This is the Kodak Brownie Flash II which was made in England between 1957 and 1960. I bought it for a few dollars a couple of months ago because I had seen so much about "old box cameras" that I wanted to give it a try. But that is a story for another day. This post is about a YouTube video that Ted Forbes just made which can be seen HERE.
On the video Ted puts forward a concept, which he read on "The Amateur Photographer's Handbook", that there would be a lot more great photographers if the world still started shooting on a box camera. The argument, and a very attractive one, is that working through the limitations of such a primitive camera helps make you a better photographer. I have long believed that 2,000 images caught on film teaches you more than 2,000 images on a digital camera but it took me awhile to understand why.
As Ted mention's in the video, working around the camera limitations forces you to think about what you are shooting and how you are shooting it. Shooting on film has three great benefits over digital photography as a learning medium. The first is that film is expensive so every image needs to be more carefully considered. Digital photography is free, once you purchase the equipment, so you are more likely to snap a quick picture that has no artistic value.
The second is that film cameras are generally more basic than modern digital ones. You have to pick an aperture, shutter speed and carefully consider the ISO of the film you are putting in. All of this thought goes into each and every image you take.
The third is that when people send their film to be developed they typically get some nice 4x5 prints made. This forces you to look at every image you have taken, the good, the bad and the ugly. The process of going through your images is vital for improvement. On digital we can quickly skip over the poor images and more on to find a good one.
I believe this is where the secret rests. Thinking about what you are doing, looking at the results with a critical eye, and learning from your mistakes is essential to creative progression.
I am not suggesting people purchase a box camera and Ted does a good job warning new film shooters to stay away from such cameras. I am suggesting that you can learn just as much from digital as you can from film but it requires a great deal of self control. You need to limit your number of shoots, have them all printed out and look through each one. Consider what you are doing, how to set up your camera and what is the best composition to use.
A math teacher in my youth used to say "practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect". I believe this is true in many walks of life. The act of pressing a shutter 2,000 times will not make you a good photographer. Shooting 200 images, thinking of each and every one of them will bring you more value regardless of the medium used.
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.