This Is the Main Reason I Don't Use My Film Camera

This Is the Main Reason I Don't Use My Film Camera

I love film photography; there's a special quality that analogue photos have that digital could possibly never match. However, I never shoot with my film camera anymore. Why not?
The first camera I ever shot on was film, and I continued to shoot analog until 2006, when I switched to digital. It wasn't long after the move until I exclusively shot digital photos and continue to do so today. However, I still have some film cameras (most recently a Nikon F100) and occasionally pop a little Fuji Velvia in there when going to a special location.

However, despite wanting to shoot with it more, I find it gathering dust on the shelf in my living room. But why is that? Have I fallen out of love with my film camera? Or is it because the quality of the shots is inferior to my digital camera? Well, it's a little more convoluted than that — some obvious reasons and others more obscure. It's likely the same sort of issues that many readers of this article will also have, comprised of convenience and size of living spaces. 

Can't Review Images

It's obvious, I know. But it's important to remember that when shooting film, you literally can't review any images you've taken. In a time where we're all so used to immediately checking the exposure, composition, depth of field, and so much more, we've become much more heavily reliant on this brevity. I think, in part, it's due to the self-edit.

Rear of film camera Nikon F100

There's no rear screen on a film camera. The fastest possible way to find out what a photo looks like is to have the film developed, which you can only do once you've used the entire roll of film (if shooting a roll of 35mm film, that's 36 exposures later).

Even those with no technical knowledge can now apply a filter, adjust brightness, or increase the sharpening of images before sharing them online. There's very little latency between taking the photo and making adjustments, so a larger gap between "click" and the finished photo as with shooting film can be jarring.

Double Up on Gear

Almost all my photography work nowadays is delivered digitally. So, if I go somewhere to take some great photos with my film camera, I'll want to capture that digitally as well. That's because I don't have a darkroom in my house, nor do I have the time to devote to preparing and developing the negatives or transparencies at home. 

Film and digital camera together

Why wait several days or weeks to get your photos back when you can take your digital camera along as well? The downside is that you're going to be carrying twice as much kit as before, all for the sake of shooting film.

This means waiting for a lab to process the stock before I have my finished result. For this reason, I tend to pack my digital camera too so that I can share my imagery faster. But inevitably, that means doubling up on gear, making my camera bag much heavier.

You're Stuck in One Mode

Fuji velvia 50 film in hand

When shooting film, you have to match the film type to the color temperature and light levels you're expecting to find when you get to your chosen location, as opposed to digital, where you can switch white balance and ISO at will as the conditions and light levels change.

Want to shoot outside on a nice, sunny day? Great, throw the daylight-balanced, ISO 200 film in the camera and head out. But if you plan to stay out all day and shoot into the night, you might want to think again, especially if you plan on going inside at any point. Unfortunately, you can't adjust ISO or white balance at will as you can with digital cameras. So, you're always limited in the scope of what you can and can't capture, and this limit is what puts me off shooting with my film camera. I love the flexibility digital gives me, and if my plans change throughout the day or night, then my camera changes with me. 

Waiting for Prints

Prints in hand on table

After waiting for your prints, there's a realization that you don't have control of how the negatives or transparencies are processed, which is the opposite of the control available when shooting digital.

As I've mentioned already, I don't have the time or space to develop my own film at home. I'm in a similar position to many people around the world, where rent is getting higher and living spaces are getting smaller. Whenever I do shoot film, it gets sent off to the lab for processing before receiving the results. If I'm working on a job, this long wait can really hinder me, especially if the client wants the images the same day. I understand there are some places that do rush jobs and expedited processing, but it's more overhead that cuts into my profit margin.

Using Photo Labs

My local labs are great at developing film, but having them do this for me does take a large chunk of artistic input from my photography workflow. If I'm in digital, I import to Lightroom, make my choices, apply edits, and maybe even finish off in Photoshop for some detailed work before having it ready to deliver. I'm in control of every part of the process from setting up the composition to choosing which resolution to output to. Labs are great, but I lack control over my workflow, and as an artist, that just bums me out.

So, What Does This All Add up To?

Basically, the reasons above mean that I'm less inclined to use my film camera, not that I don't want to. I just never get around to dusting it off and popping it in the camera bag. The last few times I've taken it out, I haven't bothered shooting with it, and it's become a bit of a lead balloon (both figuratively and literally when it's weighing me down in my bag). While I understand film's place in the world and still love it to pieces (and I'm aware there are many that shoot film regularly), I just can't justify it as anything more than a fun hobby for me. But perhaps you've found the opposite? Leave me a comment below; I'd love to hear your thoughts on why you do or don't shoot film.

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Alexander Petrenko's picture

Seems like he enjoys what other humans do - instant feedback and convenience.