There are many benefits of trying film for digital image makers.
Just by picking up a film camera, one thing happens, YOU SLOW DOWN. Something that we are not used to doing in our fast paced, now now now existence, the realisation dawns on you that you can’t click the button relentlessly until you have the shot you want. You have to take time, consider your shots, the composition, the exposure, framing, the exact perfect expression or pose from your subject to achieve the desired ‘feel’ from your image. You only have limited shots. And therefore, by default you will find yourself honing your skills.
Film creates a different aesthetic to digital images, the most obvious difference being the grain created by film, not to be confused with noise from digital files. Grain is beautiful, it gives a texture and depth to an image. As we are now in a digital age, it brings with it a nostalgia, with all of the connotations of recent decades gone by.
In the past I have used this grain for creative effect, the higher the ISO (film speed) the more grain. One example I can think of is when I photographed surfers, they were surfing in the middle of winter, it was grey and overcast. The textures of the beach, the sand, stones, the grass in the dunes, the weather, the ‘feel’ of the day were all complimented by the grain of the film.
The defined aesthetic of film also comes from the different tonal ranges found in the varying types of film. You can buy both colour and black and white film, depending on that type you buy depends on the tonal range achieved. I love working with black and white film, I think by simplifying the visual stimuli you focus attention on other areas such as the shape and form of your subject. But I suppose it depends on who I’m photographing, and what I am trying to create as a narrative or emotive response.
Last week I did a shoot on some expired film I had sitting on my office desk for years, expiry 2004! I took the risk and it paid off!! (The results will be coming soon to my Facebook and Instagram accounts.) The thing about old film is that you never quite know what you are going to get, it’s unpredictable, it’s exciting! As the three layers of emulsion degrade at different rates you may get some strange effects happening with the colour. On this occasion the only effect was a change in the tonal range of colour achieved, but it worked perfectly for the location and subject.
Many of the images on my Facebook page and Instagram are shot on 35mm film. They are also unedited. It takes skill to work in this way, and it is a skill worth learning.