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.
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.
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.
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:
- Take an Ilford Obscura Pinhole for a spin and try lensless, long-exposure shooting.
- Up the stakes with a Solarcan Pinhole and make a year-long exposure.
- Remember disposable cameras? They're still just as fun as they used to be and are a great tool for some project-based shooting.
- Shoot with a Holga for the ultimate point-and-shoot experience.
- Build a working 35mm film camera with Lomography's Konstruktor F Do-It-Yourself Kit.
- Remember that "precision" and "film" are not mutually exclusive, with a Leica rangefinder.
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.