The world, and photographers were moving on, embracing new digital technology that offered instant gratification, viewing your work seconds after the shutter clicked rather than days after, editing and enhancing photos on screen instantly rather than in darkrooms, sharing photos around the world in seconds rather than days and weeks.
Who would have thought 10 or so years later that film photography would be in the midst of a revival, there’s even a hashtag for it on Instagram #filmisnotdead with over 21 million posts and counting…
And it’s not just film cameras, old school analogue technology like vinyl and even tapes are making a come back as people want to detach from the online and on demand world and connect with content the way the artist intended. Photography is similar.
Digital and film can co-exist
In our Behind the Image interview series, we’ve been asking the pros what’s in their camera bag, and it’s always a mix of digital and film – maybe not at once, it might depend on the situation, but film certainly still has its place.
Professional sports photographer Geoff Waugh never carries digital and film stuff together “What goes into the bag is totally dependent on the kind of commission or personal work I am undertaking which implies that digital is for work and film is for personal, and that is about right.”
That sums up film for a lot of people, using it for pleasure, rediscovering (or discovering for the first time) the art behind photography.
Why photographers still love film:
You’ve only got one shot, make it count
OK, so that’s not strictly true, you’ve normally got 36 shots on a roll. That said, you still need to make it count. With digital you can fire off rounds left, right and center knowing you can perform a mass cull at the end of the shoot. Film, not so, it forces you to make sure you get it right, obsessing over the subject, the lighting, the settings.
It’s pretty difficult to crop and zoom in on film so composition is super important, where you position your subject in the frame is where it’s going to be printed so planning the composition and getting it right from the outset is key.
We all know it. The period between hitting the shutter and seeing the final photo can often be days and weeks and during that time you will already be imagining what the outcome of the shoot will be, selecting mental favorites, resigning yourself to knowing you blew that killer shot, but hoping you got away with it. More often than not the thin paper wallet that contains your photos and negatives will be opened and thumbed through before you’ve even left the store.
We’re not just talking about the physical photos. Yes that is a big part of it, having physical printed copies as default, filling up an album, filling up more albums, albums filing up entire bookshelves, the shear physical presence of the film photos reaffirms their value. We’re also talking about the physicality of the equipment – the snap of the shutter opening and closing, the reassuring whirr of the film advancing all add to the presence.
What film formats are out there?
The most common film format is 35mm film, and it’s been around forever - harking back to 1934. It’s a relatively small format and comes in a small cartridge making it easy to handle and load into cameras.
Medium format film
This type of film at 6cm wide is much larger than 35mm film. It’s available in a range of widths from 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7, 6×9, right up to a panoramic 6×17 size. Because the film area is bigger it gives you more detail than the smaller 35mm film.
Large format film
This film actually comes as sheets and is often called ‘sheet film’. This is typically shot in 4x5inch and 8x10inch sizes. However larger sizes do exist but the film must be specifically ordered and is often hard to come by. Large format film provides the best level of quality and detail of all the film types.
Where can I get film developed?
It used to be a case of dropping your film into your local drugstore or Walmart to get your film developed. These days you’ll probably need to hunt out a specialist photography store. Most towns and cities will have one, failing that, online services like The Dark Room allow you to post your film in, they process and will send your photos back.
Are you a film fan? Tell us why.
We'd love to hear your stories and see your film work, give us a mention on instagram @langlyco with #filmisnotdead
And be sure to check out the Langly Camera Film Holder, a great option for storing and protecting your film while on the move.