In this day and age, digital photography is by far more popular than film. I must admit that I prefer digital photography for most of my work, too. However, that doesn’t mean that film is without its advantages. I believe that every photographer should try film at least once. Here are the reasons why!
1. Think Before You Shoot
One of the biggest reasons that I think film is important is because it really forces you to think about the composition of your image before you press the shutter button. With a digital camera, you can take hundreds of shots of the same subject and choose just one as your final image. Film limits you to a roll of 24 or 36 exposures, which means that in order to conserve your film, you’ll need to envision the perfect image before you take it. That opportunity to pause and consider each shot can teach you a lot about composition.
2. Just for Fun
Film photography is every bit as much fun as digital photography, just in different ways. Film comes in so many varieties – from Kodachrome to the high-end Fuji films – that you’ll have endless new ways to experiment. It’s not just the different film speeds, but also a variety of different grains, which can add texture to your images. In addition, you’ll soon find that even the different color casts are fun to play with. One variety of film will render a scene entirely different from the next.
3. Film is Relatively Inexpensive
Many beginning photographers start with film because film is a much less expensive way to start taking photos compared to digital. Of course, over time, you can definitely run up costs by developing hundreds of rolls of film, or by building an extremely high-end darkroom. However, a professional-grade film SLR and a few nice legacy lenses will cost far less than the equivalent digital kit.
4. Film is Beautifully Imperfect
For many film photographers, the attraction to film starts with its imperfections. Things like light leaks, expired rolls of film or accidental double exposures can make some really interesting images – and the effects are all easier to accomplish because you don’t need to use editing software to add these “flaws” after the fact. In fact, there is a whole genre of photography – called “Lomography” – that is devoted to using cameras with light leaks or film that has gone bad just to see what the results will look like.
5. Film Changes Your Perspective
One of the greatest things about film is that it gives you an entirely different perspective on the art of photography. This sense of “differentness ” – along with the limitations imposed by short rolls of film – is a powerful creative tool. Many digital photographers use film to give themselves a fresh burst of creativity. If you ever found yourself struggling with your art, shooting a roll of film might be the thing that helps you find your inspiration once more.
6. Learning the Basics
For beginners, film is a great way to learn the three pillars of exposure. It starts with the film speed – film’s ASA is similar to digital’s ISO, except for the fact that you can only change your ASA (film speed) by changing rolls of film. This means that rather than setting your camera on the automatic mode, you’ll need to learn how to adjust the shutter speed and aperture around the predetermined ASA rating. Beginners that learn on digital cameras often find their growth stunted because it’s too easy to let the camera do all the work. (Read More: Learning to Balance Exposure with ISO)
7. For the Experience
It’s hard to call yourself a professional – or even a skilled hobbyist – if you’ve only experimented with half of the tools available to you. A digital photographer that has never once tried to shoot a roll of film is like a painter that has only used a handful of paintbrushes rather than trying brushes in all shapes and sizes. If you try film photography for no other reason, try it for the experience. Even if film isn’t your favorite way to create art, the things that you learn will be invaluable to your creative skill set.