Shoot Film in the New Year


At the beginning of each new year, many of us make resolutions to take on something productive, beneficial, or rewarding for the subsequent 12 months. For photographers, I'd like to propose a multi-faceted resolution for the new year: Try film. Whether this means picking up a film camera for the first time ever, digging back into your past filmic craft, or even just going through some old film you have and bringing it into the digital age, it's a valuable task for any photographer to add a bit of film to their practice. Whether to slow your working pace down or to mix things up by trying something new, film helps bring your practice back to the basics and gives you a new avenue to approach photography again.


Dig out your old film camera (or check out our Used Department for a "new" one), pick up some film, and just start shooting. Really, that's it. No need to complicate things more than this, especially if your goal is to reinvigorate some creativity. If there are a couple of things that can get lost with digital, it's spontaneity and mystery. With digital, you have an LCD and an EVF, along with histograms and immediate playback to make sure you get the shot right away. With film, you're stuck with confidence and trusting your abilities. So, more than just a creative boost, shooting film can also make sure your technique is in check and make you feel a little bit surer of your exposure skills for the future.

Ilford HP5 Plus and Kodak Ektachrome E100 Films
Ilford HP5 Plus and Kodak Ektachrome E100 Films

Shooting film is great, but developing your film is even better.

If you want a forgiving experience, pick up some Ilford HP5 Plus—it's a classic black-and-white film with fine grain and wide exposure latitude, it's immensely forgiving, and it gives you that great traditional feeling. If you're up for a challenge and looking to shoot some color, then jump into color slide films, like Kodak Ektachrome E100, which will give you bright and brilliant colors, assuming your exposure skills are kept in check.


Shooting film is great, but developing your film is even better. Have total control over your process and reap the benefits of developer choice and method as additional tools for affecting the outcome of your shots. Start with brushing up on how to develop your film at home and then make sure you have all of the necessary tools; the Film Processing Starter Kit from Paterson and Ilford is a great choice if you're starting from scratch, since it contains everything needed, including chemistry for processing a couple of B&W rolls. If you still have your old developing equipment, then just go straight to the chemistry and pick up some fresh developer and fixer to get going. And, also, don't forget to pick up some negative sleeves to keep your film safe for years to come.

Film Processing Starter Kit from Paterson and Ilford
Film Processing Starter Kit from Paterson and Ilford


On a more practical note, sometimes bringing the film you've already shot into the digital world can be the best and most sensible way of working with film. Regardless if it's film you shot years and years ago, your old family photos, or even the film you plan on shooting this year, a dedicated film scanner is the way to go in terms of quality and efficiency. Something like the Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE is a great choice for digitizing your archive of 35mm film—strips and mounted slides, black-and-white and color. A dedicated film scanner will yield the best sharpness and color quality from your originals; the OpticFilm 8200i can produce scans with 7200 dpi resolution—perfect for printing—and 24-bit color depth output to maintain the vivid colors and tones from your old slides or negs. SilverFast scanning software is included, too, which makes this scanner that much more capable for large batch jobs and to reduce any additional time needed in post to further clean up your scans.

Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE Film Scanner
Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE Film Scanner


If all of the above sound a bit too routine for your liking, then maybe your filmic goals for 2021 can be to experiment a bit more. If anything, testing the limits with film will really push your creativity to the limit and force you to take a leap of faith during creation. Even if the images don't end up in your portfolio, the process is the real reward. Some starting ideas:

Solarcan Pinhole and Resulting Long-Exposure Image
Solarcan Pinhole and resulting long-exposure image

Regardless of choosing to shoot film, scan film, or just play with film, keep in mind that any and all of these choices are a great way to become excited with photography, in general. There's no need to pick sides between film and digital, and there's no shame in having a little fun playing with film to build up some fresh creative energy for your next digital shoot. Likewise, there's also merit in unwinding from constant new creation to revisit and scan some old film and create a new archive.

Do you have any film plans for 2021? Are you a film shooter looking to try something new? A digital photographer looking to become reacquainted with film? Or maybe you're a younger photographer getting into film for the first time? Let us know your film stories and resolutions, in the Comments section, below.


I didn't have any film plans for 2021 or now for 2022. Besides a Canon 5D III, I have a Canon A-1 and a Canon F-1N. With two cameras, my quandary of B&W or color has been solved. 

From mid-April (after the Ides of April) to first weekend in November 1994, I was in Cedar Rapids IA. Initially, I used disposable film cameras to refine my "Drive-by Shooting" technique. Once I got Canon A-1 from home in SC, I used it in my travels. I'd set the lens at infinity, program exposure; my motor drive advanced the film.

I got the opportunity to photograph the final Space Shuttle landing in July 2011 at the Shuttle Landing Facility by the control tower.  Since it was a pre-dawn landing, I bought B&W film since color would be wasted. B&W is just classic. I made a resolution to shoot 2012 exclusively in B&W.

All sound like great opportunities to shoot film! Disposable cameras, especially, are a fun way to take the seriousness out of shooting film and just have a bit of fun. Hope your A-1 and F-1N are still treating you well.

With the ability now to scan negatives and order terrific prints on demand, it makes all kinds of sense to enjoy shooting film again. And what you find when doing it can be incredible.

I've got my grandfather's 6x6 TLRs back out for the first time in 25 years. And after scanning negatives shot in the 80's with my beloved little Yashica FX-3, I was astonished --  and, really, irritated. All those years I had thought my little camera and my Tamron zoom were just mediocre. That's garbage! Only now, when not getting $3 printing run through a machine, do I see how good they actually were. All those years, and I never knew it.

Better late than never! I'm glad you rediscovered your TLRs and are enjoying them now.