Having to Explain the Beautiful Concept of Film Photography to Modern Kids

In today’s modern era, some photography enthusiasts might argue that smartphones and digital cameras have rendered film photography obsolete, but for those who remember the thrill of picking up developed photos at the camera store, of tearing into the envelope to see how in the world those carefully-crafted shots turned out, film photography is anything but outdated—it’s timeless.

This short video by BuzzFeedYellow attempts to explain the beauty and allure of film photography to tech savvy youngsters who have probably never taken a picture without the instant gratification of a review screen and a delete button:

Film photography transports us back to a time when the world moved a little slower and we all paid a little bit more attention. It requires us to understand the more technical aspects of photography, certainly, but it also causes us to carefully consider the content and composition of each shot before clicking the shutter—because it has to be solid the first time or the moment is lost.

film canister dark room kodak

“Sometimes you’d find an envelope of photos from a summer long ago in the bottom of a shoebox and it was like finding a time capsule,” said BuzzFeedYellow.

There’s just something about holding a printed photograph in your hands and remembering that moment—the one that was important enough to merit using up one of the 24 or 36 shots on that particular roll of film. There’s something about not knowing what the shot will look like until you pull it from the stack—feeling giddily satisfied if you nailed it, or feeling sharply disappointed if you dropped the ball, motivated to do better next time.

develop digital cat agfa fuji

Film images are often distinguished from digital images by their particularly “dreamy” look.

Simply put, digital photography is spectacular; it has forever changed the craft and will continue to propel photographers to greater and greater heights—but film photography shouldn’t be discounted as a genre because it doesn’t offer instant gratification.

Waiting fills us with wonder.

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3 Comments

  1. Henry Stradford says:

    Hello Rebecca.

    That sounds weird saying the name Rebecca. ‘Twas my ex-wife’s name. Sorry. Anyway, your first point about tearing open the package to see how those ‘carefully-crafted’ photos turned out sounds kind of funny to me. Because if they were so carefully crafted, there would be no surprise. You would already know that they’re good because they were, after all, carefully-crafted. No?

    Second. If you want to know the more technical aspects of a camera, just put it in manual and the lens in manual focus. There ya go. Now you can learn the more technical aspects of cameras.

    Third. The moment isn’t lost unless you’re shooting fast action or street photography. Tell me the hit and miss ratio of old fully manual film cameras in those situations back in the ‘good ole days’. They weren’t very good for sure.

    So. What I’m trying to say is, just because we have auto-focus, computer chips, and 10 frames a second doesn’t mean that you can’t learn the technical aspects of photography. You still have to know what you’re doing when you switch that button off of ‘green’ or ‘P’…

    I do agree with you wholeheartedly on one thing though. Digital photography has propelled the craft of photography in a good direction. And things will only get better. Maybe in the future, everyone will shoot full auto? But, for now at least, we do have the ‘M’ if we want to use it. And if you don’t. You don’t have to :)

    BTW. I have 6 film cameras sitting on the desk next to me right now. 3 Loaded with film and ready to go. They do get used sometimes. But only occasionally. And I only develop about once a year. Now that’s a real surprise when the package gets opened after a year. Ha!

    Printing I’ll agree with you on as well. Nothing like holding up a large print of something you’ve photographed. It’s the final touch, before framing of course.

    Nice article anyhow. Hope I didn’t come across as a hater or snotty! I do love photography so, and did enjoy your nostalgic look back at days past.

    Keep up the good work. Looking forward to your next article!

    Henry L Stradford II

    PS. The LCD is for ‘chimps’ and I don’t use the delete button. I keep everything…later.

  2. Chris says:

    As someone who spent hour upon hour decades ago in the darkroom processing B&W and slides, and printing, I must agree with Rebecca – in part. Digital cameras and computers have made my work immensely easier, but film and manual cameras forced the user to learn his craft much faster or suffer in the darkroom. That said, as I age, I can’t wait for a personal automobile that will drive me to see my grandchildren!

  3. Great article, Rebecca! We agree with you completely, and thank you for putting into words why we do what we do. We shared your article on our Facebook (linked as our website here), where it’s also getting some great reception. Never stop exposing film, or explaining to others why you do it!

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