A Negative Attitude

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A 120 Roll of Exposed Kodak Tri-X 400 ready for Developing – Image Shot with my Olympus OM1 & OM 50mm F1.8 on Ilford Delta 100 – Developed and Scanned by the Film Box Lab in Nashville, Tennessee

I started shooting film about 2 years ago. My initial desire was to improve my photography. I figured if I could not see the shot as soon as I took it, I would be forced to learn how to get things right in the camera as much as possible. What I discovered was that I actually like the look of film better than digital. The more film images I saw it became apparent to me that film images have more character. The images look more real to me, especially black and white images. Obviously we don’t see in black and white. I guess a better way to put it is that I prefer a more documentary look. In comparison, digital images appear sterile. Don’t get me wrong. I am not becoming a “digital-hater”. I love my digital camera and hope to upgrade it one day. However, film offers me a better experience when it comes to enjoying photography and that may be the best part.

Over the years I have learned a lot about light, composition and subject matter. Shooting film has slowed me down and has allowed me to learn even more. The film camera’s limitations including a limited number of available shots per roll forces you to be more discriminative in what you shoot.  You tend to look at things with a critical eye. Why am I shooting this? I don’t like this light. This scene has too much contrast. What shutter speed will stop this movement? Would it be better to use my tripod? This scene would be better if there were people, no people, clouds, etc……… When you do finally decide to shoot, you then have to know what settings to dial in on your camera. This is part of the tactical experience that I love. You have to take a good look at what you are trying to capture and visualize how you want the image to appear. This is basically composing your shot and this is also where you decide what lens to use. Once you have your composition, you have to meter the light and put things in focus or out of focus. Depending on what you are trying to capture, you either take the shot or you may have to wait for your scene to develop and then be brave enough to push the shutter at the decisive moment.

When you are forced to put the thought in a photograph as described above, you are more engaged in the shot. I have found that I have gotten more good shots that I really love from a limited roll of film than I have gotten with my digital camera and a large capacity memory card. I can fire off numerous shots with my digital camera and hope that one is useable but the thought of setting at my computer looking through 50 or 100 photos or even more is exhausting. Also the process of going out and shooting numerous shots of the same scene just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I find more joy in taking the time to find the shot and pushing the shutter button once. Thanks to shooting film, I now take the same approach with my digital camera and the results and the experience have been great!

Anyone looking to improve their photography should consider shooting film. Film cameras are dirt cheap as they have been abandoned for digital cameras. There are still plenty of film stocks available. A quick web search will find a place to have your film developed in your area. I never had the desire or need to have a so called “Full Frame” camera which is derived from the 35mm film format of SLR cameras. However, If you do desire a full frame camera and the digital version is out of your price range, you could have a full frame film camera for less than $100 and you could have a Medium Format camera for just  a little more. That is some serious gear for just a few hundred dollars. Give it a try. I would not be surprised if you fall in love with your film images. I came across a YouTube documentary about why people still shoot film. It was created by Kodak and the Indie Film Lab. It does promote Kodak film, but the overall message is universal. The video is below. Long Live Film!

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