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Khaila Hartung-Dallas: 3 reasons why every aspiring photographer should try 35mm film

Khaila Hartung-Dallas

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With phone cameras getting more impressive every year and the price of an entry level DSLR, or digital single-lens reflex camera, getting more affordable, more people are getting into photography. If you consider yourself more than the average Instagrammer, then I encourage you to make the plunge into 35mm film photography. Here are three reasons why:

1) It forces you to learn how your camera works:

Learning how to shoot in digital allows for a lot of wiggle room with figuring out what the heck the aperture does or how your ISO affects the picture and what it stands for. Fortunately, if you are starting out on a DSLR, there’s this wonderful setting called “Auto” that will control all the settings, or “Program” for those of us who want a little control of the shutter speed to feel slightly more professional. However, when you switch over to film, you have to learn how to do all of these things yourself. It wasn’t until I first picked up a film camera that I felt confident in being able to shoot manually and finally leave my automated comfort zone from the DSLR.

For the most part, when you shoot in film (that is, if you’re using something like the Canon AE-1), it’s completely manual. You have to set the shutter speed, the aperture, the ASA (film equivalent for ISO) and even focus the image without that handy autofocus feature. These tasks really make you learn what each part of the camera is, what is does, and how bringing them all together creates a properly exposed, in focus photo.

2) You have to take time with each photo:

With my digital camera, I can take about 10 pictures of the same tree or car or weird face my friend was making in about two seconds. When you shoot in film, you’re limited to only about 24 or 36 exposures per roll of film and given the price of film, you learn very quickly to be frugal with each shot.

In addition to not wanting to waste film, you have to spend time composing each shot. This is unlike digital photography, where you only need to press a button. You want to make sure that the shutter speed is right for the lighting and your picture is in focus before you take the shot, which is something that can be overlooked when you’ve got unlimited tries with the “Auto” mode that comes with a digital camera.

3) Film looks awesome:

I love my digital camera and have been able to get some really awesome shots with it, but there’s something unique about film that you just can’t get with digital. Yes, there are ways that you can make photos look like film with Adobe Photoshop or an Instagram filter, but it doesn’t really compare to the real thing. There’s something inherently authentic about shooting in film that doesn’t really translate into digital photography, and effects like light leaks and bokeh take on a whole new personality in film. In addition, experimenting with different brands of film can really affect the product (like how Ektar 100 has high contrast and vivid colors).

Photography is great and it’s continued to be one of my favorite hobbies. I encourage everyone to give it a shot, no matter the format, but shooting with film has really given me a confidence in my photography skills that I think would have taken a lot longer to develop if I had stuck to digital.

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Khaila Hartung-Dallas: 3 reasons why every aspiring photographer should try 35mm film