“Is that film? You know there’s digital now right?”, “Why do you use it?”, “I didn’t know they still make and sell film?”
When I first started out in photography, digital cameras weren’t available, I was fully trained using and developing film. We edited in the darkrooms, we smelt of chemicals, we printed out our images. By the time I started shooting professionally I had to make the full switch over to digital and sadly because of demands ditched film. Fast forward to 2014 and I have rediscovered the joy of film. I suppose in the digital age it’s not surprising that the questions above are ones I commonly hear when I am out shooting with my film camera. So why have I gone back to shooting film? Because I’ve become a hipster? Nope……
Back in 2012, I bought a Hasselblad medium format camera for a project that I intended to start but never did and sadly it became a paper weight (albeit a very attractive one). When my girlfriend and I decided to flee from the UK at the start of 2014 and go live, work, explore California for 3 months I thought of selling it. However, thanks to said girlfriend (talking me into it!) I decided to lug it out with me. While travelling I was shooting (or trying to shoot travel stock), and If I’m honest with you I found that I became guilty of the “Click click click, look at screen, not correct, click click, got it” syndrome, I was shooting hundreds of frames and when I got back to base to edit them, it all became a bit of a chore. I found them uninspiring! Realising this, I put down the digital and shot the rest of the trip predominantly on film.
The Hasselblad uses “120” film which only contains 12 exposures, by consciously making the choice to switch to film, I was worrying about using those frames too quickly and the cost of developing them. In short, it slowed me down. I found I was thinking more about the composition and since the Hasselblad is also manual focus and needs manual light metering, it takes far longer to take one shot than it does on digital. Quite often I would set a shot up, go to use the shutter, but instead I’d walk away, with my digital I’d probably just have pressed the shutter. Its no surprise to me then that when I look back at the photos from my America trip, the digital shots aren’t my favourite, the film shots are.
Since returning to UK I have continued to experiment with film, I have been trying multiple exposures, different films types for different looks and even tried Infrared (which is difficult!). I have found that digital format has become work only. I just feel more with film photography, the excitement of getting the images back from the lab, the disappointment of one of the shots you hoped worked but didn’t, the joy at one that you expected not to work but did…. and negatives, I love having negatives again!
This isn’t a film v digital post. Digital has opened the world up to photography and that, I firmly believe is a wonderful thing for the future of photography on the whole. But, personally I really feel that by going back to film its refocused me, made me relearn the basics of photography I once knew but have probably been going through the motions with. I firmly believe that my digital process has also improved, I’ve slowed down there too, become more selective in final shot selection, maybe even become a bit more aware with my creativity. Has shooting film helped my digital workflow? I honestly believe it has.
So, find yourself in a photography rut? Go seek out that old camera, buy a roll of film, revel in that “click, wind on sound” and have fun. It could be the best thing you do.
James Tarry is a professional London based Interior/Architectural and travel photographer. A digital user but favours the purity of Film, he also blogs, Instagrams and Tweets (a lot) too. His portfolio/blog can be found on www.jamestarryphotography.com, Twitter: @JT__Photography and Instagram: @JT___Photography