Photography Blog

James Tarry's photography blog. Ramblings from a photographers over active mind. Email now or call +44 (0)7855 742 633.

"Film? You know digital exists, right?"

I get asked that question (the title) a lot, specifically when they see me shooting with a film camera. Its either questions like "why do you use it?", the wonderment that people are still using the film format at all, or even that they are unaware you could still buy rolls of film!

When I first started out in photography, digital cameras weren't available, I was fully trained using and developing film. 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 and its not because I've become a hipster, so why? Well, I'm not sure I can explain eloquently enough, but I will try. 

I feel myself becoming less and less connected to digital images, somehow/sometimes photography feels like the process of capturing what you actually saw is being lost and the reliance in editing what you wanted to see is in the ascendence (if that makes sense at all?). While travelling I was shooting (or trying to shoot travel stock), and If I'm honest with you I found that I was 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 became a chore. However, luckily I had taken out my medium format Hasselblad to America, so I put away the digital and shot most of the rest of the trip on film. 

The Hasselblad uses "120" film which only contains 12 exposures, by consciously making the choice to switch to film and worrying about using all those frames and the cost of developing them it slowed me down. 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. Even then after setting up a shot i'd sometimes then walk away and not press the shutter. When I look back at the photos from that trip, the digital shots aren't my favourite, the film shots (that haven't even been near editing software) are.

Since returning to UK I have continued to experiment with film, I have been trying multiple exposures, different films types and even Infrared. 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 negatives! 

This isn't a film v digital post, because both have their merits and downfalls. Digital has opened the world up to photography and that, I firmly believe is a wonderful thing for the future of photography. But, I really feel that by going back to film its refocused me, made me learn all the  tricks I once knew but have probably not really thought about since going digital. My digital process has also improved, I've slowed down there too, become more selective in final shot selections, so perhaps its even improved my digital work on the whole.

If you are in a photography rut switching to film for a bit could be the best thing you do.

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