In my decade-long time of being a photographer in Toronto, I suffered photography burnout countless times. I fell in and out of love with photography more times than I can count
And I know a lot of my fellow photographers can relate to this.
Every time I fell back in love with photography it usually stemmed from wanting to learn something new or try something different.
As a resident gear and technology nerd, that usually meant some new piece of gear, be it a new camera, lens, photography accessories (ie. filters), or a new editing technique.
That new drive would last a while, sometimes days, weeks, or months… but nothing hit as hard as my reinvigoration to photography as film photography did. So yes, film photography is very much back.
Starting to learn film photography provided me with a newfound appreciation for the art of photography in ways that are hard to explain in words. It felt like I was a kid on Christmas Day opening all my presents.
Every opportunity to learn something new felt that much more exciting. Whether I was researching what film cameras to buy, what vintage lenses to try, or what film stock to use, I felt like I was in paradise. I love obsessing over new things.
Is film photography coming back?
For many of the same reasons I stated, such as helping me crawl out of a photography burnout and creative fulfillment, it is evident that many others feel the same way as film photography is most definitely back. And I can prove it.
Over the last 5 years in the United States, there has been a gradual growth year over year in search interest on Google for all things film photography related. Whether that’s the medium itself, film cameras, or 35mm film stock.
There was especially a surge halfway through the pandemic after restrictions were lifted and photographers could return to work.
On top of this, multiple sources cite that the return of film photography and cameras are back. A survey published on PetaPixel showed that over 75% of respondents agreed there is a newfound demand for new analog cameras.
Similarly to support that, KEH a photography marketplace noted from their data that film cameras saw their prices shoot up by 80% between 2019 and 2021. In some cases, some cameras saw an increase of 400% in price. There’s also seen a steady increase in people looking to find where they should buy their film camera from, as search trends in Google show.
So why is film photography back… really?
While I listed what film photography did for me and my main reason, I think there’s lots to unpack here and talk about all the feels. And if these feelings resonate with you and you haven’t tried film photography out yet, I highly recommend it. I will cover later in this article how you can get started.
1. Relearning photography
I’ll restate my main reason for what got me into film photography, as I feel like this is a strong sentiment for lots of others out there. The excitement of learning something new was exhilarating for me, especially as someone who has a bit of an obsessive compulsion over learning. It fuels my soul when I find a passion and sink all my efforts into it.
Having the opportunity to learn about all this new gear, shooting techniques, film development, and more, breathed a breath of fresh air into photography. Perfecting photos in the most analog way was also exciting and liberating. I stopped worrying about having the perfect photo and let more of the art take over. The natural feelings and the trust of the camera body and lens as an extension of my body.
2. Limitations of a creative challenge
One of the things I often did with digital photography, is I would go out on a shoot with only one lens. I forced myself to be limited so that I can open myself up to pushing the boundaries creatively.
Film photography does this, but tenfold. Since film cameras don’t have the same conveniences as digital cameras it helps us slow down and take photos with intentions, not just for the sake of taking a photo.
I feel like this reason is a bit of a cop-out. But for me, it really isn’t. Especially if you know about my history about how I got into photography in the first place. TLDR; grew up in a family of photographers, had a darkroom in our house, and absolutely hated photography as a child, only to discover the love for it on my own a decade later as I was exploring acting and filmmaking as a teenager.
While everyone has their own story, anyone who grew up pre-early 2000s, for sure can remember a day when film photography was a part of their life.
One aspect of what helped me grow and find passion in photography was the community around me. Having resided in Toronto in my formative years when I was developing as a photographer, there was a huge and supportive community present. Even after stepping away from being an active community member in Toronto, the relationships I built in those years still carry to this day.
The community around film photography is just as strong if not stronger, and is a driving factor of why film photography is coming back in a big way, and it has the foundations being built around it by its community to be able to last and be more than just a fad.
5. It’s better?
This is obviously subjective, and I don’t actually have as big of a preference as I might make this sound. When I first started researching film photography back in 2018 one aspect really stuck out to me. The one thing that got me hooked and convinced I wanted to try it.
So why do film photos look better?
To me, a film camera’s ability to capture color was something that really surprised me, and made me feel like film photos looked a lot better than digital, especially so in portrait photography.
As someone who considers themself a capable portrait photographer in a professional sense, I’m always chasing capturing the best and most vibrant colors in my portraits. One specific thing that stood out to me about colors in the film when compared to digital was its ability to capture subtle color casts from its environment.
For example, let us say your subject is wearing a jean jacket in a well-lit setting. On film, you can see the blue cast the jean jacket is giving off on the subject while on digital it is virtually unnoticeable. This might not be a desired effect for everyone, but the dynamic it added to photos was something I knew I wanted.
6. Unique Aesthetic
Not only are film photos subjectively better looking, but the unique vintage aesthetic they can produce is also especially desirable and trendy. Producing perfectly imperfect images with film is a refreshing feeling, after more than a decade of chasing perfection. The newest and brightest digital cameras and lenses continuously pushed us to produce clinically sharp and perfect photos and photography started to become more robotic than an art.
There’s not much else to add here but for anyone looking to grow their social media or business by offering something that audiences and prospective clients are looking for, getting into film photography can be advantageous.
Film photography can even be a premium upsell in your business, and this is especially true in more lucrative niches such as wedding photography and boudoir.
7. Physical and tactile
The physical nature of the end product as a medium is another reason I think film photography is making a huge comeback. In a digital age where we’re losing a lot of our sense of connection to the physical world around us, the comfort and satisfaction of holding onto a physical end product is undeniable. Heck, you might even lock it up in a time capsule for someone to discover 100 years from now.
8. Real mastery
The mastery of film photography can really help you establish yourself as a credible photographer in the community. Limited by an analog art form and only 24-36 frames in a roll, being able to produce consistent work will garner a lot of attention, and you can establish yourself as a real master in photography.
9. The process
For the other photography nerds out there, the process is about as exciting as the photography itself. The process of developing the film, scanning negatives, and editing, adds a layer of complexity but creates a more rewarding experience.
If you find yourself in a need to reinvigorate your love for photography and all of these reasons speak to you, here’s where you could get started on your own journey.
How to get started with film photography?
Some of the most accessible film cameras in today’s market are 35mm film cameras. 35mm cameras are still widely used, and due to their large production volumes in past decades, they have kept a relatively low price.
Another incredibly popular type of film camera that has received a huge resurgence, especially among Gen Z audiences are disposable film cameras. Their price point and worry-free nature make them perfect for outings to festivals, the beach, or any other activities for young people to enjoy. Not to mention it creates those vibes that the audience has grown to love especially on VSCO.
Is film photography becoming popular again?
Yes, film photography has been experiencing a resurgence in popularity in recent years. This is due to a variety of factors including nostalgia, the unique aesthetic of film, the tactile experience of using film, and the desire for a more deliberate and thoughtful approach to photography.
What are some signs that film photography is making a comeback?
There are several signs that film photography is making a comeback. These include increased sales of film and film cameras, a rise in the number of film photography classes and workshops, and a growing online community of film enthusiasts. Additionally, many professional photographers are incorporating film into their work again.
Does the resurgence of film photography mean that digital photography is declining?
Not necessarily. While film photography is experiencing a resurgence, digital photography continues to be popular due to its convenience, versatility, and high-quality images it can produce. The two forms can coexist, with each offering its own unique advantages and appeals. The resurgence of film photography simply highlights the continued interest and passion for different forms of artistic expression in the field of photography.