Photographic film has been around since the 1880s, and for over a century it was the dominant and accepted standard way to shoot photographs. It was George Eastman who invented the first flexible photographic film, founding the firm Kodak, revolutionising the industry and virtually cornering the market.
For more than 100 years, analogue photographic film was gradually improved but the basis of the technology remained constant. It wasn’t until 1990 that the first digital camera became commercially available. And while photographic film still had its proponents, it didn’t take long for the digital revolution to overtake the camera industry as well.
Indeed, today digital photography is something that all of us take for granted. Every smartphone has two high-quality digital cameras and it is cheap and easy to pick up a digital model that would rival a professional-grade camera from 15 years ago.
Today, shooting with film on old fashioned film cameras is enjoying something of a renaissance. There are actually many reasons that this is the case. In this article, we will take a look at why shooting in film has come back into popularity, and why you should consider using this older technology to take your photographs.
Analogue is Being Discovered as a New Technology
One of the reasons that photographic film is enjoying a new period of popularity is that – confusingly – it is being seen by many as a ‘new’ technology. Many younger people have grown up without ever previously encountering non-digital camera technology. This has made the concept of photographic film feel new and exciting.
“The film photography trend exploded in popularity among the youth at the start of the pandemic,” says Zue Wei Leong, writing for Tatler “along with the Gen Z revival of the disco and y2k era. Many dug out their parents’ old Pentax and Olympus cameras to try their hand at this previously-dying art.”
Indeed, a large proportion of the most passionate users of photographic film are the younger generation.
Film is Finite
One of the huge advantages of digital cameras is their ability to functionally take as many pictures as you want. With significant storage, photographers can take hundreds or even thousands of snaps without ever encountering the problem of needing to switch cameras, delete photographs or change anything about what they are doing.
Of course, one of the most interesting aspects here is that while the virtually infinite nature of digital photography is definitely a benefit, many are beginning to look at the finite element of photographic film and see that it has huge positives too.
There is something perhaps romantic or more precious about images taken on photographic film. Having a limited amount of film to capture the images potentially makes the photographer think longer and harder about the composition and positioning of each shot.
“Through analogue photography, I have learned to be patient, to wait for the moment,” says professional photographer Anna Fichtner speaking with MPB “To see light. And this is reflected in my interior shots – which are created digitally. For me, the connection to my subject is enormously important – whether it’s a person or a space.”
Loss of Digital Photographs
Many of us have been through the experience of a phone dying unexpectedly or simply being lost. As well as the huge inconvenience that this causes, there is often another issue that sometimes gets forgotten about: the loss of a camera’s worth of photographs. If you don’t backup your camera or store everything on the cloud, anything that was saved to that phone is gone.
If that concept wasn’t bad enough, think about the fact that even if you don’t lose your phone, you likely have many phones within which all of your treasured memories are stored, but you never take the time to actually look at them. They are lost, but in a different way.
Photographic film is something that you can hold onto easily for a very long time. And that actually brings us to another point.
The Opportunity to Print
If you have the photographic film available, it is still easily possible to get the photographs physically printed. Actual printed photographs are a great way to enjoy treasured memories and also show off amazing photography. Photographs around the house is something that all of us – even the younger generations, have grown up with and understand the value of.
Printing your photos is a very enjoyable experience – viewing them at a larger size than you might be used to seeing, if you view all of your photographs on your phone. It also makes photography into a physical experience as well as a visual one. Choosing where to put the photos, for example, becomes a major part of them.
And yes, it is possible to print photographs from digital cameras, but it isn’t really what they were designed for. Something about using photographic film makes it feel like the photos are intended to be printed.
Another novelty of analogue photography that isn’t necessarily possible with digital cameras is that of instant photography. Sometimes known as Polaroid (which is actually a brand name that is also making a comeback), instant photography allows you to take a photograph which then immediately prints in the camera as is available to you in seconds.
This is a surprisingly fun and engaging way to enjoy photography in a way that might be very different to your usual style of capturing photographs. It is definitely worth giving it a try, especially if it is something that you have never experienced before.
Shooting with film in 2023 is a rewarding and enriching experience. Whether you are capturing moments with friends and family, or looking to enjoy some artistic expression via photography.
While digital cameras do have many benefits that analogue cameras cannot compete with, there is something that feels perhaps more special about a vintage camera experience and experimenting with non-digital equipment.
You don’t have to be a professional to get something out of shooting with photographic film, and you might find that the whole experience changes your relationship with photographs and photography.
Why not give it a try?