Why Swapping Megapixels for Film Makes you a Better Photographer.

At the height of the digital era in which talk of stabilisers, processors, sensors and image quality have become the norm, there has also been a rise in film photography that is most evident on social media. On Instagram alone, the hashtag #FilmIsNotDead has around 8.5 million posts. Coincidence? I think not!

In a world where everything tends to homogenise and photographic fads are far too common, excelling in something different is not an easy task and for someone aspiring to be original, there is nothing worse than mediocrity. I think that’s where analog photography comes in.

But before going into the creative virtues of analog photography, let’s talk about its cost. It is common to think that in addition to the hassle of taking your work to the lab, in general terms, is very expensive; film, cameras, lenses, developing etc. However, the truth is that if we analyse it with a bit of calm, we will realise that it actually much cheaper.

Compare, for example, the cost of modern digital equipment such as a Sony A7III plus a pair of fixed lenses like a 35mm and 50mm. Without memory cards, extra batteries or the occasional sensor cleaning, this basic equipment will cost you about 3200 USD (not to mention that every few years you will be forced to switch bodies). You’re probably thinking, “but you’re talking about Full Frame and plus, it’s a very new camera”, but that’s just it, any second-hand analog camera that you buy will always be Full Frame, or more …

Now let’s analyse the cost of a high-end analog camera, say a Nikon F3. This professional-range camera; built like a tank that’ll last you a lifetime, with priority to the diaphragm, a sealed body and an almost infinite selection of lenses, will cost you about 350 USD plus another 300 USD for a pair of lenses. In total we are talking about 700 USD. Note that this is the cost of a top-of-the-range camera; you can get a great camera/lens combo for a whole lot less!

We’re talking about saving 2500 USD, which is not exactly the petty cash of most people! Of course, we still have to account for the cost of developing our film and this is where things get a little more complicated.

If you go to your hard drive and count how many photos you have taken this past year, you will probably be in the thousands by the time you’re done counting. If you were to develop all of those photos it is very possible that you’d be spending the 2500 USD that you saved by choosing to shoot analogue, but, and here’s the big BUT, how many of those thousands of photos are actually good photos?

We all have hundreds or thousands of photos accumulating “digital dust” and a great way of not only accumulating less mediocre work, but also forcing ourselves to focus more on composition, light, the decisive moment etc. is by lowering our pace, observing more and shooting less, which is exactly what analog photography offers us.

Additionally, film allows us to experiment with different types of negatives; color, black and white, different white balances, formats and even develop ourselves at home: something that is deeply satisfying.

And finally, it allows us to be involved in the whole photographic process, forces us to resolve situations within certain limitations and obligates us to wait to see the results rather than showing them to us instantly (the latter often leads us to think that we have already done a good job and makes us self-complacent).

All this, my friends, is what makes you a better photographer.

By no means am I suggesting that you throw out your digital camera, everything has its moment and purpose, but I do recommend you try it, at least for a while. I guarantee that many of the photos you take will make you feel something that simply does not exist with digital photography.

To finish and twisting the phrase of the great David Alan Harvey “photograph what it feels like, not what it looks like” I would say: Feel your photography to photograph what it feels like.

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  1. […] old cameras to experimenting with different types of film (you can read more on this in the post: Why swapping megapixels for film makes you a better photographer), and as with most things that become popularised, this leads to many discussions and reviews on […]

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