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Guide to Film Photography

Photo by Eric Lee on Unsplash

Capturing a photograph with a soft, dewy mood and some grainy overtones along with a little touch of light streaks in the corner is a sight and process that everyone should try at least once in their lifetime. This is film photography. Surely many of you have noticed the recent comeback of film photography, with the popularity of film cameras as well as the Tiktok videos on DIY film filters. This just proves how much film photography has inspired the younger generation, but the real question here is if you know what it truly is or are you just blindly chasing the hype.

Some may know that photography was first invented in the 19th century when Joseph Nicephore recorded the first-ever image using a Portable Camera Obscura. Based on an article by ExpertPhotography, it was stated that photography started with the usage of analogue cameras before the arrival of the digital revolution. The steps to process a photograph back then were not as simple as how we have it now. This is due to the number of days or sometimes weeks to fully process a roll of stills, but that is what makes film photography an experimental and exciting experience.

According to Jonathan Ma, the first-ever film camera was invented in the year 1880 and it was called Kodak. Back then, film cameras were pretty in demand as the prices were relatively cheap and many were interested in the simplicity of the camera. As years went by, the features and design of the cameras were improved and then came the 35mm film camera that eventually became consumers’ choice of camera for film photography.

Photo by Manh Nghiem on Unsplash

Since we are on the topic of film cameras, let’s compare analogue and digital cameras. Why is going film better than digital? According to Joseph Cha, there are several reasons why film is a better option for growing photographers. This is purely based on a personal preference and is in no way or form disregarding contrasting opinions. The first reason why film is better than digital is that the highlights in the photographs are more controlled when using film. This means that when shooting in places that are naturally lit, film cameras usually capture the picture without an overexposed look, but when compared to shooting in digital, overexposure can become an issue.

Besides that, the one feature that a digital camera does not have is grains. The grains on stills create dimension as well as add texture to the photograph. According to Analog.Cafe, organising film photographs is an easier option compared to digital because typically, the analogue stills are stored in negatives and prints. This may fill up your storage at home but would never exceed the huge amount of JPEGs and RAW files. We can conclude by saying that choosing to shoot on film is not a bad decision after all.

It is fair to say that you may be considering film photography as a new hobby to pick up on during times like these. It is honestly a great time to explore and experiment with a film camera. Before you start, it is best to discover and learn from other film photographers and understand their take on film photography. I would like to recommend some local film photographers and tell you a little more about them as well as their experience in going film.

Firstly, we have Khairil Farid Abdul Majid. He is a street film photographer and an architect by profession. He was introduced by his father to the world of film and now has more than 40 years of experience in it. He plays a big role in the film community as he started the page on Facebook called Film Is Not Dead In Malaysia. It is a page for film photographers to come forward and display to the public their takes and captures using different types of film cameras. In a way, this encourages future photographers to be inspired and learn more about photography. To him, capturing on film is a way to capture the moment and understand the image better by simplifying the process. He stated that film 100% always looks better than digital.

The next photographer is Nelson Chong, a fashion photographer. He goes by the handle @birdycantfly on Instagram. His journey in film photography started after his friend gifted him a film camera from Japan. He takes his fashion photographs on film as he likes the rare and unexpected feel as the outcome is never what you expect. He also likes how film provides the texture of his liking to his photographs. This is one of the reasons why he prefers film over digital. Since he is a fashion photographer, it can be difficult to convince his clients to allow him to shoot in film. To avoid any inconveniences, he would shoot in both digital and film and then show their clients the final product. It is then up to the clients to choose which set of photographs they prefer. His message to future photographers is to never stop exploring. Film photography is a process: a process that never stops. You will constantly find different and unique ways to experiment with film.

In conclusion, film photography allows you to explore your creativity. As we see, film photographers encourage the younger generation to take a shot at film photography. There is never a right or wrong. It is always about learning and accepting your outcome.

Do stay tuned for the next part of this series, where we discuss how to choose film cameras, process your photographs as well as film styles you can start exploring.

By Pavitrashini Ganesan


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