Photography on Film
What it means these days
I get a lot of questions & weird stares when I talk about or I'm shooting with my Mamiya RZ67. It's bulky and made like a tank, has a waist level viewfinder and yes, it shoots on Film !! For those of you, Nikon & Canon fans out there, Mamiya was one of the most legendary medium format camera makers from the 60s (now Phase One).
I recently bought one of those marvellous pieces and let me tell you "I Love shooting with Film !!" It's quite normal for my students at SID to get a first hand experience at film photography and learn the history of photography. But i do realize that our everyday photogs are quite unaware about films or shocked knowing it is still very much in use!
Kodak ColorPlus 200 (35mm) and Fuji PRO 400H(120), Side by Side
Thanks to Instagram and VSCO, the younger generation is now becoming more aware about what film photography is and trying their hands at it, unlike the decline it saw in the last two decades. Companies like Lomography and Fuji Instax , who actually make new film cameras and films and have resurrected like a Phoenix. People are loving the look of film, the soft and organic feel they have and the amazing colors they produce!
I learnt photography on film, was gifted my first ever Nikon FM10 when i was 15, so that's where my comfort zone lies. Everybody has their own excuse for why they love shooting on film. Some love the unexpected results, some actually like the wait, most of them love the developing process or love the feel of the print developing in front of you.
I personally love the way it slows me down. It makes you think about each shot before clicking because you know there is no going back and you can't take 50 identical photographs in one go as you do on Digital. There is no deleting and you have a limited number of shots on each film. If you're a portrait or wedding photographer, connection with your subject is extremely important and film cameras are perfect for it because there is no screen in the back to distract you, your mind is completely in the game and you don't miss out on that special decisive moment !
Mamiya RZ67 (6x7, Medium Format)
For landscapes, I use Fujifilm Velvia 50, slide film (E6 process/positives). Love this film. It is unforgiving if you don't get it right though unlike negatives. For street photography I usually prefer to shoot with films like legendary Tri-X 400 or Ilford HP5, both black and white films. But I will admit, if I am dealing with commercial photography (products, catalog etc.), the choice is digital due to RAW file processing capability in post production and tethered shooting.
Our digital cameras have changed our perspective about photography. Most of the times we are chasing the wrong things: unnecessary level of sharpness, bokehs which look so unnatural at times, Frames Per Second, high resolutions to shoot God-knows-what, a more than million focus points etc. None of these are going to get you those amazing photographs. Shooting film will actually help you out with this. Help you perfect your compositions, skills and understand light.
Medium format film in three different states
I use different 35mm and 120 (medium format) film cameras but honestly my Mamiya RZ67 is my most favorite among them all. It's easy to work with, organic, a silent part of the equation. It's a tad bit heavy though i admit, even more than my Nikon D4 pro body, I need to start hitting the gym to carry this guy around.
I mostly use Kodak Ektar 100 which gives me good flexibility with contrast and colors. For portraits and wedding (considering acceptable lighting) I'd choose film for sure because the way Portra (Kodak Portra 160/400/800) or Fuji Pro400H (C41 process/negatives) render the skin tone in a way that's quite impossible to achieve with digital.
Trust me when I say that because i do a lot of post-production in digital and it has it's limitations. I think it is the way photons (light particles) interact with film chemicals which is something very unique. A lot of out-in-the-woods-day-wedding couples in the US choose film photographers these days for these exact reasons.
Portraits of film
Who is using film cameras today?
Mostly people who are related with art or study of photography from basics and just those who are looking for some changes, venture into new avenues and have a taste for film photography, love the excitement. Photographs shot on film just stand out very elegantly; and who doesn't want that different look!? Archival property of film is superior. It has a physical element to it, you can hold it in your hand, feel it, you should experience viewing slides at least once in person, unlike digital clutter of zeros and ones.
My first camera, Nikon FM10 with 35mm Kodak Color Plus 200 film
Developing films is the critical part of the process. I do not develop films myself, but I am about to - very soon. Getting the chemical supplies in India was the only difficult part but recently there has been some development in that area. Developing film is considerably easy, especially C-41 and black and whites, one has to be disciplined enough and need a darkroom(or similar arrangement). But there are plenty of labs still available who will develop and scan C-41 (negatives). Dealing with E6 (slide/positives) is a little difficult though, because very few labs are there in country who deal with E-6 and it is more expensive than C-41. Recently Kodak announced they are bringing back Ektachrome slide film, so I guess E6 process will kick in again.
Shooting on film has and will always be my passion. And I'm forever trying to make strangers try it out. Digital or film, either ways, photographs should make you happy !