When the first digital camera was invented and manufactured by Kodak in 1975, it set into motion a new type of photography. Digital photography was more accessible to many people, not to mention significantly faster than film photography. Photographers didn’t have to spend minutes setting up the perfect shot, being mindful that they had a limited amount of film and therefore a limited amount of chances to get the image they want. The advent of digital photography also meant no more waiting for your fully developed and printed images to come back from the printer.
Instead, photographers were able to take as many shots of the same thing as they wanted. And as the space on SD cards grew, and the SD cards themselves became cheaper and more readily available, more and more people opted for digital photography as the more convenient and faster option.
It also bears mentioning that many of us carry little digital cameras with us every day. These days, our phones can take quality pictures, plus with the myriad of photo editing apps out there, it’s easier than ever to create a social-media worthy photo in just a few seconds.
So, with all that said, is it possible to continue imagining a future for the film? Or are film cameras slowly but surely heading towards extinction? The answer to this question is more hopeful than you might think.
To see what we mean, just do a quick search of the #filmisnotdead hashtag on Instagram. Looking up this tag, you’ll find millions of posts by photographers dedicated to shooting on film as an art form. As you scroll through these posts, you’ll find thousands of users listing the benefits of film, all while showcasing the effects you can only get with an analog camera.
Another piece of evidence as to film’s longevity is this 2017 Time article on the subject. When this article was written, film sales had been increasing by about 5% every year. There are also still plenty of film roll manufacturers. While it’s difficult to come by a brand-new film camera, and most of the ones you’ll find will be second hand, that might say more about a film camera’s hardiness than it does about their popularity.
So why do people continue to shoot on film, when it’s so much easier to get hold of a digital camera and digital photography is so much more convenient? It all comes down to the process and the feel of film photography.
Film photography has a distinctly different “feel” than digital photography, because of the grain present in the film. While you can try and replicate this feel in editing with digital photography, it’s difficult to recreate it fully.
Taking a picture using film is also a very different process than taking a picture with a digital camera. While many people consider the time it takes to take a photograph with an analog camera, many people consider it the best part.
Here’s what we mean: because there are a limited amount of exposures in each roll of film, there are limited amounts of shots you can take before you’re just “wasting” film—and money. This means that you have to take your time to consider your angles, the lighting, and make sure all the settings on your camera are exactly where they should be before you press down on that button and take the shot.
The amount of thought that must go behind each image might seem frustrating to some. But photographers dedicated to film photography as art do genuinely enjoy the challenge and process of getting everything just right and then getting their film developed to reveal a beautiful shot.
But professional photographers looking to sell prints of their film photographs aren’t the only ones searching out film cameras. Fujifilm’s series of Instax cameras, the modern-day cousins of old-fashioned Polaroid instant cameras, are increasingly gaining popularity. These cameras take a picture, and then instantly print that picture directly from the camera. The novelty of these cameras is a big selling point, plus they show that even film cameras can have a certain level of convenience, just like digital cameras.
At face value, it might seem like common sense that digital cameras are on a sure-fire path to wiping out film cameras. The fact that it’s so easy to take pictures with them, and that photographers can take upwards of hundreds of photos before having to worry about running out of space on their SD cards might seem like evidence enough that film cameras are essentially extinct.
But what many people don’t consider is that film is an art form in and of itself. Many people seek out and prefer the depth that comes with film photography. And the fact that film sales go up every year is evidence enough that film photography still has a firm hold.