This post was inspired by two questions. You are blind, why do you take photos? And why do you use a film camera?
Well, I take photos because I enjoy it. It’s a lot harder now, but I still see stuff, just not nearly as well as I used to. Explaining why I often use film will take a bit more explaining. I’m writing this post assuming the my reader has a bit of experience with photography so I may go over a few details without much explanation, but I will also assume my reader is not a professional photographer. If you have questions, feel free to post them below.
Film photography is good because sitting in front of a laptop tires me out really fast, and basically, film makes a lot of decisions for me. I found myself wanting to take pictures less and less because of the time spent editing digital pictures afterwards.
With film, my film or shooting sensitivity (asa/iso) is locked in. The colour balance is also locked in. Basically i’m mostly focusing on the shutter speed and aperture to capture images that are interesting to me. And as for post processing? I drop off my film at a local lab to get developed and scanned, get the pictures on a USB stick and i’m done.
Now, it’s true that I could do the same thing with a digital camera. I could shoot with the sensor sensitivity locked in, and shoot in jpg format instead of raw to save on editing time, but the digital toolbox and goodies are still available at my fingertips, and if the tools are available, I will want to use them, that is simply the kind of person I am. With film, that temptation is taken away. There is no LCD screen on the back to see if I captured the image I wanted. I have to wait days, weeks or months before I find out if I the picture is even in focus. Strangely, all this technological weakness and obsolescence is a good thing for slowing down and enjoying photography again.
I use an old Nikon FE2 that I’ve had for a long time. It allows me to use a lot of the camera lenses I also use on my modern Nikon digital camera. How can I use an old manual focus camera when I am blind? Luckily my vision loss due to glaucoma has left a small point of central focused vision in one eye, and a split-prism viewfinder works well for making sure that the main subject of my photo is in focus.
I’ve thought about getting an auto focusing film camera to make things easier. but honestly, doing it manually makes me stop and think about what I am taking a picture of much more carefully. Obviously this is not ideal for taking pictures of sports, children or animals, but it’s good enough for things and people that can sit relatively still for more than 5 seconds.
Before losing my vision, taking photos was a big hobby of mine. I’ve held onto the hobby, but simplified many things to make it easier. Vision loss, i’ve discovered, is more manageable when you simplify various things in your life.
I decided to give up taking and developing my own black and white photos. I loved the quality and grain of black and white photography, and the degree of control one can have, but I decided that shooting only in color one less decision to make. I cut all my choices down to 2 types of film. Kodak Portra 400, which excels with photos of people, and Kodak Ektar 100, which has beautiful, bright and bold colours. If I could only choose one film, I would use Kodak Ektar every time.
- You spend more time taking photos, and less time spent editing photos
- You can but cheap cameras and lenses (few people want old film cameras and lenses, so you can buy them at very reasonable prices)
- You have a limited number of shots (this is an advantage because you learn to take pictures more carefully, 24 or 36 photos per roll of film, you have to make them count)
- A manual film camera teaches you to stop and think about your photos before you take them
- It is more difficult to shoot indoors, or in low light conditions with film
- You are losing some control over how your photos will look, and you become dependent on a local lab for developing and scanning your film
- Developing film takes time, so it can take days or weeks for your pictures to be ready
- Film has ongoing costs (while old film cameras and lenses can be had for cheap, each roll of film, and getting them developed and scanned will cost you money. In the long run, a digital camera could be cheaper)
Should everyone take photos on film? No, it is definitely not for everyone. Do I only use film? No, I still use a digital camera and my phone a lot. But if i’m going out to take photos for fun, film photography has slowed down the process, and in doing so, made it more meditative and satisfying.