Why Film is Not Dead and How to Get Started

For the Love of Photography
Posted on 31/07/2019

Kolla was born from a love for photography. This stems from years of work in the photography industry, from hundreds of thousands of photographs shot, and from digesting photos from all corners of the world.

In this series of posts that go under the name "For the Love of Photography" we'll share tips, tricks, and ideas from the photography world. We hope it will help inspire you to go out and shoot more.

[Header image by Ana Topoleanu]


Why Film is Not Dead and How to Get Started

By Niamh Wilkins

There’s something to be said about finding a box of old photographs tucked safely away in a cupboard or hidden within a closet. Photographs timestamped from decades ago, perhaps slightly dusty, painted with grainy and imperfect memories of past lives. They tell us stories that would have otherwise been forgotten, remind us of simpler times, and perhaps make us yearn for a bit of that simplicity, too. In an world increasingly dominated by the digital, it’s important to take a step back and realize that film, though certainly nostalgia-inducing, is not dead.

While there are countless merits to shooting film as a photographer, here are just four reasons to consider adding some film gear to your kit.

1. Intention

Film photography teaches you to shoot with intention. When you only have a certain number of exposures, and when you don’t have the luxury of reviewing your photos as they’re taken, shooting analog forces you to shoot with intention and purpose. It gives you the push to really take the time to frame your photo, adjust your settings, and think about what you’re photographing. While digital grants you the luxury of overshooting, relying on auto mode, and the comfort of fixing mistakes in post-processing, film doesn’t allow you to be lazy with your photography. You have to work for it, be an active participant, be meticulous in your composition, and in return? You start to feel so much more connected to your work.

[Image by Ryan Muirhead]

2. Challenging

Film photography is creatively challenging. There are so many uncontrollable factors in film photography that have a huge impact over your final images. The film stock you buy, the age and condition of your camera, the lab you send your rolls to, the color profile you select while developing, and even little mistakes that happen along the way (lovingly referred to as “happy accidents” in the film world) mean that you don’t have complete control over your final results quite like you do with digital. This lack of control leaves the door wide open for so much more creative freedom and growth.

3. Timeless

Film photography is timeless. Photography, like any art, experiences so many trends and fads that come and go with time. Editing styles that are popular now might look dated in a few years time, but those film photographs you found in your grandmother’s house? Those photographs remain timeless and classic, even 50 years later. There’s a reason why so many photo editing companies have started releasing presets and editing apps to emulate the look of film. Its simplicity and character is sure to age beautifully and allow the memories captured to shine.

[Image by Si Moore]

4. Fun

Film photography is just really fun. There’s simply nothing quite like the rush of getting your long-awaited film scans back. Instant gratification is so commonplace in today’s world, especially when you’re so accustomed to scrolling through photos on the back of your camera directly after a shoot, but there’s something really special about the wait between the initial click of your film camera and the final reveal of what you captured. The wait and anticipation makes the process so much more fun and in turn, makes your photos so much more meaningful.



How to get started?

So now that we’ve got convinced to give analog a shot, how can you get started? Even before touching a film camera, take the time to familiarize yourself with your own digital camera. Learn all you can about the triangle of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed and familiarize yourself with how each component impacts your photographs. Once you’ve nailed that, the next step is quite simple: pick up a film camera. There’s no need to spend a lot of money to start teaching yourself the fine art of film, as many solid 35mm cameras are relatively inexpensive. Devote a day to scouring consignment shops, estate sales, antique stores, or even relative’s basements. Once you’ve secured your camera, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the many different types of film stocks. Buy a few rolls of varying stock and experiment with them, taking note of which you like and which you don’t quite jive with. (Something to note - black and white stock tends to be a bit more forgiving than color when shooting film, so consider starting there when shooting your first few rolls). When you’ve filled up a few rolls, send them off to be developed (there are many reputable online labs, but if you’re lucky you might even have a local film lab, so be sure to check online first).

Last but not least: enjoy the wait, and revel in the feeling of reclaiming the fine art of film photography for yourself.


Written by Niamh Wilkins

Niamh is a portrait and wedding photographer originating from Dublin, Ireland but currently based out of Atlanta, Georgia. Deeply rooted in nostalgia and introversion, she seeks to use photography to celebrate the quiet moments for what they are in the hopes that they will be felt and remembered for years to come. 

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