I fell in love with photography in 2009 with the purchase of my first Digital SLR a Nikon D300. I learned as much and as fast as I possibly could. My photography skills grew and I began liking the photographs I was taking.
Then in 2012 I was given my father’s Olympus OM-1 film camera. I knew that film was an interesting medium which I used to shoot before digital really took over but was unsure how to start. I cleaned the camera and set it aside.
In 2013, my sister and her family were coming for a visit. I pulled out the OM-1 and loaded it with some film. I decided some B&W film would be best but I have no idea why.
That day I took the entire roll and took some amazing photographs as well as some real lost shots. Manual focusing was an issue, taking the time to stop and set the exposure was another stumbling block. The last hurdle was the finite number of pictures I was able to capture.
I took the roll to be developed and eagerly awaited the results. A few days later, the images we returned with some small prints and the negatives. I flipped through the negatives and put them away. The double prints I got were put in some frames or given away.
Of the 36 images I believe that 8 shots were lost. Mostly due to focus issues. But the images that did work REALLY worked. There was a bit more intimacy with the subject and the contrast was perfectly imperfect. And I was hooked.
Four years later, I am sitting looking at a collection of about 40 film cameras including two 4x5, five medium format and the rest 35mm cameras. I develop my own film and print in a little darkroom I have set up.
Photography has changed for me. From the digital perfection to the beautiful, stubborn world of film photography. Yes I do waste film still today. Occasionally my focus is off, and sometimes I did not calculate the shot well. But the few images, where the camera works perfectly, my abilities are up to the task, light falls on the subject softly and the gods of luck smile upon my, I get an image so breathtaking I can call it art.
In the digital world I can get these images with a great deal more frequently if I am willing to spend some time in post processing.
What I do wonder is why we have to waste so much film in order to get to a place where we get an acceptable number of “hits”. With modern digital technology we should be able to prepare ourselves for film photography. The problem is that no one really sees the two mediums as connected. We wither shoot digital or film and there is nothing in between. Why can we not use one medium to springboard into the next.
I see plenty of people advocating picking up a film camera in order to learn photography. While I fully agree that film gives you a unique perspective, it seems an expensive way to learn photography.
If I were to give advice to a young aspiring photographer, I would suggest they buy a used digital DSLR camera and some manual focus, prime lenses including a wide, normal and portrait (21 or 28mm, 50mm and 90mm) assuming a full frame camera is used.
I would then suggest to get small memory cards and to shoot in JPEG. Shooting in RAW gives you a great deal of room to rescue an improperly shot image. Shooting JPEG and judging your shot by what comes out of the camera is far better.
The idea is to give the quick feedback of digital while assuming some of the limitations of film cameras. Once more of your shots are in focus, and you understand the power and versatility of composition, film cameras can easily be brought in.
The end result would be a student who could practice a ton on very little money, would invest in glass that could be used later on a film camera and would be practicing all the skills needed to be a proficient film photographer. It would then be very easy for them to pick up a fully automatic digital camera if and when needed.
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.