Film Vs Digital
Let me start by explaining why I made the switch to film? And I don’t mean that this is all I shoot now, but more that it's what I enjoy the most. There’s a lot of pros and cons between the two of them and we'll get into that later.
Im relatively new to the world of film, apart from the occasional roll over the years it wasn’t until the beginning of last year when I really fell in love with it. I picked up a Nikon l35af point shoot not long before the uk went into lockdown. I spent the following months wondering the streets and countryside close to where I live in Sheffield. The whole process slowed me down, I took way more time composing a shot, and started to look at the environment around me differently. I think this is down to the number of shots you get on a roll.
I’ve been lucky enough to work around the globe and shoot some wonderful and amazing places. But a real highlight of my career has been picking up a film camera, 2020 was a difficult year for everyone and at moments a real struggle. But one thing it provided was time, I slowed down and really started to enjoy photography again. Sometimes we chase ideas of these amazing photos we want to shoot in some exotic location, but we forget what’s on our own doorstep. People often always chase the end goal, and dream of what's to come, but you have to love the process of getting there, if you do then you'll start to progress and everything will fall into place. By having this spare time to learn and explore where I live, I started to shoot photos that I would have once missed. From landscape changing seasons, candid moments of strangers in the streets to sunsets with friends. I really do feel as though last year was a turning point for me and where I want to go with my photography.
Which brings me to my first point, since the move to digital we have become much less concerned about the number of photos we shoot. With digital It’s easy to go out and shoot hundreds in the hope that one of them is good, but with film you instantly question everything, is it worth a shot, how can I compose the scene better? These are the things that go through my mind, I almost have the photo in my head before I’ve pressed the shutter. Most times with film I only ever take one shot, or maybe two to be safe. But now think about this, if you look at your phone’s camera roll, how many times do you take multiple shots of the same scene just because you can. There’s nothing wrong with this, technology has allowed us to take endless amounts of photos, you definitely think less.
Also, with digital, I tend to spend more time looking and reviewing the shots, separating me from the environment or subject I'm shooting. But with film you stay more connected to the moment, you can't review and recompose, you have to trust your instinct and move on. I find myself shooting photos that I never would have a few years back. It's strange how a 30-year-old camera can have such an impact on your way of thinking!
As a photographer I always find it hard to describe my style, over the past year I feel it has definitely changed because of film. I’d say my film photography usually always focuses on a feeling, whenever I press the shutter, I'm thinking about what sensation I’m capturing and how best I can convey that through the image. Sometimes it’s a photo of a complete stranger who happens to be in the right place at the right time, on the other hand it’s a moment between friends or family. I think a photographer's style is something that comes to them without them really knowing. When I get my negatives developed, I’m always questioning why I took that shot, but then when I look at the frame it usually becomes clear to me.
Getting back to basics with photography, and learning something new has been a real enjoyable experience for me. It might seem like a mind field to begin with, but once you find your flow and start experimenting with different film stocks and developing methods, you definitely become more attached to your work.
I encourage everyone to try film, slow down a little and really think about your photos. Staying present in the moment will help you look at the world with your own eyes, before you look through the shuter. You don't have to use a film camera though, something useful is to imagine you only have 36 shots next time you're out with your camera, i'm almost sure you'll start thinking differently, and questioning what you shoot. And over time this will inevitably improve your own photography.