In the spirit of the Nikon F3 give-away I compiled my own little list of the top reasons I shoot film in 2011 and will shoot more of it than I did in 2010, which was more than 2009. Here goes, feel free to contribute or debate…
- It's a cheap luxury. There are sooo many things that cost way more to me and provide far less enjoyment. My coffee budget is more money, my cigarette budget is more, my online-bullcrap subscription budget is more, my car insurance is more, shooting film is really not a financial burden at all.
- It looks fantastic - really fantastic. The color is awesome and extremely hard if not impossible to reproduce from film to film and definitely close to impossible with digital.
- Really nice equipment from 35mm to medium format, to 8x10 and beyond for a song. Do not discount this. Right now may be the best time ever to acquire some seriously great gear. It's starting to thin out based on my non-clinical view, especially the stuff that was not to plentiful EVER - prices are starting to reflect that. If you ever had a hankering you might not get a chance again. A great example is Medium format gear. It was not nearly as common as 35mm and some of the less common stuff like MF rangefinders (think Fuji 6x9 or Mamyia, or Bronica, etc) are starting to go WAY up compared to the past few years. Not just that but there are a couple of newly manufactured MF rangefinders that cost LESS than some of the old stuff but they don't hold a candle to some of that older gear in a lot of ways. Same goes for the REALLY nice large format stuff.
- Unique and beautiful lenses that well never see the light of day in digital. Make no mistake photography is about how an image looks as a whole not about the specs of lens resolution etc. All new lenses designed for use with digital MUST use strange complicated and funky designs, they all must be highly tele-centric due to limitations in the way digital sensors work. Couple that with the consumer demand for ever smaller cameras, idiotic 1mm-20,000mm zoom, etc and you may get sharp but in many cases beautiful "rendition" is out the window. There are plenty of lenses I have myself that are technical home runs in terms of flare control, resolution, lack of CA, etc. that I just do not like the way they "look".
- Shooting film takes less time in a lot of cases - I like darkroom work so that doesn't apply to me. If you don't send it get the files back you are DONE. Outsource your printing and you are DONE. I know a half a dozen wedding photographers that went back to film for just this reason. They are very very happy.
- Spend less time researching the next thing you are going to buy. Way less time. Shoot what camera feels good and you like - never worry about it again. I know pro travel photographers that spend way too much time even thought they don't want to just dealing with the on-slaught of new camera shit they should or shouldn't buy. Should I quick sell my Dxxx so I can end up net better on the $ for the Dxxx2s? Yea this should enter into the equations, right.
- In an age where differentiation is a full time job take the easy way out. "I shoot film" is potentially a HUGE differentiator. Should customers care? No but they do care, personally I don't buy into their rationale in a lot of cases but since I agree with where that leads... So be it. Yea I know you don't have the attention span to actually tell the difference and you are half color blind and couldn't tell a Gaussian blur from a shallow depth of field but you think film is "retro cool" you can tell your friends - great I am into it. You laugh? I know portrait photographers that have gone back to film and large format film just for the "marketing hype" and because they like it and their business has BOOOOMED because they standout from the rest of the yo-yo's competing with underselling Walmart. They work less, charge more, and have a higher end clientele - that is every senior portrait/child/wedding photographers goal.
- Better quality - less gear to lug around - cheaper - quicker. Not in all cases but certainly in some. Let's take the "serious" landscape photographer. What are you going to take with you to photograph the exotic and remote landscape? 2 pro DSLR bodies, 3 pro large aperture zooms, a couple of tilt-shfit lenses, a tripod for sure, filters, memory cards, laptop and associated bullshit. I will assure you that one 4x5 field camera,tripod,filters, and 3 tiny little lenses will do the job with one or two boxes of film at lower bulk lower weight smaller kit, and no electrical requirements. Quality - you are kidding right no contest here. Investment cost - do we really need to discuss this? Oh what about time? You must be kidding - the SAME with less to do on the backend in post. Landscape guys do the tripod thing, the careful meter thing, the filter thing, the wait thing - all the time is in prep and the wait. Enjoy more, carry less, get better quality that digital cannot even dream of, hmmmm.
- Never ever having to say "I wish I shot this on film" or "I wish I had a D3x or a D4 or whatever".
- Most importantly - sustain the small but very important film market that exists. Even if you only shoot with your iPhone - do you really want to see film go away. The Kodachrome thing was a real shame and for the first time in a very long time it is now completely impossible to use it at all. You cannot do it yourself - K14 processing is not something you could EVER do yourself. You can make a tin-type or a wet plate but you cannot do Kodachrome even if you have a lifetime supply of it. Personally I don't know anyone that would want that to continue to happen to film products as a whole. Shoot even a little bit and if lives. I personally plan to shoot E100G, Velvia, and for the first time this year Ektar 100 in multiple formats. I have not personally shot color for way too long because I don't care as much about color for my personal work. For too long it has been digital color for me because I don't care. I do care about black and white. This year, 2011, I am going to shoot at least half of my color "don't care" work on the mentioned color films. You see , I don't care now but I know I will care later.