The Case for Film


Skijler Hutson, Staff Writer

No, not everyone who uses film photography is a hipster from Portland. But many of us have our reasons (some of them maybe including wanting to be a hipster). Film photography is the original type of photography which uses a strip of light-sensitive film that reacts to light. When developed and printed, it turns into a photographic image. Okay … okay, call me an impractical nonconformist who is only interested in film because it is vintage and different, but I swear that there are reasons for shooting film other than my inflated ego.

     1. The waiting:

I will admit that it is one of the most frustrating things to not be able to see your picture for a week or more. Sometimes I feel like smashing my camera to see what it looks like, only to realize that I would ruin my film. But it is also one of the reasons I love film photography.

For one, it keeps me from taking 20 photos of the same plant because I think I can get better lighting. I only have 36 on a roll and cannot go wasting pictures. It makes me focus on making the most out of each photo. I will often use the same roll for weeks on end, only shooting two or three at a time. Because I cannot check the image, I stay in the moment. It is a relaxed and organic process.

I don’t look down at the photo and become distracted from the present. I stay focused on the subject. The camera becomes more of an accessory and less of the centerpiece, keeping me present and aware with my model and the world around me.

     2. The look:

I don’t know what it is exactly, but there is something about film photography that just simply looks good. The grains from the chemicals, the deep contrasts, and the intenser details all add to a final image that is nicer to look at. Film provides a unique and amazing look — why else would digital cameras have a film filter if it didn’t look good?

When you take a digital picture, you’re putting many pixels together and expecting one clean image. With film, the image is exactly what you saw. It doesn’t capture pixels but light that reacts with amazing chemistry. You are bound to get a low-quality, pixely photo with digital.

     3. The feeling:

Okay, okay … some of the reasons I prefer film are because I am an in-denial hipster, but it also becomes an aspect of emotion. It is such an enjoyable experience to go with my friends and take pictures. I have documented my life and relationships, so I can look back with fond memories.

I think there is something very sentimental in using film. My family only used film up until a few years ago. Finally when Target stopped processing it, we stopped using it. But every photo in my albums was on film. My mom avidly documented my life on the same 35mm I use now.

     4. The process:

Although this is the very reason that many people dislike film, it is also the reason why I enjoy it. The process that goes into making film is part of the art of photography: going to a photo lab, developing the film, looking at the negatives in the light, processing a contact sheet, picking a couple frames for print, enlarging a picture, focusing the image, and finally dipping the photo paper in the developer, stop, and fix. Then you do the last few steps five or 10 times until you have a correct exposure. Sure its tedious and a little bit more work, but it also is a relaxing process that I highly enjoy. When I am in the dark room, I don’t have my phone, and I am simply with the image and myself. I love making something tangible with my hands. The process de-stresses me and allows me to produce art. It brings me closer to the image; I start to notice every detail, and it makes me a better photographer.

     5. Convenience:

My adversary will argue that film is inconvenient. Au contraire! He must have not heard of instant film. Also known as Polaroid, instant film must be one of the most convenient methods of documentation possible. You click the button, and within a minute you have a print. Not to mention that these photos are one of a kind.

     6. On a budget:

Film cameras are less expensive than high-tech digital ones. You can probably pick one up at a thrift store or on eBay for under $150, while a reasonable quality digital camera will cost upwards of $400. While some might argue that you have to additionally buy film, it only costs about $5 for a strip of 36. This means that you can buy a film camera and 50 film strips with 1800 photos until you reach a digital camera’s base price. Additionally, loading film and taking out of the camera is a fun and interesting experience.

     7.Setting yourself apart:

Okay let’s be a little bit of a nonconformist for a minute. There are upwards of 1.8 million photos taken every day according to Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report. This makes it extremely difficult to set yourself apart as an individual photographer. Most of those photos are digital. Using film allows an easy and interesting way to create something different. It gives you credibility as an artist if you know how to use a film camera and a reputation as photographer if you can set yourself apart from the pack. If everyone else is using digital and you are using film, then it can be used as an unique feature to better market yourself. Potential clients and employers will be intrigued by your use of film, and it might just get you the job.


I’m not trying to say that digital photography is evil, and you are feeding into a society addicted to technology and screens if you use it. Instead, I am asking that you give it a chance. Don’t mark it off as irrelevant and impractical. It has its uses and benefits. There is something to be said in it lasting two centuries. Take the time to learn how to develop film. If you find out that it is not for you, I promise you will not regret learning it.