film photography

A ‘misplaced romanticism’? Why I still shoot film

By 14 November 2019 No Comments

First off, film photography is a real faff:

  • shooting on 70-year-old gear
  • No autofocus
  • no built-in light meter
  • You’re stuck with a certain speed and film type, be it fast monochrome, or slow colour

Processing and printing is a pain: chemicals in the kitchen…

…blacking out the bathroom…

… , then festooning the flat with film.

And yet at the end of the day there is just something about the softer colours and grain that moves me more than digital photographs.

Digital looks too clean and soulless by comparison.

I sometimes spend time trying to add imperfection to digital pictures, but it still doesn’t match the grain and softer gradation from black to white and the exquisite delicacy you can sometimes capture.

Like a lot of technology, progress doesn’t necessarily equate with improved outcomes.

Some people feel the same about vinyl and classic cars.

Martin Parr once told me I have “a misplaced romanticism for film.”

It’s true. I love old cameras and my favourite photographers are all from the middle of the 20th century.

I always shoot digital for commercial jobs.

In fact, film photography has made appreciate its amazing new technological capabilities even more.

I love the low light capabilities of my modern Canon, but find I’m leaving it at home when I wander out and make some photographs.

Other photographers look at me with pity or bemusement.

“Are you trying to make it harder for yourself? Is that what it is?” asked one the other day, as if I had some kind of learning disability.

No, I really don’t want to make my life more difficult, but there are advantages at having a limited number of frames (from one to 36) – you take a little more time with each shot. This results in a higher rate of keepers (ten times more, in my experience.)

And in an age when two billion photos are uploaded every day, a little more discernment and delay in posting is no bad thing.

Not being able look at the LED screen also keeps you more focused in the moment happening before you – as with other devices, digital = distraction.

So as winter rolls in, eternal romantic that I am, I’ll be loading some Tri-X and out tramping the streets again in the quest to capture that perfect moment.

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