Feb 9th, 2020, 06:03 PM

The Rebirth of Film Photography

By Lauren Camerer
Image Credit: Lauren Camerer
Image Credit: Lauren Camerer
Why make photography more difficult by opting for an analog camera? Well, I'm here to tell ya.

In the last decade, our culture has been drawn to revisiting trends that were popular before our time. From being able to purchase record players at Urban Outfitters to the revival of thrifting for gems from the past, it's safe to assume that we generally like to feel connected to the nostalgic aura of previous generations. 

Film photography seems to be no exception when it comes to this sudden resurgence in the popularity of vintage items. But is it just going to be a fad that will peter out along with neon cassette tapes and jelly sandals? What's drawing young people to pick up this time-consuming (and relatively expensive) hobby when we have iPhones and digital cameras that make taking beautiful photos easy? Well, as a young person who has taken an interest in working with film, I am here to go through my understanding of why film cameras are increasingly at peoples' sides and the reasons why you should get one at yours, too.

Image Credit: Lauren Camerer

What’s Drawing Us Back into Film

Analog photography has been around since the 1800s, so it's obviously not a new innovation. But with the rise in digital photography, fewer and fewer film cameras have been used because, as with all forms of technology, advances present easier alternatives to us as consumers. When you set your digital camera settings to auto mode, you can capture a perfect photo by simply framing and pressing down on the shiny black shutter button. Even if you struggle with framing, you can enable gridlines on your screen to get a flawless composition in any scenario. These features are great and all until you come to the realization that you’re becoming a lazy photographer. How can you truly learn about taking photographs if your camera does the hard work for you? Film allows you to really understand the fundamentals of photography and its equipment while getting familiar with your own personal style of photographing.

Just like typewriters, vinyl and other analog tech, film's authentic, do-it-yourself appeal is making a comeback among both amateurs and professionals. The mini Polaroid became popular among young people a few years ago, bringing back an old-fashioned, aesthetically pleasing way of capturing memories. Not only has the look of Polaroid photos drawn people to take part in this trend, but the tangibility of holding a picture immediately after snapping the shot has made them truly special.

Even without an analog camera, apps like Tezza and Huji allow people to transform their digital photos to grainy masterpieces inspired by film. Huji even has a light streak editing option to give your photos those imperfect (but so perfect) characteristics that you unexpectedly get sometimes when shooting on an expired roll of film. Film continues to affect how the aesthetics of photography are perceived, and the undeniably charming look that its final products possess has seized our attention once again. We’re back where we started with wanting to take things old-school.

So, I guess it really shouldn’t be a question of why people are picking traditional photography back up. It’s so cool. The perks of getting started in film photography: learning a new skill, having creative freedom with your photos, getting major biceps from carrying around this damn camera all the time, looking cool while doing it, etc. The list can go on. You can find a nice film camera relatively cheap on eBay or even at a thrift store, get some film at a camera shop, and the rest is up to you!

Image Credit: Lauren Camerer

Why I Love Film / Why You Should Too

I started shooting on film about three years ago. My brother, Justin, is a photographer and he owned this old Contax 139 Quartz that had been given to him by our great uncle, who had used this camera for years prior. Jus passed it down to me, and the rest is history. Now I carry the thing with me almost everywhere I go and I’ve gotten significantly better at taking photos just by learning the basics with this amazing camera. I’m always discovering something new about photography, which makes film exciting to me even after doing it for years.

Another thing that makes film so magical is the fact that it is limited. While a digital camera or a cell phone can store thousands of images in one memory card or in the infinite iCloud, you only get 24 or 36 frames to fill with a film camera. This makes every photo taken more precious — it forces you to really study every shot before you take it, rather than shooting hundreds in one go, hoping that some will turn out. In short, you become a more intentional photographer.

You also can’t review your images immediately after shooting them. When I first got started, this was a daunting trait of the analog camera for me. But, once I got a sense of how I like to shoot, I realized it actually makes taking photos more rewarding. You see the result of your hard work after you go through the process of getting your images developed. After getting my film back, finding out that I had been able to craft and capture my vision has been the most satisfying part for me.

Image Credit: Lauren Camerer

Film photography is a labor-intensive hobby that takes a lot of time (at least in my case) to get the final product. Since the expenses of film developing add up over time, I don’t go through piles of film rolls at once. But after I get a few rolls filled, take them to be developed, wait for my pickup time, travel back to the store to collect my prints and negatives, etc. — it becomes a bit of a process. And to not be sure of what was even captured when you were shooting is another source of stress. But that makes every photo that turned out beautifully even more priceless. Once you get your hands on your negatives for the first time after that long wait, you're reminded of the little bit of magic that exists in one-of-a-kind creations, which makes you want to keep taking photos. It’s something really extraordinary. 

Image Credit: Lauren Camerer

Time to Get Started

With all of that being said, I hope that I have at the very least piqued your interest or curiosity about film photography. It’s an art that’s so enjoyable and it makes me really happy to hear when other people my age are picking it up as well. 

Go digging online and find a cheap camera to practice with and just go for it! You can even learn how to develop your own photos with the help of a film developing kit. Order one on Amazon if you’re really inspired. 

To conclude — don’t be intimidated! Film is so lovable. There is a reason we’re drawn to the rich colors and depth that film photography produces and I can see this method staying around for years to come.