5 Reasons to photograph with a film camera today

I grew up photographing with film. There was no rating my film, metering for the light or doing anything special with my camera. I just clicked the shutter. And it worked! Every time I opened that small little photo envelope from the local drugstore developing lab, there was magic inside.

Last year after hitting a creative roadblock with my digital camera, I wanted to reconnect with that magical feeling. I signed up for a film class, ordered a film camera online and a few rolls of 35mm film.

I shot my first roll of film in ages in about 10 seconds flat! It was so freeing to let go of the expectation of perfection. I didn’t worry myself with the finished product. Rather, I set out to simply enjoy the process of shooting. And honestly? I had accepted that the photos on that roll of film would be disposable.

I was so wrong. Opening my very first email with my film scans, and every one since, has felt like Christmas morning! The experience continues to be as magical as those days opening the envelope of photos at the drugstore. Even better, it has reawakened my creativity and photographic motivation.

And I don’t want to keep the magic all to myself! These are the top 5 reasons why YOU should be shooting film, too.

Film saves you time

Even if you aren’t a professional photographer, you likely still know what it feels to be drowning in digital files. Anyone else have 6,000 pictures on your phone?!

It can be overwhelming to have memory cards and hard drives full of digital images needing to be culled, edited and exported. It can take hours and hours to sift through them. And if you are like me, it’s likely that you will edit the same image a few different ways just to see the outcome.

Related: Getting started in film when you’re a digital photographer

Editing eats up time that you could be spending with your family. It keeps you from taking on extra clients because realistically, you just don’t have time to edit another session.

And friends, this is where film is a winner! When you shoot film, your editing time is so minimal that you’ll be searching for more clients and playing card games with your kids on weekday evenings. I can edit film scans from a full family session in about 30 minutes flat. That includes the time to cull, edit, upload and send the finished gallery to my clients.
Shooting film means you are always paying attention to your available light, composing your images carefully and waiting to click that shutter.

Because of this, your images are almost completely ready for you when you get your scans back from your developing lab! Editing is minimal and usually involves only quick minor adjustments.

You become an intentional photographer

When you shoot with film, you must become a very intentional photographer. Without the assurance of files that you can just delete, film forces you to slow down. You will see yourself become more methodical with your approach to photography.

Every click costs you money, so you learn to pay attention to your light. You compose your images so that everything in your frame is purposeful. You wait for the moment to unfold.

When I was shooting sessions digitally, I would walk away with 500+ images to cull through after my sessions (promising my clients 40-50). With film, I typically shoot about 80-100 images and am still able to deliver way more than my 40-50 images promised.

While taking fewer photographs isn’t better all by itself, taking a higher ratio of “keeper” photographs is! Film will train you to capture only the best moments in front of your camera. It will allow you to learn to see and anticipate the best photographs rather than shooting quickly and hoping you caught something.

Film colors are incomparable

You know all those beautiful presets people use these days? They are trying to replicate the colors of various film stocks!

Film colors are simply beautiful and it’s incredibly difficult to reach the same color results using digital cameras. When shooting with film, you aren’t editing your scans to get the colors you like. Rather, you are combining the film stocks and colors you want to get the results you expect!

There are so many different varieties of film stocks to choose from and your personal preferences can definitely come into play here. If you like your images warmer, you can use a warmer toned film stock. If you prefer your images bright and bold, you can choose a stock that is known for that aesthetic. Seek out samples of imagery shot on different film stocks and see what look strikes a chord with you.

Skin tones are perfection on film

The magic of the process of shooting film made me want to continue using this medium. But the skin tones I was able to capture made me fall head over heels in love with film!
A lot of my client sessions are newborns. Yet editing newborn skin was always so difficult for me. Newborn baby’s skin tends to be slightly pinker than their parent’s skin and they often have blemishes and splotches on their hands and faces.

The magic of film makes everyone’s skin tones so dreamy, creamy, and soft. And I mean everyone! You will no longer have to worry about editing the parents’ skin tones separately from the baby’s. Those little “flaws” you spend so much time fixing? They melt away on film! It’s just another magical aspect of this photographic medium that makes it a joy to work with.

Film improves your technical skills

Learning to shoot film will drastically improve your technical skills when it comes to photography. There are so many components to consider when making a photograph (exposure, shutter speed, aperture, metering, shutter speed). Learning how these work together is crucial, and especially so with film.

It can be too easy to use your digital camera and it’s advanced settings as a “crutch” when you are shooting. We can have that voice in our heads that assures us we can “save” the RAW image with a little post processing. This is not how we should be approaching our photography!

I had been shooting in manual mode with my digital camera for years when I came back to film. And I was more than a little surprised at how much there was still to learn when I picked up that film camera!

I now had to get everything right when I pressed the shutter button…not later. The meant that there were some growing pains as I learned to slow down and dial everything in perfectly before taking my shot. However, as with most artistic challenges, I emerged a better artist and a stronger photographer.

Film brings me so much joy. It is a timeless medium. It has an incredible way of capturing light, color and details. Film isn’t fast. And while it’s not perfect, that’s a big part of what I love about it!

Shooting film, allows us to let go of seeking “perfection” in our images. It forces us to be very intentional. It makes us stop and wait for a moment to unfold rather than forcing it to happen. No more clicking the shutter 100 times in hopes that we got something that might work!
Instead, we get to be present with our subjects. We photograph those everyday moments. Letting go of perfection was crucial for me personally, and also for my photography career.

When you shoot with film, magic happens.

We live in a digital age of instant gratification where it takes very little effort for instant results. Film takes us back to our roots and is a breath of fresh air. And if you are like me, film will bring you back to the joy and happiness of photography.

About the Author:

Stephanie Bryan is a natural light lifestyle photographer who has a passion for capturing and recording the beauty of everyday moments. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her sweet husband and two crazy, but adorable kids. When not documenting and recording the everyday, you can usually find her with a good book and cup of coffee in hand.

6 Comments

  1. Kelly Nov 28 2018 at 10:47 am - Reply

    I love this and have been wanting to try film. Any recommendations on how to get started/good cameras for beginners?

    • Stephanie Bryan Nov 30 2018 at 9:10 am - Reply

      Yes! You should so give it a try!! I highly recommend starting with an inexpensive camera that you can use with the lenses/gear you already have! I shoot with Canon and the Canon Rebel 2000 is a great starter camera (you can snag one on Amazon for about $35)! I can use all my lenses with this and it’s so easy to use! The Nikon F100 is also a great camera if you are a Nikon user! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions!! I’m happy to help! stephanie@stephaniebryanphoto.com

    • Stephanie Bryan Nov 30 2018 at 9:12 am - Reply

      Yes!! You should totally give it a try! Film is amazing! And I recommend starting with an inexpensive film camera that you can use with the gear/lenses you already have! For Canon, I recommend the Canon Rebel 2000 (which is about $35 on Amazon)! I use Canon and this little camera is great and can support all of my lenses/flashes! For Nikon, I’ve heard great things about the F100! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions at all! I’m happy to help! stephanie@stephaniebryanphoto.com

  2. samantha Nov 29 2018 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    how do you get the images onto your computer? is that even possible?

    • Stephanie Bryan Nov 30 2018 at 9:14 am - Reply

      Yes! It totally is! After you finish shooting your roll of film, drop it in the mail to a developing lab and they will develop/scan your negatives and send you a downloadable gallery or folder of your images as jpegs!

      • Rania Dec 10 2018 at 12:09 pm - Reply

        Can you recommend a lab?

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