Why You Need To Try Shooting With Film

Capturing a sunset dip in some tidal pools.
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Views of Chamonix, France from Mont Blanc.
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The view of Twelve Apostles from Lion's Head Peak in Cape Town, South Africa.
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Early morning cow milking in Kinti Wasi, Ecuador.
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Cosy Bay on a calm summers day in Cape Town, South Africa.
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Capturing a sunset dip in some tidal pools.
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Bo Kaap street corner in Cape Town, South Africa.

Shift from experiencing life behind the lens to truly living in the moment.

A few years ago, I was rummaging through my grandparents’ basement when I came across an old camera bag. I opened it up and was shocked to see a beautiful old film camera inside! My grandma told me I could keep it, that it had not been used in years and that it should get some use.

I was so excited to have such a beautiful old camera. I immediately enrolled in my school’s photography course and learned everything I could about shooting film, how to develop it in a dark room, how to adjust the aperture and shutter speed for different lighting, and more.

Over the years, I started shooting more and more film. It has easily become my favorite way to take photos for a number of reasons. For starters, having a finite number of photos I am able to capture on each roll makes me take my time composing pictures and helps me to not be too ‘trigger happy.’ With a smartphone or DSLR camera, I tend to spend most of my time witnessing beautiful places, people, and things through the camera lens, and not spending enough of that time in the moment.

Today, in the age of social media, it is almost too easy to get sucked into taking hundreds of photos of the same thing, whether it is a sunset, a mountain, or a meal, hoping to sort through dozens of pictures to find one worthy of posting. I fall victim to taking millions of the same shot on my DSLR or smartphone camera all the time. With my film camera, however, I have to pick my moments.

I brought my film camera loaded with one roll of thirty-six exposures with me on a ten-day trip to Ecuador. Knowing I only had three dozen shots to capture my travels really helped me step away from the camera and allowed me to immerse myself in my travels. Taking one or two shots (instead of dozens) of each beautiful view or adventure gave me such a deep appreciation for every day I spent there and everything that I did.

One of the things I love the most about shooting film is that I cannot see the pictures directly after taking the shot. Getting around to developing a roll of film takes me anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the length of my travels and the availability of camera stores near me. It is an amazing feeling to get back my negatives and tangible prints of my photos. The pictures never come out the exact way I expect them to, and that is what makes them so unique and special.

It is in this delayed gratification of receiving back shots—pictures that I sometimes forget I have taken in the first place—where I am able to fully revisit past travels and adventures. In this way, shooting film makes me live in the moment, and allows me to revisit those beautiful snapshots in time again and again.

Of course, this is true with all photography. And don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love taking photos on a smartphone, point-and-shoot, or DSLR camera. Every type of photography has its advantages, and I am not discounting the quality and efficiency behind a digital camera. While all different types of cameras are amazing and unique, there is something special about exposing a roll of film, keeping the number of shots taken to a minimum, and experiencing the happiness captured in the moment all over again when seeing your photos for the first time.

Shooting in film has become a passion of mine and is my favorite way to immortalize a memory to be cherished forever. I believe that every photographer looking to try a new avenue by which to document both life and travel should look into trying out shooting with film.

How Do I Get A Film Camera?

If you do not have a basement filled with old family cameras, worry not!

Film cameras can be found used in just about every camera store, or you can purchase them online. They can range anywhere from $30-$90 USD and are worth every penny. If you are buying used, swing by a camera store to get the camera serviced, as sometimes the batteries may need replacing. Employees at camera stores can also teach you everything you need to know to get you started shooting with film!

So, my fellow jetsetters, if you are interested in trying out a new avenue to pursue your photography, you’ve got to find a film camera and start shooting!

Zoe has been photographing with her film camera for 6 years.

Zoe Zaleski

Zoe has been an avid traveler her whole life. She grew up in California, has lived in Spain, and is currently living in South Africa. Zoe has traveled to over twenty countries, and does not plan on stopping any time soon. She loves being outdoors, and her passions include photography, diving, backpacking, and rock climbing.

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