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Do Professional Photographers Still Use Film?

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By Dillon Wallace

There’s no denying the overwhelming digital influence in our daily lives, especially now. We work on Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, listen to music chord-free thanks to Bluetooth technology and we use smartphones for just about everything from social media and games to navigation and video streaming.  

Heck, for many, the smartphone is also the go-to device for taking photos and capturing memories. And that begs the question, do professional photographers (or any photographers) still use film?
 

The short answer is yes. The longer answer requires a little more background as to why. So here are 7 reasons (out of hundreds) why photographers still use film.

 

Higher dynamic range (HDR)

You might think HDR is the “new” thing because it’s been the latest feature highlight from TV and smartphone manufacturers.The truth is, HDR has been around nearly as long as photography itself. And while some of today’s tech savvy devices have HDR capabilities, film still reigns supreme when it comes to achieving that coveted tonal range. So much so, that it can take up to three RAW digital files to pull off the tonal range that film provides.

 

For being an analog form of media, film is definitely forgiving when it comes to picture quality and exposure. A little quality time spent in the dark room can help you bring out detail several stops above or below without sacrificing quality – giving you a final picture that’s pretty darn close to what the eye actually sees firsthand.

 

Time-saving

Right now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “what a bunch of bull,” right? Well, the truth is that film is definitely a quality over quantity choice. Think about it. With digital cameras and memory cards, you’ve got thousands of photos to shoot and store. So what do you end up doing? Snapping galore and amassing a crazy amount of photos you have to tirelessly sort through in post. Whereas a typical roll of film contains about 24 exposures, which means you’ve got to be quite more selective on your shooting and framing. How many times do you think digital photographers look through 50+ photos of the same shot as they try to rack their brain around with one is the best? A lot. The answer is a lot.

 

Cost-effective

Digital cameras are expensive, and that’s before you add all the various lenses and other add-ons to the mix. When it comes to film-based cameras, you can find an equivalent for a fraction of the price. In fact, some of the best 35mm Canons and Nikons can be bought for under three figures … a price point most DSLRs and other digital cameras just can’t match.

 

Imperfections

What’s the saying, “the secret to perfection is imperfection?” Well, that’s on full display when it comes to shooting on film. Accidental or purposeful double exposure, light streaks and other natural effects can make for some pretty artistic photographs. Sure … there is digital editing software that can help you achieve a similar aesthetic with digital photography, but that raw authenticity of film just isn’t there.

 

Surprise

Today’s culture is saturated in instant gratification, whether it’s streaming a movie from the comfort of your own couch or seeing exactly what your picture looks like the second after it’s taken. All of this instant gratification can take away the element of surprise and anticipation. When you shoot on film, it’s like being a kid at Christmas during the development process. What are the photos going to look like? Will there be some happy accidents in the photos, did you capture all that you intended? Etc. There’s so much digital certainty in our day to day, sometimes it’s nice to be a little surprised.

 

Electricity-free

This might not be such a big deal nowadays with portable charging stations littering events and shopping areas, but it’s still important to note. Your digital camera requires a charged battery and several electronic components to properly function. And to develop and edit the photos, you’re going to need other electronic devices. But not with film. From start to finish, you can create photographic negatives and make beautiful prints out of them without needing one bit of electricity. Perfect for those long camping trips … or in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Hey, just because the undead may be walking around doesn’t mean we should throw art out the window.

 

Permanency

Physical photos shot on film are tangible gifts of memory that we can hold onto, carry with us and hang around our houses. Sure, you can print out your digital photos just the same, but there’s something intrinsic and nostalgic about film that digital prints just don’t possess.

 

However, digital and film can work together to create lasting memories. You can always digitize your film prints and photographs for safekeeping so that you’ve not only got a physical copy but a digital keepsake as well. After all, film will degrade as it ages … it’s best not to let those unforgettable memories fade into forgetful oblivion.

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