Why film?

This is actually a very general question. I am very sure that everyone shoots film for their own personal reasons. So, instead of answering such a vast question, I think it will be a lot more appropriate if I just pen out some of the reasons I shoot with film.

Slowing down the process

I think the main reason why I decided to shoot with film is that I slow down the whole process of photography. The lack of an instant preview of the photo I just took made me more conscious of the things I will need to set beforehand; the composition, the exposure, the film stock that I have loaded, the focus, and most importantly, the story. Don’t get me wrong, all these factors are not exclusive to just shooting film but rather should also be included and thought about when shooting with a digital camera. The fact that shooting film allows you to have less choices forces me to be more conscious of the photographs I have taken.

Not knowing what you got

I can’t say for those who shoot professionally but as an enthusiast of the art, not being so hung up on getting that perfect photo is a relief.  The fact of having no preview of the photos I have taken and no way of finding out whether I nailed the shot started off as nerve wrecking, but it slowly became a relief after a couple of shots. It may seem like a stark contrast of my first point, but I assure you it is related. Putting effort in taking a photo does not ensure the photo is what you imagined or expected when taking it. I am sure, as I take more and more photographs, my ability to predict whether a shot is good will get better. However, as of now, I do enjoy the uncertainty and the vagueness of film photography.

I realize I stop chimping at my photos (which I cannot do with a film camera) and start enjoying the shoot more. I walk around more, looking for photos that I ‘think’ look good. The knowledge I gained from shooting digital does not go in vain as I look for shapes and geometry, harsh light. But yet, I don’t know if the photo will turn out good. It made me realize that at the end of the day it is okay to not be so obsessed about the end result of a photo shooting session, what matters most is the enjoyment and the marvel of the when taking the photo and a good photo is just the cherry on the cake. The whole process taught me that in the world where end results matter, one should go through phases while enjoying making and noting moments in life. That is to me what photography is to an enthusiast.

The entire process of taking a photo

I think the most interesting and maybe daunting element of film photography is that the learning curve is quite steep. When taking photos without a lightmeter, there’s the “Sunny 16” rule for one to estimate the settings needed for the correct exposure. One might also need to take into consideration the characteristics of the film used, some can be pushed 2 stops, some must be taken at the perfect exposure and have no latitude. Some films have beautiful greens and questionable skintones, while others render skin tones that are just perfect.

The real learning is when you start developing your own film. The type of chemical that is used, temperature of the water, how to fix the photos and many more steps. After developing, one will need to scan the photos, or enlarge it using an enlarger, and finally review and print the photos.

In summary, it is a very tedious and complicated process when first learning about it. But the whole process of processing the film makes me more appreciative of my own creation. From the start to finish, from 1st loading the film to printing the photo brings a form of satisfaction that is indescribable. It is meaningful.

I want to be very clear that I still shoot using a digital camera and I do not want to preach hate or instigate a war between film and digital. As much as I think shooting film is fun, I think the same for digital too. Regardless of which medium we use to express and explore ourselves and the things around us, I just want to point out why I shoot film and why I think it will appeal to a lot of photographers.

Abang Duck 🦆