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The Revival of Analog Photography: Why Some Photographers are Returning to Film

By: Patrick Hanrahan, Creative Content Producer

Technology in photography has grown significantly in the past couple of decades. Most photographers made the switch from film to digital in the early 2000s, and shortly after in 2012, Kodak, the largest producer of film filed for bankruptcy. With Kodak shutting down the production of many of their film stocks, most people generally assumed film to be dead. However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of film photography, especially among younger generations.

Today, it is easier than ever to snap a high-quality photo. With just a touch of a button on a smartphone or a digital camera, a person with no experience in photography can take a beautiful photograph. Not only are the quality of photos significantly sharper than before, but you can now take thousands of photos since you are only limited by how much storage you have on your phone or SD card. Further, with a digital camera, you have instant results. But, with more ease of use from digital photography, the ability to take thousands of higher quality photos and get instant results, why are some photographers hanging up their digital cameras for film cameras?

While digital cameras today produce some of the sharpest images, every picture doesn’t call for this. When a photographer is seeking a different look, they can turn to film. Photogenic films often produce a grainy and vintage look that is increasing in popularity and is not easily replicated on the digital format. Shooting analog also gives the photographer the ability to experiment with different film stocks to achieve different looks.

When shooting digitally, you are limited by the amount of storage you have on your SD card which enables you to take hundreds or even thousands of images. However, when shooting a roll of 35mm film, you are limited to just 24 or 36 shots, depending on your roll. While being so limited to the number of shots you can take may seem like a disadvantage, this can be advantageous to create better framing and can lead a photographer to be more selective about their compositions, rather than “spraying and praying” with a digital camera.

Another significant reason so many are beginning to use film cameras again has to do with the growing online community led by YouTube photographers such as Willem Verbeeck and Grainydays’ Jason Kummerfeldt, among others. Further, the hashtag #FilmIsNotDead currently has been tagged over 20 million times on Instagram and is growing in popularity.

In an interview with the YouTube channel, Pushing Film, Jason Kummerfeldt spoke on his reasons for using photogenic film rather than shooting digitally: “When you shoot with film, you end up with a tangible photo on a negative, not just ones and zeros on a memory card.” Like Jason, many photographers are drawn to the intimate process of loading film into the camera, taking a limited number of photos, developing the roll and coming away with a physical result in the form of a film negative. The instant feedback of viewing your photo as soon as you take it on your camera or phone eliminates this process entirely and makes each photograph less and less meaningful.

While shooting on a digital camera is generally easier and takes higher quality photos than a film camera, many photographers are gravitating to film for the vintage look it produces and the intimate process of working with a mechanical camera. With so many young photographers moving back to film, it is clearer than ever that #FilmIsNotDead.

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