Why I Shoot Film

Photos taken November 6, 2017

In my about page I claim that I enjoy exploring city as much as nature, but looking back at my blog I can’t help but notice it has been a while since I shared any photographs of Saint Louis. I think it’s time to correct that. 

Last fall my friend, Jason Grey, and I explored the STL neighborhood Bevo Mill. The neighborhood is an interesting split between residential and industrial that I thought would look good on film, so I took my Canon EOS 100 and a roll of Kodak Portra 400. I thought that while I share the photographs, I would also share why I enjoy shooting film. 

I’m trying something a little different this post, so let me know what you think in the comments section below!


Film vs Digital

I am not going to use this as a chance to bash digital photography, because as you can easily see in my other posts, my primary camera is digital. I really enjoy that camera and all the benefits digital photography has over film, but those same “deficiencies” of film are exactly why I like it so much. 

One such drawback is that film is less flexible. With a digital image file you can edit your photograph to look exactly how you want, but with film you pretty much know what your images will look like before you take the first picture. You choose a style (black and white, or color) and an emulsion that will give the results you envision (high or low contrast, saturated colors or not, etc). 

Once you’ve made that choice you’re stuck with it for the whole roll. You can change part way through, but it would be wasteful and expensive. The positive to this though, is that your photos will have a look that is hard to emulate with digital. 


Film forces you to slow down

I  briefly touched on this in one of my earlier blog posts, but using a film camera causes you to deeply consider each frame before pressing the shutter release. With each roll you only have 24 or 36 frames to work with, and if you’re bracketing that’s only 8-12 unique photographs! When you know you are limited, it brings the subject and composition into the forefront of your mind. When using film I constantly ask “is this shot worth it”?

Because you can’t see the images after you take them, it pays to get it right in-camera. Taking your time to make sure each exposure is the best it can be encourages your artistic growth. Not every frame will be a keeper, but the you become more conscious of what makes a good photograph. SOMETHIGN MORE


It’s all about the process

I love the physicality of using film. This may sound odd coming from someone who typically scans images for use on a digital platform, but to me it is about more than just the final object being presented; it’s the process that is important to me.

Using film is like a small ritual: selecting and inserting a film, creating compositions, the sound of the film advancing after every exposure... each time the shutter is released your film is bombarded with photons, capturing life at that exact moment, and in the end you are left with something permanent. You are left with something that has undergone a chemical reaction and cannot be changed, cannot be erased. There is a wonderful weight when creating with film.

Regardless of how it is shared in the end, this process of creation is what I enjoy.


It’s fun!

Last, and most importantly, shooting film is really fun! On top of everything I listed above, there is just something special about creating with a film camera that I really enjoy. 

Looking back on this list, I think you could boil most of these reasons down to this: shooting film is a commitment. The kind of film to choose, the limited number of shots you have, the physical process of creation: with every step you are committing to bringing your vision to life.


Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on film? Let me know in the comments below. Don’t forget to follow me on around the internet, and if you want to help support my work consider buying a print from my store!