It’s been nearly two years to the day that I took up film photography again. What has kept me going with it? It’s not the image quality per se; it’s different but not superior to digital.
No, it’s the process. And I’m beginning to get a better understanding of why film has been so wholly abandoned by so many photographers. Ultimately, it boils down to control. A digital photographer has a lot of tools at his or her command that require some, but not extensive, computer skills and the equipment to process and print. This equipment is pretty much ubiquitous to any seriously involved photographer these days and I am no exception myself.
Computers and programs that run on them are easy. Easy in the sense that it doesn’t take more than buying the right equipment, the right programs and being able to manipulate a mouse and keyboard to become something of a master of them.
Film is so different. It requires chemical developing. A skill not everyone conquers (even though it’s really no harder than cooking well). A skill not that common in truth, but one that I’ve been using (on and off) for my whole life. Chemicals do not intimidate me. I like working with them. I take precautions and I take care and I know how to run and control a reaction. A reaction like developing (and wet printing) a film.
The photographer can, of course, skip all this by sending his or her film out to be developed by a professional lab. However, this is expensive and time-consuming and surrenders a great of deal of control over the final appearance of a negative to the skills of the developing technician. I don’t have to do this. I save money; I control the look of my developed film. Twin advantages that computer digital image processing has brought to the art that I am able to reproduce thanks to my ease with chemistry.
So that’s really why I’ve stayed with film. I get much the same involvement and control as I do with digital images. Those qualities being equal, I can relish both film and digital for their own innate virtues. I’m lucky that way.