Closeup of retro film camera

Like all great technologies, the modern camera rose from humble beginnings. It wasn’t until the 1940s when the film camera replaced the dark chamber. Digital cameras followed soon after. By 2010, more than 121 million digital cameras were sold across the globe. Today, almost all mobile devices have inbuilt digital cameras. Sadly, the ease of access to photography has lowered the bar in terms of the quality (and perhaps the meaning) of photographs. Maybe a trip down memory lane is what digital photographers need. Keep reading to find out lessons you could learn from working with film.

1. Every Shot Counts

Digital photographers tend to snap everything they see. It is easy to do this because there is no consequence of taking 20 shots of the same thing. Film photography discourages this kind of wastefulness. Each shot you take costs money.

To make sure nothing is wasted, film photographers have to try and get the best shot every time. Since you are always looking for a good shot, you learn to choose your moments. Of course, they won’t all be keepers, but your accuracy will significantly improve. This skill will prove valuable even when you are using a digital camera.

2. Patience Pays

Today you can take a photo, apply a fancy filter, and post it for the world in minutes. This is ok for personal photos, but as an aspiring professional, you need to take some time and think things through. On the other hand, film photography is all about patience. The whole process from loading a roll of film, manual focusing on development takes time.

You have to wait until you have used up a whole roll, which is 36 different snaps in total. And even then, you can’t just run to the studio. Since developing takes time, you want to wait until you have at least two rolls. However, this time can be cut short by using online or local film developing and printing services that take some of the work and a lot of the equipment out of the equation. 

3. Believe in Yourself

Chimping is the habit of continually checking the outcome of every shot. Digital cameras have an LCD on the back where you can check the quality of your shot. It a great tool to check exposure and framing. Unfortunately, it makes most digital photographers second guess themselves.

This will be the most significant adjustment you will have to make when you are working with film. Since there is nowhere to check, you must learn to believe in yourself. The only way around this is to learn to discern tones, composition, and lighting of your environment. Over time you learn to trust your judgment. Not checking also means you don’t miss a great shot because you were distracted. This is an important skill, especially for portrait photographers. Any distraction cuts your connection with your subjects.

4. Learn from Mistakes

Let’s face it. Everybody makes mistakes when they are starting. Some mistakes are easy to correct; others take a little longer. Digital cameras come with some form of quality control. However, some people get too obsessed with getting it right the first time. When working with film, you have no choice but to roll the dice and see what happens.

Some shots won’t be great; others may even come back completely blank. But then you figured out what you did wrong and try again. This is how great photographers are made. Once you get over the fear of taking a bad shot, you let go and have fun. This mentality sticks with you whatever camera you are using. You learn to push yourself harder, even when the LCD seems to think otherwise.

5. Experimenting breeds Creativity

Working in a medium, you are not comfortable expands your skills. For example, manual focusing is a skill you have to learn to get anywhere in film photography. The ability changes the focus of your camera on the fly is valuable, whatever the medium. Trying different lens exposure and angles give work variety. In the end, you will learn to avoid common amateur mistakes, such as shooting at eye level, misjudging distance, and exposure problems.

Final Thoughts

Film photography is not dead yet. There is a lot you can learn from picking up that old camera that has been collecting dust. Nobody is asking you to abandon your digital camera. The two can be used together to do some fantastic stuff. Even if you don’t succeed with film, the skills you learn will complement your digital skills.