Film Is NOT The “F” Word

Contrary to popular belief, 35mm film photography never went away. And it’s making a sizeable comeback.

Two years ago, a professional photographer I know in Australia, Chris Putnam, told me that professional photographers there were getting rid of their digital cameras in droves, and going back to film.

I also have several photography friends who have purchased a used 35mm film camera to see what it’s like, and to have photographs with that “film” look.

Why use film?

  • The look. Film gives a completely different, and more organic, look than digital, which many people prefer. That’s why there are so many presets on cameras and photo processing software that try to duplicate the look of film.
  • Slower pace. Film makes you shoot more deliberately, giving you time to work on composition and lighting, and allows the photographer to really look at what they’re shooting. Getting it right in the camera is always the best way. With only 24 or 36 exposures per roll, “Run and Gun” is out of the question.
  • No computer time, until you digitize them. If you digitize them at all. Imagine how much more time you would have in your life if you didn’t need to process your images.
  • Improves your photography skills. Most of what you shoot can’t be reshot a week later when you see your processed film. So you MUST get it right the first time, and every time.
  • Better dynamic range. It can take up to three bracketed RAW files to achieve the same tonal range as film.

Film cameras, old and new, are less expensive than low end DSLR cameras, and they last longer. Granted, over the past 35 years prices have increased, but you can still buy a brand new Nikon FM10 35mm SLR film camera with 35-70mm lens for $519. Used film cameras will cost even less. The Canon EOS Rebel T5 DSLR camera with an 18-55mm Lens is $550.

Usually, you can’t just shoot film if you’re working with commercial clients. You have to digitize it somewhere in your workflow. But film scanners have become pretty cheap, and they do a good job. You can also go higher end, and buy a $700 unit like mine, the Epson Perfection V800 Photo Scanner. And, of course, you can buy scanners that are even more expensive.

Don’t forget that many film processing places will scan your images for you. However, my experience has been that their scans aren’t that great. There are scanning services and pro labs that do a good job. There are also services that are designed to scan all of your family photos, like

If you’re only using your film for prints, you don’t need a scanner, computer or any other technology besides an enlarger. And if you use a lab to do your printing, you don’t even need the enlarger.

Film is still viable in the digital age. It’s not better or worse than digital, just different. Film is a tool to bring your imagination into reality. Choose the proper tool for the job, and go make some magic.