Do you ever shoot on film? You don’t have to be a hipster, and it’s not about being retro. (I’d say there’s really no such thing as the “rebirth of film,” as I’ve sometimes heard it called: The practice never died.) That film has taken a backseat to digital photography is undeniable—and understandable—but shooting on film from time to time is good for you, too. Here’s why:
“Spray and Pray” Can Cloud the Way. Indiscriminately firing a sea of bullets toward a target might work in a war zone, but approaching photography with the same reckless abandon can be a bad habit. I get why it’s helpful in many situations, but I think it’s all too easy to do even when you don’t need it, just because you can. After all, unlike with film, you’re not spending money on every shot you take. As a result, you often exercise less restraint and less thoughtfulness. When you shoot on film, you have a finite number of shots you can take, and they’re each going to cost you a little something in real cash. That really does make you stop and think harder about how to set up your shot for the best results, and the payoff can be really great.
Memories Are for Your Brain, Not Your Computer. For the very reason I just described, it’s easy to fill up your computer’s memory with a colossal amount of digital photo files. What about the actual memories contained in those photographs? There are so many to choose from, you don’t print most of them. Then you end up rarely if ever looking at them again, since most people print only a small percentage of the digital photographs they take. Then, well, you forget them. Of all the photographs you have stored on your computer, how many have you actually had printed? When you shoot film, you have to have to get prints or you’ll never see the fruits of your labor. Having a photograph printed into something you can hold in your hand, set out on your mantel, touch in a photo album—it just brings it alive and ignites your memory in a way that sharing it on Instagram never will.
Everyone Loves Opening a Package. I swear, there’s nothing like the excitement of picking up that little envelope of just-developed photographs. When’s the last time you did that? I’m not talking about picking up a few enlargements. I’m talking about a whole pack of prints. What you are opening is a stack of memories as well as a personal review of your work. It’s different than looking at the image on a screen, where you can Photoshop it to death to make it right. It’s seeing your work in its final and permanent incarnation, something that really forces you to look at your work and see the patterns in your execution of the camera—especially those you might want to change.
I love my digital camera as much as the next person. But shooting on film can be good for the heart and mind at both ends of the process, from the time you set up your shot to the moment you pick up your photos. Give it a whirl. And remember, you can still share the best of those shots just the way you would share your digital photos—we both develop film and scan it and prints for digital storage (and sharing!).