Why Film?


As Ive posted in the past, and many of you already know, I dug up my Mom's film cameras that she used to shoot weddings, purchased an old Nikon film camera, and then purchased my first roll of film a couple months ago. I set out to learn how to use a film camera and get to know everything I could about film photography. Since I dont have a dark room, nor do I have access to one, I would need to find a place that still develops film. 


2 months later...here I am loving my decision, realizing how important that decision actually was for my growth as a photographer. I honestly feel that it has helped make me an overall better photographer. I feel that it's even slightly changed my style a little, with portraits mostly. Often having a grainy film look, or retro look in mind when processing my digital images. Which I personally feel only gives my photography more of a unique look. With all the people going out and buying cheap DSLR's today, thinking they are professional photographers, unique style will only help you stand out in the crowd.

To be honest, ever since I googled the instructions on how to load the film in my Nikon FM and loaded my first roll of film, I'v actually become obsessed with it. I have rolls of film all over the house, the cats are actually using the film containers as toys there's so many of them. My concerns about finding a place that still develops film...quickly crushed when I found out the Rite Aid two miles down the street can knock them out in an under an hour for me. I have them give me the actual prints as well as put the scanned images on a CD, which I then upload into Lightroom. 

It took me a good few days to really feel confident with using the Nikon FM, which is the camera I used at the beginning to learn from, since everything is manual. I would shoot a roll, under all different light conditions, run it up to get developed....shoot another full roll, run that roll up to Rite Aid, but this time swap it out with the roll they had just finished developing. I did this for a couple days, spending a lot more money on film than I wanted, but I was determined to get it right. After about the 4th or 5th roll I had the exposures good and the camera itself figured out. 

That same week we had a family photo shoot at a nearby park so I brought it along to just snap a few shots at the end if I had the time. I ended up shooting an entire roll. The family was cool with me using it off and on throughout the shoot, and actually loved the idea of me using film, even asking if I could add some of the photos into their online gallery for them to see. It was still my first week of learning the camera, and even though I thought I was ready, I still had a lot of mistakes and only about half the roll came out good. There were some shots out of focus, some under exposed, over exposed, metering issues, but it was an awesome learning experience and I was still able to give the family a few good shots in their gallery.

I've now started using my Mom's 35mm Canon Rebel G, which I keep a 50mm f/1.8 lens mounted on it most of the time. This is an awesome little camera, extremely light, and unlike the Nikon FM, has a digital display and auto focus, so its pretty close to that of a DSLR body, only its film. I've been bringing these cameras with me pretty much everywhere, often choosing to leave behind my D800 and D700, two of the best digital cameras made today. Why? Because they're fun. The anticipation of having to wait until the film is developed to see your picture. I even took the 35mm Nikon along with me to our first wedding a couple weeks ago, sneaking in shots wherever and whenever I could, just to try and give the bride a few film shots in the mix. 

So, Im extremely happy that I decided to jump into the world of 35mm film photography, so much so that it has become a slight obsession of mine. Now that its been a couple months, and I realized that I can't afford to be spending this much money on film, I have chilled out a little. As fun as it is manually setting up each shot, hearing the sound the camera makes moving from frame to frame, having to really think before each shot, it definitely has its limitations. I love the grainy film look that comes along with film photography, that retro look, but it has become a fad, so I need to be careful with not going overboard with it. Smartphone photo editing software and Instagram have taken over as the source of most of the photography you see on social media. There are photos everywhere that were edited to look like film, attempting to give that retro look. The good thing with real film, and images that were created by film, they don't look like those images. So, I just have to remember to be careful to not over do it, and remember that at the end of the day, learning film photography was just a way to make me an over-all better photographer. Its fun to use, and its cool to give clients a few film pics here and there, but digital photography is still what pays the bills and is the chosen format for most professional photographers for a reason. My 36mp D800 rocks!


Here are some of the reasons I recommend learning film.

  1. Its film
  2. Just like everything else in life...I strongly believe that you can't truly understand something until you learn its roots.
  3. I strongly believe that using a film camera can help make you an overall better photographer.
  4. You will have a better understanding of how to use your DSLR by learning to shoot with a manual film camera. Inside they work the same exact way. The only difference being one uses film and one uses a digital sensor to capture the image. 
  5. Using a film camera makes you think more about each and every shot.
  6. It has a different look than digital, and since digital images make up close to 99% of the photographs you see on the internet and social media are today, images created from film have a unique look to them.
  7. Its fun.

Jay Cassario

Twisted Oaks Studio