Whether You Like It or Not, Film Is Having a Resurgence

The world of analog photography went through a dry spell for a while but has been making a strong comeback in recent years. 

This video is one of the more recent productions put together by NBC Left Field. It features 3 heavy hitters in the YouTube film photography world: Matt Day, Nick Carver, and Willem Verbeek. In addition, it also features an interview with Ed Hurley of Eastman Kodak Company talking about their recent uptick in film production. In particular, he states that they have manufactured and sold more than twice the amount of film in 2019 than they did 5 years earlier in 2014. With their current expansion in production, it’ll be exciting to see which films they will decide to resurrect or what films to create that’s not previously been part of their lineup.

If you’re familiar with my articles here on Fstoppers, you know I’m a big believer in film. I’ve written about it enough to know that many digital shooters are sick of hearing about it. If you’re one of those people, I’m not sorry. This medium isn’t going anywhere any time soon – perhaps you should shoot through a couple rolls and see what it’s about. Additionally, I’ve written about it enough to know that the film photography community is made up of a lot of good, supportive people. If you have no experience with shooting film but have considered getting into it, there’s no time like the present. Ask anyone you can find that currently shoots film. I’m sure they’ll be happy to help.

Do you have any experience with film photography or any other part of the analog process? Do you have any advice for those that haven’t?
 

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104 Comments
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imajez .'s picture

It's an annoying click bait headline. One that usually does no one any favours.
The problem with those that proselytise about film, as opposed to simply using and enjoying it, that is they often talk a lot of mystical mumbo jumbo about it being 'more real', having a certain look that digital cannot replicate or witter about how the same light hit both the subject and the film. Such nonsense deserves mocking. All that really matters is whether the final image is any good. No-one bar the photographer [and photo nerds] really cares what camera brand was used or what medium it was shot on. Other folk simply appreciate the photo.
BTW, I shot in film for years and am helping set up a public darkroom, but the claptrap justifying why folk shoot on film and how it's more soulful than digital can be really tedious at times.

James Madison's picture

The comparison of production numbers were (if I recall correctly) between 2019 and 2014.

I'm not quite certain I understand your argument. You're suggesting that someone would have to include production from 10 years BEFORE they slowed down production? That there was likely a "huge surplus" of film which would then explain the decreased need for production? If that's what you're saying, I could 100% see that happening for a product with a long shelf life. Film on the other hand only lasts a couple years generally. Perhaps it's a naive thought but I would suspect that for such an item as film, there isn't much of a delay between the actually demand and actual supply.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Willem is happy to make a living talking about film on YouTube cuz it's more profitable than being a photographer these days, shooting film or digital.

Bread Smith's picture

I am sure he makes more money from his youtube than you make from your boring, tired, sterile photos.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

I don't know about that but he probably makes more than most 20 year old photographers.

imajez .'s picture

"I am sure he makes more money from his youtube than you make from your boring, tired, sterile photos."

This is the sort of meaningless gibberish that makes film preachers seem a bit clueless. So would Dan's photos being suddenly not be 'boring, tired, sterile' just because he shot on film? You not liking his work is just your personal taste, nothing more. Plus Dan's body of work seen of here is infinitely better than your non-existent portfolio of nothing, regardless of personal taste.

Kirk Darling's picture

Personally, I always found BW printing the most emotionally satisfying part of the entire process, but only in a well-equipped, comfortable darkroom...which costs a lot to set up and maintain these days (I never found wet color printing particularly enjoyable).

A question: What percentage of these new film-using folk are going through the full wet process to paper prints?

James Madison's picture

I completely agree with you. I absolutely love B&W prints.

Admittedly, living in a larger city there are multiple places where you can rent out a well equipped darkroom for little money with the enlargers, chemicals, filters, loupes, array of enlarger lenses, etc... included in the rental fee. And if someone looks hard enough, there's always an enlarger being given away for free or for next to no money.

I cannot speak to the proportion of film photographers that make wet prints but I would say about 25-35% of the photographers I know do.

Kirk Darling's picture

I would have to acknowledge my hours spent in the darkroom as a factor in the breakup of my first marriage. That is a problem I have not had with digital, as I've always been able to edit within the vicinity of my family.

A couple of house purchases ago--back in 2000--I contemplated outfitting one room as a darkroom, as I was still using a couple of Mamiya RZ67 cameras and a Horseman L-frame view camera. But plumbing and such, as well as adding a dedicated room to our requirements made the cost prohibitive.

But even by that time, I could see digital looming in my future. Eventually the original 5D was good enough for me to retire the Mamiyas. The last of my film practice wound up being the large format, which I processed in deep tanks and then scanned (thin medium format film is a lot trickier to scan well than thick 4x5).

Mr Hogwallop's picture

You must hang with an exclusive group, I know one guy using a real darkroom, not Lightroom. And if he is a hipster, he is more like "I hope I don't fall and break my hipster" than a skully wearin', free range coffee drinkin', scooter ridin', film shootin' youtoob makin' hipster :)

the former lacky's picture

I used to shoot film and I loved it and the fun of processing it and making prints and just chillin in the dark room watching your image appear like magic and then realize I fucked up the focus or made it to dark and had to go through it again. I LEARNED what to do and I learned how to do it with out digital . Now with digital everything is done half assed and fixed later , no one ever REALLY learns aperture, depth of field, Fstops, film speed, they just shoot and go to the next one. Dont get me wrong I love my D750 and D300 but I learned on a PentexK1000 and figured out what to do . I am not saying I am perfect but I know what I have to do with Fstop. shutter speed and film speed to get a good shot and not have to take a billion shots to fuck with it in Photoshop to get it looking good. I think its good people who are interested in photography learn with film and then move up to digital if they want to keep going , whats wrong with learning how to shoot and use a camera , because isnt a camera a TOOL for the photographer, anyone can use a hammer but not everyone can use a Bobcat G series.
I do really love I dont have to wait 3 days to see my negs any more HAHAHAHAHAHHA

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Well I think it would take an afternoon teaching someone all about aperture, depth of field, shutter speed. Fstops, ISO speed using a digital camera and a lot longer with a K1000 and film because of the disconnect between shooting examples and seeing results.
There is a popular myth romanticizing about doing things the old way will make you better at the new way. Using a K1000 will not make a photographer better. Changing a tire or the oil in a car might come in handy but won't make you a better driver.

I think you need to explain bit more about the hammer vs. Bobcat G. From what I know if you use the hammer to do what Bobcat does that's gonna be a problem.

the former lacky's picture

Afternoon!?!?!? Try a whole semester and they still didnt get it down. I will be honest when I was in school and took photo I just took the camera and wasted so much film because i thought taking pictures was just pointing the camera and pressing the button, but after my 20th roll of film out of pocket i started to realize maybe I should pay attention to see what the fuck I was doing wrong . Now correct me if I am wrong, your saying if the person behind the camera has no idea about composition or has the all seeing artistic eye then they will suck? I agree to a point, because I feel I am a decent photographer I would even go as far as saying good photographer. A person can totally be taught how to take a photo and what to see in a photo if they have enough desire to learn........... or i can be talking though my ass right now because its early and I only had one cup of coffee . Either way I love film still and the dark room BUT I prefer to shoot with my Nikon now since it makes my life easier and cheaper but what do I know I used to be a Lacky

Ted Nghiem's picture

Why does it matter to most of us if film is having a "resurgence?" It's not a detriment to anyone, to be honest if someone still wants to shoot film, they are shooting film. More power to them.

James Madison's picture

Your open mindedness and apathy are much appreciated.

Johnny Martyr's picture

"Why does it matter to most of us if film is having a "resurgence?" "

It matters to film photographers because for many years, we were losing the resources necessary to do our work, such as local labs and a lot of film stocks. Articles like this give us some hope!

And apparently it matters to the digital photographers who still haven't left 2012 and like to proudly explain to everyone why shooting film doesn't make sense. Headlines like this seem to rile them up! ;)

jim hughes's picture

Wouldn't it be amazing if someone came up with a new film technology - with even higher resolution AND a non toxic water based chemistry, so it was easy to develop and print at home?

James Madison's picture

If there ever came to be a non-toxic alternative, that would be amazing. Luckily there is a shop only 5 minutes from my house that I can take my spent chemicals to dispose of them safely. Without that, I would probably have to stop developing at home.

Benoit .'s picture

It's a process for people who are not looking for instant gratification. Much more thought gets into film photography due to the complexity and cost of getting to the end process which is the actual usability of the medium. Billions of phone cameras and barely any users care about the process. Just could be that people are getting tired of instant gratification canned for them in a product that means nothing but volume of unsatisfactory images you can count by the trillions.
I think it's great. There were plenty of camera clubs in the past and for most they didn't care about selling prints. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the process of film photography

James Madison's picture

Well said.

Kirk Darling's picture

There isn't anything particularly instant about my gratification with my digital images. I don't think I spend any less time from shutter release to holding the print that is just as I want it in my hands (not counting the final print wash). I spend more time in Photoshop per print than I spent waving my hands in the beam of an enlarger.

Richard Carlson's picture

Film was the first 30 years of my hobby but I would never do it again. All those processing chemicals must be poisonous for our environment. We have enough of those already without reviving this source.

Timothy Turner's picture

I own a Mamiya 645 super as well as a Pentax K20D, I upload my digital photos and fromat my card in the camera and reuse it, if I took as many photos with my Mamiya as I have with my Pentax digital, I can only imagine the cost, also with my digital I can take as few as 5 pictures or as many as the card will hold, and I don't have to worry about wasting a roll of film. That doesn't mean I don't use my Mamiya occasionally, I just use it with moderation.

James Madison's picture

Nothing wrong with having and using both mediums. I do it myself.

Timothy Roper's picture

I shoot a lot of film, and some digital, and follow a lot of what's going on with film. From what I've seen and read, to the extent it's making a comeback, it's in the art realm of photography. With some notable exceptions, not many are using film on commercial shoots. And those who are get those gigs because of their film-based "art" work. And since it's in the art realm, it's like being surprised people still use old-fashioned string-based pianos and guitars instead of the more modern, efficient, and cost-effective digital equivalents. Of course some artists like their old-fashioned instruments and what they create. No surprise there--including old-fashion film.

Normund Greenberg's picture

Bad news. Film and equipment prices will soar.

Andres Ruiz's picture

It's no secret to anyone in Hollywood that film is a superior quality product. Digital hasn't caught up with film yet in many areas.
The list of recent popular tv shows & movies shot on kodaks own film stock is beyond staggering. https://reelfilm.kodak.com/shot_on_film/

The cost of a new full frame digital camera can give you more than a lifetime supply of superior quality portra 160.
Film also looks more true to life & 3 dimensional.

Kirk Darling's picture

It might have that potential--arguably--but of the film users I've spoken to, none has been as knowledgeable of the craft of the process and its variables as I was back in my f/64 School days in the 70s, so I don't believe many film users today are coming anywhere close to its potential.

James Madison's picture

That is probably true in general but I would certainly bet that there are film photographers out there right now who are just as knowledgeable if not more so than the best photographers of the 70s.

Kirk Darling's picture

Probably the same people who were shooting in the 70s.

James Madison's picture

That's a great reference. I honestly had no idea there were still so many movies shot on film. Thanks for sharing!

As for the cost - I completely agree. If I had to guess, the cost of a new full frame camera outweighs the total amount I've spent on my entire film camera collection. While film is more expensive frame for frame once you have both cameras in hand, getting a film camera and load of film is still comes in at a lot lower price.

Heratch Ekmekjian's picture

I don't see how it can be less expensive to shoot film...at least it wouldn't be for me.
In five years of use, one of my DSLR cameras recorded nearly 265,000 exposures.
Using Fujicolor 200 film, at roughly 10 cents/frame would have cost me around $26,500...without counting the processing fees.
Even if you discard HALF of those exposures as test clicks, you're still looking at over $13K for unprocessed film alone.

James Madison's picture

It's tough to argue with that. If you're going to shoot a quarter million exposures, digital would be my first option too. Luckily I don't even shoot enough to go through but a roll every month or so unless I take a trip somewhere.

Heratch Ekmekjian's picture

James, I must applaud your decision to work with film...especially as it's not a financial or time burden for you. You're obviously enjoying it, and I'm happy for you.
I'm just glad to be using digital, even though I learned photography with film. It's hard to imagine going back for some of us.

James Madison's picture

People have a similar reaction when they find out I drive a car that's more than 50 years old. No such thing as air bags, AC was a joke, manual window cranks, and I've never appreciated a hydraulic clutch so much in my life as I did after driving my car for a while. For those of us who do not depend on photography (in the strictest sense) as a form of income and take pictures of our loved ones and trips almost exclusively, the cost isn't as much of an issue.

chuck liddy's picture

Film is making. comeback? Dude that headline is nothing but clickbait. You had on "fact" the comment from Kodak. This is written by someone who obviously doesn't work on any kind of deadline. I started shooting in 1974 and worked in journalism for over 45 years. I just retired and still freelance. I was the first shooter at our paper to go all digital in 2000. I never looked back or missed film...especially as digital improved. I can tell you now this is a "I'm cool" thing with you youngsters. If you used the chemistry and made your own prints you would understand what I'm talking about. I can pretty much guarantee you cannot tell the difference between a negative print or a digital print of an image. Plus, you know there's an App for every different kind of "film" effect you want to mimic? Right?. But I did get a laugh out of the article! Thanks. Keep clicking away!

James Madison's picture

Is it correct to say "Welcome to Fstoppers?" While I do appreciate a proper dressing down from an experienced photographer being the youngster that I am, your argument is based on the incorrect assertion that I do not process my own chemistry or make wet prints. Unfortunately, I do both of those things and learned to do it from others who still do as well (refer to comments above).

I've never tried to make a comparison between a digital print with a negative print as you've possibly correctly stated I couldn't tell the difference between. Perhaps I cannot. But whether I can tell the difference or not, I will keep on with shooting film as it's what I enjoy.

Timothy Roper's picture

Not all photographers work on deadlines. Clearly, film is not making a "comeback" for things like sports or photojournalism, where images need to be sent out asap. And I can understand how people who had to shoot film for that type of thing got burned out and never want to go back. But film today is used more for art photography, where there are no deadlines. And artists are known for using all kinds of tools to suit their personal whims. It's why a musician might chose an old-fashioned, outdated stringed instrument like a piano instead of using a modern electronic keyboard, for example. So laugh away, but not everyone automatically prefers digital.

James Madison's picture

Very well said. Thanks for chiming in.

jim hughes's picture

You've probably noticed that vinyl LPs are making a comeback too. And yes, I know very well that we can't tell the difference between vinyl and MP3 blindfolded. That's not really the point; it's about enjoying the experience of listening to music. When I spin an LP I tend to stop what I was doing, clear my thoughts, sit back and go with the sound. The handling of the physical object, and engaging the analog technology, may indeed be just a ritual, but some rituals have power and purpose.

James Madison's picture

I feel that. I too enjoy my vinyl collection as a way to engage with the music even if just passively. When you're hanging out, having a beer, and enjoying a conversation with someone, getting up to flip the record or change it is just enough to push the conversation forward. There's also the added benefit of having already curated the selection!

jim hughes's picture

And don't forget the album art! A foot square, and often the work of great photographers and artists. I'm old enough to remember it fresh and new, not worn and faded.

I recently wrote a blog post on LPs and photography:
https://jimhphoto.com/index.php/2019/11/30/33rpm-vinyl-lp-its-magic/#mor...

James Madison's picture

Thanks for sharing. I particularly love the quote at the beginning and applaud your collection of jazz LPs.

Kenneth Aston's picture

I would love to see one of these digital shooters use a 36 exp roll w/o the advantage of preview lol. They are so used to spray and pray, they do not pick their shots or compose in camera. I have seen plenty of young photographers that do that. I picked up my first camera in 1982 and worked as a darkroom technician in 1984 and currently working as a full time photographer. I love the darkroom and found a place that rents them as well here in my area. Great read too

James Madison's picture

You and me both!

Tony Clark's picture

Yes, I got into photography in '94 and learned to make good use of those 36 exposures. The E-6 clip test took about 4 frames if I remember correctly. After awhile, I bought a Polaroid 600SE then a NPC back for the backup body and shot Polaroids. Then came a medium format kit and it was quite the luxury to get 6x45 then 6x7 Polaroids. I may be getting older but I'm fighting it every day.

James Madison's picture

I've never shot 6x7 Polaroids but I would love to give it a go at some point.

Anca Precub's picture

I do believe film is definitely coming back! There is an increase in people buying film cameras and using film as a medium for their photography. I re-launched my youtube channel and i will be talking a lot about my experiences with film cameras and people are responding positively to it!

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