously thus leading to more consistent good shots and a quicker improvement in skill.
Another psychological effect that helps you be more intentional is that you understand that there is a direct cost to being frivolous with your shots. Shooting in film has a tangible monetary cost to each and every press of the shutter release. When you are aware of this, it makes you much more focused on making the most of each and every shot.
Shooting In Film Can Be Cheaper
Because technology in digital photography has advanced incredibly fast, the cost of getting into film photography is quite low when looking at equipment costs. Second hand film cameras can be found at incredible deals. Even with it’s gaining in popularity it is pretty easy to find a great film camera for a very low investment.
This goes for lenses as well. There are a lot of vintage lenses on the market that perform well that won’t break the bank. Older prime lenses also tend to be built very well meaning they will last you a long time. You can get a ton of shots out of some vintage lenses. Plus, they are just plain fun to shoot with.
One awesome perk to shooting in film is that you can get a full frame model for a fraction of the cost of a digital full frame model. And if you already have lenses for a digital full frame, then there is a good chance that it will fit your film camera as well. And if you do not have a full frame digital camera, then for the low cost of a full frame film model you can see what all the fuss is about without dropping a couple grand on a DSLR.
Because a digital sensor is just a modern adaption of film does not mean it produces superior images. As a matter of fact, film just flat out beats a digital sensor when it comes to image quality. An image sensor is limited by the number of pixels it offers but when shooting film the only limitation is the scanner quality. And scanners almost always offer higher quality than the digital sensor can produce. Film pictures just flat out look awesome!
For the same reasons listed above, film offers superior color quality over that produced via a digital sensor. When shooting with film you do not have to worry about white balance. You will be able to produce vibrant and realistic colors and color contrast.
You Get Better Dynamic Range
When shooting in film you will have more conditions in which you can effectively shoot while still producing great images. Film photography offers superior dynamic range that outpaces that of digital photography.
Film is more Sensitive (In a Good Way)
If you have shot in low light conditions with a DSLR you have had to deal with image grain. This can be a challenge to get your settings right to avoid excess grain but film does a much better job dealing with grain. You will find that even pictures with noise will have a more uniform color and just look smoother than the same image shot in digital. Film just does a better job dealing with this than a digital sensor can.
You Get Physical Photos
How many times have you looked through an old file of images and found great shots that you forgot about? Chances are this happens to you frequently. The downside to the freedom of shooting in digital is that so many great shots go unnoticed and are soon forgotten. But when shooting in film this is less of a problem. As you develop your film you are more likely to display and enjoy the great shots you have captured instead of leaving them languishing on your computer.
Things to look out for
Because you will likely be buying your film photography equipment second hand, it is very important that you test it out in person. While there are tons of great performing options out there, unless you hold it in your hand and check it out there is a chance that you end up with gear that doesn’t work.
I find that the best place to go for film equipment is at a store that specializes in vintage photography. They not only will have the options you are looking for, but they will also have expertise that is incredibly valuable if you are just starting out with film.
You can also find gear at garage and estate sale and even online. The trick hear is knowing enough to tell when you are looking at functional gear. Sometime you will find cameras and lenses at such a great deal that it is worth the gamble, but remember it is a real possibility that you find broken down equipment in these settings.
While some equipment can be repaired by you or a pro, there are some issues and models that just are not worth the cost and effort to get them fixed. That is why it is always better to go to a specialty store if you have one in your area.
And there you have it! There are probably more great benefits that I forgot but as you can see there are tons of benefits to shooting in film. Whether you are a beginner or a veteran who just never shot film, it is a great way to improve your skill behind the lens and it is one of the most fun ways to shoot you will try. So get out there with some film and happy shooting!