Today, speak to anyone with a camera, and the next word linked to photography would be “photoshop” (almost as a synonym with image editing). However, speak to old school photographers who shot on film, and you get a different response.
The first time I shot on film was in the 1970s, using a Minolta X300 camera I saved up a long time for. I had just one prime lens, and I went around like a happy boy.
Each shot had to be considered and deliberate, because you had a limited exposures in a roll of film. A camera was already expensive, and a roll of film and developing prints or slides were expensive too.
So we would never shoot like today’s average digital photographer, who shoot without thought, hoping in the thousands of digital images there would be some usable images.
Therein lies the problem. Without discipline and thought, images will be at best mediocre. And many digital photographers (even some “professional”, as in paid) would erroneously comment that they can fix the images in an image editing software (like Photoshop, Lightroom, or whatever else). Yes, you can fix some things, but you may find it hard to improve your REAL photographic skill if all you rely on is a piece of software to get you by. The image that emerges after the bastardization process will simply bear little resemblance to the reality and honesty of the original image, and perhaps should be classified more as digital paintings instead. Unless that is the intention, then the spirit of photography is lost.
That is why it is heartening to know that there is a small flame kept alive in the world, where some people are still shooting film photography, whether using old cameras, or new derivatives that still use film. The spectrum of film has declined, where now only Fujifilm and some proprietary brands remain, but film keeps surfacing above the fray of digital photography. If you are shooting 120 film (medium-format), then you will have to be even more considered and judicious in your photography, as you have only 12 or so shots per roll of film, compared to 35mm film.
Film is like a martial arts grandmaster and you are the student. You will learn to appreciate ambient light. You will learn to appreciate exposure. You will learn to appreciate composition. You will learn to be patient for the perfect condition. You will learn, finally, what photography is about, when the best way to get an image right is when the light hits the film, and not in a computer when all else failed.
So, if you have any genuine claim of an interest in photography, I dare you to trying shooting film. It will be liberating and enlightening. And only thereafter, you may learn to use your fancy digital camera with much more consideration and much more wisdom. You will get not just more considered images, but also images with less pretensions and more soul.
Seamus Phan has 32 years of professional experience. He is a professional speaker, marketing and branding consultant, book author, technologist, scientist, artist, and aviation enthusiast. Some articles are reproduced at McGallen & Bolden, where he is CTO and Head of Content. Connect on LinkedIn. ©1984-2019. All rights reserved.