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Why I Love Film Photography

They say that everything old is new again. Life does, indeed, tend to unfold around us in a cyclical fashion. Many of the so-called retro and vintage trends that rise to popularity often vanish as quickly as they appeared. But the fact that these things enter popular consciousness at all says something about our connection to — or, more likely, our curiosity about — styles and ways of doing things that preceded some of us. The retro stylings of cameras like the Nikon Df or the Fujifilm X100S certainly bear this out in the realm of photography.

But what about film photography? There surely seems to be a growing interest in film photography but, for many, the idea that film photography is “new again” doesn’t really fit, as they never completely gave up film even after the digital revolution took firm hold.

I, like most of my peers, was introduced to photography via a film camera — one those old Polaroid One Step cameras that I managed to wrestle from my aunt’s hands whenever she brought it around. But I am very much a product of the digital age and I jumped at my first opportunity to a digital point-and-shoot camera. I weaned myself from film and never looked back. For a while.


Olympus OM-1 Kodak Portra 400
Olympus OM-1
Kodak Portra 400

I’m not entirely sure what sparked the desire to return to film, but I’m glad it happened. Sure, I’m also reminded of the downsides, but I consider them relatively insignificant. To be sure, this isn’t a manifesto about abandoning digital photography or a screed about why film is ostensibly better than digital. No, I’m just sharing a few reasons why I love shooting film and why film photography will continue to play a small but important role in my growth as a photographer.


Hopefully, one or two of you reading this will be inspired to return to film or to try it out for the first time. Or, this all might serve as a reminder of why you happily kicked film to the curb and will never go back. Either way, food for thought.


Here are five reasons why I love shooting film, in no particular order.


Happy Accidents and Unexpected Treasures.

I tend to approach film photography with somewhat of an “art project” mindset, so I’m far more tolerant of imperfections as opposed to when I’m shooting digital. I don’t consider light leaks and lens flare to be problems, even when I’m not expecting to see them in a photo. And since I’m admittedly bad at reading manuals (I just don’t do it), I’ve made my fair share of accidental double exposures. Turns out I’ve enjoyed the results of most of those accidents.

Bronica SQ-A Kodak Tri-X 400
Bronica SQ-A
Kodak Tri-X 400

I Like a Challenge.

I would never go so far as to say digital photography is easy. But film photography sure isn’t convenient. Film photography forces me to be much more deliberate and thoughtful when I’m working. There are no do-overs. No delete button. If I don’t get it right the first time — get it right in camera — then I’ve just wasted a frame. As noted above, it doesn’t always go right but I am ever cognizant of the fact I have a limited number of frames to work with. Not all of my film cameras have working light meters, so getting the exposure I want (rather than a “correct” exposure) has become second nature.

Bronica SQ-A Kodak Portra 400
Bronica SQ-A
Kodak Portra 400

No Post Post-Processing.

Once I get my film developed and scanned, that’s it. The images remain untouched. I simply feel no compulsion to alter or “improve” my film shots in any way — even when they’re not very good. It’s a nice break from Lightroom’s develop module.

Canon AE-1 Fujifilm Pro 400H
Canon AE-1
Fujifilm Pro 400H

Grain Versus Noise.

Like virtually everything else on the list, this is entirely subjective (and, perhaps, a figment of my imagination), but film grain wins the war of aesthetics over digital noise every time. I understand the semantic use of noise as an analogy for grain, but that’s where that relationship ends for me. I’m partial to real film grain.

Bronica SQ-A Kodak Tri-X 400
Bronica SQ-A
Kodak Tri-X 400

The Analog Personality.

Not to be overly anthropomorphic here, but I thoroughly enjoy the personality of film and old cameras. While I love my DSLRs, I don’t feel they have much personality beyond what I assign to them. My old cameras, on the other hand, each come with their own distinctive quirks that generally escape being put into words, but if you shoot film you’ll know what I mean.

Olympus OM-1 Ilford HP5 400
Olympus OM-1
Ilford HP5 400

A similar case can be made for film. I have a particular attachment to Kodak Tri-X 400 and Kodak Portra 400 because, well, I just like the look of them and that’s all the reason I need. But I’m determined to try as many different kinds of film as I possibly can; and as I make my way through the different Fujifilm, Kodak, Agfa, Ilford, and other films (including rolls of expired film and instant film), I’m learning the many different “looks” associated with each one — looks that are rather difficult to replicate with plugins and presets.

Bronica SQ-A Kodak Tri-X 400
Bronica SQ-A
Kodak Tri-X 400

As far as the drawbacks of film photography (such as the waiting period and costs associated with developing film, cost of buying film, etc.), they’re not significant enough to keep me away since film doesn’t account for the bulk for my photography. Digital is still my go-to medium.

Olympus OM-1 Kodak Portra 400
Olympus OM-1
Kodak Portra 400

If you find yourself stuck in a creative rut or are in need of adding a new feature to your photographic repository, I highly encourage you to give film a shot (pun unfortunately intended).


5 Reasons I Love Film Photography

iPhoneographers Unite!

happy hi-5

Can you really get great shots on an iPhone?

That depends on how you define “great,” and there’s sure to be generational, educational, and experiential factors that cloud one’s idea of greatness. Furthermore, iPhoneography is often a divisive issue, with steadfast supporters and vigorous detractors occupying each end of the continuum. This all just serves to point to the subjectivity inherent in this discussion.

In the realm of mobile devices, the iPhone camera is generally well regarded but it’s hardly the god among mortals it was once considered. That doesn’t really matter, though. We all understand that, in the right hands, any camera is a good camera (or a good enough camera). So since the iPhone is, at the very least, a very capable camera, perhaps we should be talking about what iPhoneographers can do to maximize their camera’s potential.

It probably won’t settle any arguments about whether iPhone shots are great, but you can at least feel good about getting shots that live up to your own expectations.

Use Both Hands. The iPhone doesn’t feature any sort of image stabilization, so to minimize the chances of getting blurry shots you should probably hold it with two hands. You don’t get to choose the shutter speed, so despite the phone being thin, light, and generally comfortable to hold, you still need to make sure it’s as stable as possible.

Use the HDR Feature. This is somewhat related to the tip above because the iPhone’s HDR feature works by quickly taking three captures of your subject at different exposures and combining them for one ostensibly better defined image. But it’s pointless if your camera is moving.

Zoom with Your Feet. While the “zoom with your feet” advice comes with a number of caveats for DSLR/prime lens users, it’s really the only way to go for iPhoneographers; that slider at the bottom of the screen is nothing short of useless. Use it and people’s immediate reaction to your shot will be something along the lines of, “Oh, how unfortunate, you used the onscreen zoom….” If you want to zoom in on something and retain good image quality, just get closer to your subject.

Shoot in Good Lighting. Cell phone cameras typically have tiny sensors that don’t excel in low light conditions — the iPhone is no exception. It is by no means impossible to get an acceptable night/low light shot, but numerous factors will have to converge perfectly and you will need to use flawless technique. You simply aren’t going to get DSLR-like levels of high ISO performance out of your iPhone, so your best bet is to always shoot in the best light possible.

Use the Composition Grid. The fact that the iPhone gives you the option to turn on grid lines should be a hint that composition matters even when you’re shooting with a mobile device. An interesting and balanced composition is an important element of any photo, regardless of the camera with which it was made. The grid lines are there to help. Use them.

Use AE/AF Lock. Well, you have to know that feature is there in the first place, and many iPhone users don’t. It serves the very same purpose as the AE/AF lock on a DSLR. Just tap on the part of the screen that corresponds to the part of the subject you want to focus on, hold until the box that appears bounces twice, and you have now locked in focus and exposure. This can be helpful in tricky lighting situations such as when you encounter backlighting; you can focus on/expose for your subject alone and not worry about the background.

Go Easy on the Filters. Or don’t don’t use them at all. When it comes to things like Instagram filters, some people despise them and others use them on every single image that comes out of their phone — which is one of the reasons some people despise them. If you’re really trying to make a case for the legitimacy of iPhoneography, Instagramizing (Instagramifying?) everything isn’t going to help the cause.

Bring in Outside Help. You can definitely make do with the iPhone’s built-in camera functions, but if you want more control and flexibility, there are a rang of apps you can download to make your overall iPhoneography experience a more robust one. For a powerful yet user friendly photo editing app, try Snapspeed. If you’re looking for features like image stabilization, independent focus and exposure control, a horizontal level, and scene modes, give Camera+ a try.

So there you have it; take these tips, add them to any tips of your own, and go out there and represent for all the great iPhone photographers of the world.


Everybody’s A Critic

Ars Gratia Artis

“What the public criticizes in you, cultivate it. It is you.” — Jean Cocteau

When you work in any creative or artistic capacity — whether you earn a living from it or not — you’re an easy target for the negativity of others. The moment you present to the world the creation that you’ve put so much time and effort into, you can be sure the critics will emerge in force, prepared to pounce all over your work.

Click Here: How to Effectively Deal with Your Photography Critics

For Aspiring Event Photographers

I know that many people, upon hearing the term “event photography,” immediately begin to think of fancy gatherings like award shows, corporate fundraisers, weddings, proms, any manner of so-called black tie affair. But in reality — as far as a photographer should be concerned, at least — as long as you have a gathering of people doing something, loosely speaking, you may very well have an event on your hands.

Click Here: What Every Photographer Ought to Know About Successful Event Photography