Today, digital photography is a part of everyone’s life. It is an overwhelming aspect of every part of our planet. Digital images of every imaginable type are being posted continuously on social media websites like facebook and instagram. Digital images are being captured of you while you’re parked at a stop light, walking through the mall, withdrawing money from an ATM, walking down the street and even while you are working for your employer. Today’s youth now accepts photography as a fact of life. Images aren’t created just for birthdays, weddings and special occasions. Today’s “youth” create and share images while they get ready for the day, wait for the bus, sitting in class or work and while they are simply walking down the street. The list is endless. I’m sure nearly every one of them would ask, why would anyone ever pick up a film camera and create a film image? Digital photography is in your pocket, sharing is instant and creating amazing snapshots or even fantastic photographs is as simple as pressing a button and applying a filter. So if you consider yourself a serious hobbyist photographer, please read on to help understand why I believe you should consider shooting film and let me tell you a little bit about how I arrived at where I am now. A film photographer.
As a long time digital photographer, I recently started a project that involves shooting 35mm film. You can find a few of my Street Photography digital images here: www.instagram.com/dspaedt.
The first camera I ever owned was a Canon AE-1 Program at the age of 16 years old. Frankly, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I didn’t know the first thing about photography. In addition, I had no clue what a fantastic camera I owned at that time. I remember blaming my camera for many of the bad images I produced. At that time I had no idea an experienced photographer could create quality photographs with even a lowly pinhole camera. Because I owned this camera I volunteered to help with my high school yearbook. I’ll never forget the first image I developed in a darkroom. “It worked! It really worked.” I was amazed that I had frozen a moment in time and somehow (magic?) I had managed to reproduce a black and white 2-D representation of that moment. Because of my makeup, I dove in and learned a lot about the technical aspects of photography. Before I even hit college I understood ASA (ISO), F-stops, shutter speeds and how they interacted with each other. I understood the cost for using each of those variables; noise, depth of field and motion blur.
In college, I took a few photography courses and increased my knowledge of the subject but I never picked up photography as a hobby. For years I used a camera like most other people did; a tool to take snapshots. I don’t think I had the attention and discipline that shooting film requires for one to improve. A week or even weeks would pass from my first click on a roll to the time I had the images developed. I’d flip through the pictures and say “Meh . . . forgot to focus . . . what the heck happened there . . . Oh, a good one! . . . ” With film, I never took the time and notes to document what I had done to create that crappy or great image.
Once digital arrived, it changed me. I could press the shutter and see the results. My ability to take good snapshots improved quickly. Because of that instant feedback photography suddenly became a hobby. I would practice by taking images and just fiddling with various camera settings to see how I could manipulate that capture. In addition to changing camera settings I would change variables outside of the camera; where I stood, time of day, camera angle, etc. If I didn’t like what I saw on the back of the camera, delete it and try again. Over and over. Because of digital, at least from a technical standpoint, I improved at an alarming rate. I still suffer at being a better artistic photographer but I keep trying to make gains. I’ll never forget a digital image I made of my son looking out a window. When I saw it pop up on my monitor, it was full of “feeling” for me. I knew that I was addicted to digital photography and I wanted to capture moments like that again and again.
Recently, prior to developing my first roll of film in decades, I wondered if I’d even care for the images or enjoy the process. One of the first images I developed and scanned was of my chocolate lab Riley laying in the grass near my shed. It happened again. The image was full of “feeling” for me. I knew that I was addicted to film photography and I wanted to capture moments like that again and again on film. I believe it was just the whole process. That image of Riley is really just a run of the mill snapshot but because it was captured on film, for me, it was different than digital. I had slowed down a bit before pressing the shutter and of course, I had developed and scanned the negative myself. A lot of the film images I capture are full of “feeling” for me. This “feeling” is why I think you must shoot film. I encourage you to please follow along. You can subscribe with your email or click the “follow” button in the bottom right corner is you’re a WordPress reader.
My Film Beginnings Project has also intrigued me to try using other 35mm film cameras along the way. If you have a working 35mm film camera that you no longer use please take a look here to see what I’m thinking. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.