7 Reasons to return to film photography.

A quick look on eBay will reveal thousands of low use, high quality film cameras for incredibly low prices. It is perhaps the best time ever to buy a film camera, but why would you want to go back to film when today’s digital cameras produce such stunning images. Well, here are some reasons.

The Look of Film.

Many photographers today spend huge amounts of camera time and post processing time to try and recreate the film look. There is a definite and pleasing look to the quality of film, it’s impossible to describe with mere words and it’s not necessarily a better look than digital, its just different. So the easiest way to create the film look?  Use a film camera.

The Feel of Film

Maybe it sounds a little crazy, but those of us brought up in the days of Kodak, Fuji, Agfa and Ilford will tell you there is something very special about putting your hands into your pocket and pulling out a roll of film. Placing the leader of a roll of 35mm into a Nikon, unwrapping a roll of 120, whilst trying not to expose too much of the film to light, simple skills that marked you as a photographer.

The Cost

It might seem odd that I include the cost as a reason to return to film but bear with me on this one. Every time you put a roll of film in your camera, it has cost you money. That cost continues with the development and printing. Every time you take a poor picture, it has cost you, personally. But the counterpoint to that is that every time you a good picture, you will appreciate the value of your knowledge of photography. It’s too easy these days to rely on the camera to create the image. Delete the poor ones keep the good ones. When you have to pay for each image, you will learn to make each one count, and that will stand you in good stead when you return to your DSLR.

Learning to Understand Exposure.

The previous reason, leads us onto learning exposure. Although film is generally regarded to have a higher tonal range than digital, is has a lower tolerance to incorrect exposure, especially if you are using transparency. An underexposed image cannot be recovered by merely shifting the levels, it needs to be right when the shutter clicks and you need to understand what is happening when the exposure is made.

Understanding Color Temperature

Unlike a digital camera where you can set a color balance or let the camera do it automatically, you have to buy the right type of film for the right type of light. The first time you use a roll of daylight film under tungsten lighting, you will start to understand the importance of the color of light.

Pro Cameras at Low Prices

For many of us former film users, cameras like Nikon F5’s, Hasselblads, even Leica’s, were the stuff of dreams. They idea of one day owning one of these marvels of imaging fueled our passion for photography. Take a quick trawl through eBay today, and you will find mint quality samples of these cameras for less than the price of a base level DSLR.

Do it Yourself

For aficionados of the digital darkroom this may sound odd, but getting your hands dirty by developing and printing your own films is in my personal opinion, one of the great highlights of film photography. Its easy enough to make a temporary darkroom in not much more space than it you would need for a desktop computer and A3 printer. The sight of a large black and white print, slowly revealing itself under the gloom of a red safe light should thrill even the most hardened digital darkroom enthusiast.

So there you have it, if you have a hankering for trying out film, there are little or no obstacles. Trawl through eBay, or your local camera store, bag yourself a bargain. Most professional camera stores still sell film and will also know where you can get it developed and printed. If at the end of the day you still prefer digital, old film cameras make great ornaments for your home.


55 responses to “7 Reasons to return to film photography.

  1. Ricardo,

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I have sent your link to my daughter who has given me all her point and shoot digitals in “exchange for two film SLRs. (She bargains well). I think she will enjoy it. I will be back as well.

    • Nothing to thanks. Thats a really pleasure to check all the good blogs around the web.
      Thank You for redirect the link for your daughter, thats important the young people know the film photography, all benefits, the develloping film, etc…
      My daughter also get to know and to like all the process that involve film photography. It’s important for them how to shoot in film (apertures, shutter speeds, manual) and try to forget a little while the digital era, and have some knowledge about the subject.

  2. Pingback: 7 Reasons to return to film photography. | Film Photography Is Not Dead « Gsqared Photography

  3. I like the look and feel of old cameras, but I only take photos with my DSLR or polaroid cameras, though I have a lot of other old camera’s, including a Nikon N5005 (F401) in working condition (I suppose), I think i’ll try it out soon…

    • Thank You for the comment. You must try shoot again in film, it’s another level than digital and You know that for sure.
      Nikon F401 it’s a great film camera, it was launched in the end of the 80’s (1987 to be more precisely), and I can bet it works just fine. 🙂

    • Thank You for the comment, and yes You should try to shot again once in a while with your Konica, and let te good memories come back to your mind. It’s a really nice feeling. 🙂

  4. After 40 years and 5 Nikons, I decided to hang it up on film when I bought my DSLR 4 years ago. Though I agree with most of what you say here (cost being a big exception) and I do miss the darkroom, digital photo opened up a whole new world that I need to explore.

    • Thank You for the comment.
      The costs of film, if photographers develop the film at home arent so much expensive like that… Unless You want all of your photos printed in a lab…
      About digital, after an extensive use of your DSLR, You get to a point that there is no longer much to learn, as everithing in life. 🙂

  5. I think I’ll stick with digital, snapping everything in sight, and deleting the rejects. Since I’m not a pro, most of my photographs are for fun and perhaps to remember an event with. When I was using film, I spent a considerable amount of time scanning and downloading those images as well, so time and money and storage capacity are the three major reasons I prefer to stick with the digital format.

    • Hello, thank You for the comment.
      First let me tell you that this blog was not created to keep people away from digital but try to realize that the beauty that is film photography, and the whole process that involves.
      Since placing the film in the camera, carefully preparing the next frame of what we want to shoot and without the easy of having an LCD to verify that it was good or not. Have that “anxiety” of when it will get the film already revealed and prints at the lab (if it’s the case).
      Myself and almost 100% of photographers dont leave for sure, to shoot in digital. Impossible in the days that we are now running, especially for the Pros and let me get You an example: Pro sports photographer, must really have to shoot in digital and .jpeg not RAW (there’s no time for edits), to immediatly send the photos online to post or in a website or to publish in any journal or magazine…
      I hope this short explanation will intent You to clarify the proposal of this blog and why we still love shooting in film photography.

      • I can really see the merit in shooting with film. I did it for years, but for me, the pros of using a digital format have me addicted. If I were going to do a family portrait that I intended to pass down through the generations or a similar shot, I think I would prefer the photographer use film to be honest. When I am behind the camera, I just love to snap and shoot everything in sight. To each their own. I was not trying to be critical of film, although it may appear that way.

      • Hello again. I realized on your first comment You’re not intented against using film instead digital.
        You feel confortable with digital, I’m feel also confortable but there’s something magical shooting in film that digital dont have…
        Let me say to conclude something like this: today anyone can’t live without digital and can live quiet well without film, but film photography remains forever with or without digital. 🙂

  6. Thanks for the article. Digital doesn’t seem to produce the best effect. I’m sort of toying with the idea of picking up a cheap film SLR, but not sure what to do about the film.

    • Hello, and thanks for your comment.
      I do not really understand what You wanna mean, when You say You’ve not sure what to do about film…
      Can You explain better your doubt? 🙂

      • Hi, I’m not sure if many films are still available in the UK, and the whole thing of digital seems a lot cheaper, although I might be wrong.

      • Hi, thaks for the comment.

        About if in UK there’re films available? I cant answer your question because I’m not from UK. But I’m believe You can find film in any store/lab of photography.

        Film isnt quite expensive like that (and if You develop your film at home the value drops half of the budget, more or less) , of course digital is less expensive than film, anyway the final results are quite better in film…


      • Yep, saw a cheap SLR in a charity shop (about 30 dollars) and decided not to buy it. Kind of regret it now but just didn’t feel confident enough to go ahead and buy it.

  7. Pingback: 7 Reasons to return to film photography. | Film Photography Is Not Dead « Pete Cass Photography

  8. It’s great to see someone that still treasures the beauty of using film. I have several SLR kits, some of them German made from my Aunt that I wish I would play with. Alas, technology has caught my attention for now. Perhaps one day I will revert back.

    In the meantime, thank you so much for stopping by my blog and liking the post on Women in the Sacred Valley. Hope to see you back soon.

  9. I must admit, I am often drawn to shoot “just one more roll”, and, even now I have a roll of 828 Verichrome in a recently purchases 1936 Kodak Bantam Special. It is an early rangefinder camera and I am getting a big kick out of “budgeting” the big 8 exposures. Your work is very fine and you are an articulate advocate for staying film-based. If I were younger I would have gone to a view camera years ago. Now the expense…well, who can tell?

    • Thank You for the nice comment. Wow your camera it’s wonderful, but 828mm film You can purchase in any store of photography?

      Just to clarify, I’m not shooting only in film I have a DSLR too and I like it also, but for me film it’s another level of photography. 🙂

      Here it is your camera, as I said it’s fantastic.

  10. I agree in parts.
    I took photographs on film for more than 20 year. Over the years you get plenty of dia’s and neatives. You have to catalog them and store them. You have to take care for a storage, suitable for them (not too hot, not too cold, no humidity, dark, keep them plan). Nealy the same for the prints.
    I develtoped my black-and-whites myself. That a bunch of chemicals, that need special care after usage. The same is true for the color processes (more compilcated, expensive and pollutive). Don’t mention the labratory equipment. If you’re really interested in the old chemical processes, try taking a class at a school.
    Regarding the photograpy itself: digital is more easy, ’cause you see the result at once and can learn from your mistakes by analzing the exif data. An anlog camera won’t record such things, you have to write them down right after taken that picture.
    On the other hand: good photos on film testify your quality as a photographer more easyly, because you have to work more carefully and are (nearly) unable to retoch the photo after taken it (no photoshop for corrections). At the analog labratory you only have a small range of corrections (WB, darken lighten, general color correction) are possibel.
    Don’t forget: you can’t change the ISO or the WB (ther are daylight films and tungsten films). Each film has a set ISO value. OK, you can over- or underexpose the complete film and develop it regarding this, but it is always for the complete film!!

  11. thank you for visiting my blog. this is a great post. you make me want to get out my old om-1. the original light meter was working, last time i checked, which wasn´t all that long ago. and i´ll never have a digital zoom lense like the one on i keep on my old olympus.

  12. Economics, competition and a continual decline in the number or resources for film development in my area have forced me to shoot digitally. I’m not against digital, I do love it but I really miss film.

    • You’re right. Many people dont have any lab photography near of their locations, and because of that they cant shoot on film.

      My advice is: try to develop film at home and buy a scanner who has ability to scan film.


  13. Nice article you have written. Although I am using digital all the time, my love for film hasn’t change much. You are absolutely right about learning photography using a film camera. I noticed that I have been “lazy” about getting the right exposure when I am using digital because I can delete pictures without any cost to me. I bet I will not be trigger happy when I have my film camera.

  14. Ricardo,

    Thanks for the likes on my site. I like to see posts like this one because I’ve leaned progressively more toward film in recent years. For me, film and digital is not a either/or question, but a this and that proposition. It is just a matter of finding the balance between the two processes…

    • Thank You and You’re very welcome.
      Let me say I agree with You, film or digital are two great choices to photograph. Film is magical when we see the photos after developing and digital is great, because all the facilities to edit photos and share online in the same day You has shoted.

      Kind Regards.

  15. I agree with a lot of what you say, but I find digital far too convenient. I can take pictures when I want, how I want, without having to switch filters all the time, get a light meter out, or worry about using the wrong type or speed of film. That said, I think anyone serious about photography should use a film camera at least once and have a go a developing the film themselves. I think this teaches you a lot about where a lot of the most of terminology and theory derives from and how digital techniques relate back to film cameras and the darkroom.

    • Hi, Stevie, thank You for the comment.

      I agree almost everything You have wrote, but let me say just one thing about serious photographers and film photography: there’s a lot of professional photographers which only shot in film because the prints are very high quality, better than digital shots. And of course, I agree with You when you say everyone should experiment all the process that involves shooting in film, like development, print and so on…

      Thanks for sharing your valuable opinion. 🙂


  16. I still use film for a few key areas to do with look and most especially very long exposure work. Despite the non serious apps side of digital photography being obsessed by applying ‘faux film’ look filters to their snaps (creativity by presets?) there is still something magical about continuing to include film in my creative dabblings.

    • Totally agree with. There’re something magical in film photography and people will ever stop shooting with their old cameras. 🙂

      Thank You for the comment.

      Kind Regards.

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