10 Things I Love About Film

love / hate
Creative Commons License photo credit: ron.richardson

OK, so my recent article on the “10 Things I Hate About Film” went over with mixed emotions. Let me just get this cleared up: IT WAS A SARCASTIC SATIRE/PARODY actually aimed at the shortcomings of digital photography. Some readers saw this immediately, and even added to the humor with their comments. Other readers took the article seriously and proceeded to attack me as a photographer and a writer. You can see some of the comments on the post and on the Digg page for the article.

If you're not convinced that I have a basic understanding and love of film, here are some photos as evidence (here, here, here, here, and here). You can also see my film scans on Flickr. You can also try clicking some of the links left throughout the original article — most of them lead to articles about film photography that I've written in the past.

I understand that my idea of humor may not be yours, and I also understand that not everybody will “get it” when it comes to my flavor of sarcasm and jokes. I also get the feeling that many people were turned off and immediately dismissed the blog as “crap” — buy hey, you can't win 'em all. So if you didn't “get it” in the last article, here it is in plain and serious English (the italics are the quotes from the other article):


Seriously, this has to be one of the things I hate most about film. That grain you get all over the photos is absolutely terrible! And the worst part is that you can't entirely get rid of it with Photoshop — so you're stuck with it. Those awful little specks show up all over the photo and add unwanted texture and inconsistencies. I don't know about you, but if I want grain in my photo for “artistic reasons” I'd like to be able to at least have the choice of adding it in during post processing. That's why digital is the way to go.

TRANSLATION: I LOVE FILM GRAIN! I actually shoot with Neopan 1600 and Delta 3200 at all times of the day just for the grain. The added texture and inconsistency is what makes grain so special. Yes, we can add it in post with digital, but it's not the same as real grain.


You walk into a photography store that carries film and what do you see? About 3 million different types of films hogging all that wall space. I mean, really, who needs 14 different types of black and white films? What's the difference? And don't even get me started on different film formats. It's confusing as all heck, having to decide between a bunch of different film that supposedly does the same thing. That's the nice thing about digital — you get one sensor, and you know that it's going to produce consistent results with each photo.

TRANSLATION: I LOVE ALL THE DIFFERENT FILMS! When I buy film, I buy 2 or 3 rolls of about 10 different films rather than boxes of the same film. I love to experiment with new films and see how they all result in vastly different photos. Though I'm starting to prefer certain types of film for certain cameras of mine, I'm certainly not excluding any specific type of film. This is another point that digital can't reproduce with Photoshop.


Yikes, that stuff is outrageously expensive! The cost per photo skyrockets compared to digital, and the price of film makes you have second thoughts about taking useless photos. I think we're definitely better off spending all that money on new digital bodies, super-fast glass, new computers, software licenses, and backup hard drives. Because you know that $3 to $5 per roll can add up really fast — especially since we all love to grab about 500 photos each time we go out with the camera.

TRANSLATION: I LOVE THAT FILM PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT REALLY THAT EXPENSIVE! When you can buy a fully functional film camera for under $50, the cost of film photography compared to digital can be very cheap indeed. Sure, the film costs money, but you also don't need to drop $800 on a camera.


A lot of people will tell you that the broad dynamic range of film is a huge benefit over digital. They're just crybabies when it comes to setting the exposure on their camera. If you ask me, those film photographers just need that extra dynamic range because their ancient cameras can't meter the scene correctly. Oh, but what about those really high contrast situations? Hey, silhouettes are always in fashion.

TRANSLATION: I LOVE THE DYNAMIC RANGE OF FILM! I've pulled off some pretty amazing shots with b/w film — shadows, straight into the sun, and water reflecting sunlight all in the same frame. Right now, digital can't keep up.


So not only does film cost money up front, but then you have to get it developed (and likely spend more money) before you can actually see the photos? Sure, there are places out there that can develop your film in under an hour, but who has time for that these days? Not only that, but while you're getting the film developed, you might encounter another human being and be forced into a social situation. Personally, I'd much rather spend 10 to 20 minutes watching my photos download onto my computer from my full 8GB Compact Flash card.

TRANSLATION: I LOVE THE PROCESS OF WAITING FOR DEVELOPMENT! I also love going into the film store and chatting with other photographers and the folks that work there. And while I'm waiting for my film to be developed, I typically bring a camera and go mingle with other photographers floating around outside the store.


This whole developing thing is such a pain! It cost money, it takes time, and get this… more choices that you have to deal with. There's all these different chemicals that you have to decide on. Plus, you have the option of under-developing and over-developing the film — how confusing is that? Then you get these yahoo's that think cross processing is some kind of toy to play with. Honestly, I take comfort knowing that once I press the shutter on my digital camera, the exposure is set in stone and the image “developed” without having to think about it.

TRANSLATION: I LOVE THE CHOICES WE HAVE FOR FILM DEVELOPING! I think it's great that there are a number of choices for developing film. I'm personally a fan of cross processing slide film, and I'm always amazed at how different films react to the process. Another thing that's cool about processing film — you can actually push or pull the exposure beyond what the label says. Awfully handy for extremely low light situations. The thing about digital is that once you press the shutter, your exposure is set in stone. With film, it's not set until it's been developed and printed.


I love my LCD on the back of my digital camera. I can check each photo I take for correct exposure and composition. No need to spend the extra 3 seconds getting it right the first time — if I screw up, I'll see it on the LCD and just take another 3 or 4 photos of the same scene. I don't know how those film photographers can live without seeing their photos immediately. I mean, what if you mess up an entire roll of film? You won't know it until a few days down the road, and that might be too late.

TRANSLATION: I LOVE HOW FILM MAKES YOU WAIT! Sure, being able to review images on the fly could help you save some shots, but it's largely not necessary. Shooting film teaches you how to get your shots without excessive trial and error. It can also prevent you from missing the shot because you're too busy checking your histogram. Besides, playing the waiting game is fun.


I pride myself on being able to take more photos than anybody else when I go out with other photographers. If I were shooting film, I'd need to have an entire room just to file the negatives, not to mention the prints. I don't know what the old photographers did with all that used film. Some people have this “thing” about holding and touching the photo, but what's that all about? I think photos look their best on my 22″ widescreen display. Who needs to “hold” it? It's a piece of paper, not a baby.

TRANSLATION: I LOVE HOLDING FILM AND PRINTS! And no, I don't pride myself in being able to take more photos than anybody else — that's not how I photograph. (Get it? I was poking fun at that type of mentality that some digital photographers have). Holding the negatives, checking them out, putting them in their sleeves — all part of the process that I love. And prints… prints are amazing. If you've never held one of your prints at large format, you're really missing out on something special.


Have you ever seen one of those old film cameras? They're like metal bricks. Those things will probably be around after the cockroaches go extinct. It's like they never die, and they just end up getting churned back into society through places like eBay. Hey people — it's old technology! It doesn't belong here anymore! But those digital camera manufacturers got it right — build a camera that only lasts 3 or 4 years, and you won't have to worry about outdated technology lingering about.

TRANSLATION: I LOVE OLD FILM CAMERAS! I have six film cameras ranging in origin from the 50's through the 80's. I don't have any film cameras that are newer than about 25 years old. Those things are great, and I'll bet they'll all outlast even my newest digital camera.


If you've ever encountered those film photographers, you know what I'm talking about. They are not the type of people you want to be hanging around. Showing up to photowalks with their old cameras, talking about different films as if they were fine wines, trying to be all “artistic”, and thinking they're better than everyone else just because they can take photos without batteries. If you see one of these film photographers walking the streets, hide your camera and walk the other way — they might try to talk to you and get you roped in to hanging with the wrong crowd.

TRANSLATION: I LOVE THE FILM CROWD! They are certainly a special group of photographers, but they're not at all bad people (at least the ones that I've met). Sure, we go places with old cameras, talk about film, and some of us may be artistically quirky. But film photographers are still photographers just like anybody else with a camera and a love of photography. We're all on the same team here.

Hopefully this article cleared a few things up. It does kind of bother me that so many people read the last article and dismissed me as being whiny, uneducated, inexperienced, stupid, lazy, and a baby (yes, somebody called me a baby). The funny thing is that the people who made those kinds of comments actually made themselves look silly to those who understood the article. My guess is that some people read the title and the main headings, then proceeded to comment. The moral of the story: make sure you read the article (and the other comments) before you make your own comments and challenge somebody's integrity and intelligence.