In college, our newspaper had a few staff photographers. If we writers had to take the photo, though, we brought along an old Kodak DC digital camera that used floppy disks. You could only take five or six photos, and the quality was crap, but they were dummy proof.
The fun part about a hobby is that you can take risks and trying things out with little to no consequence (if you don’t count time or effort).
And so, while I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, this year I’m going to try to do a bit more 35mm film photography.
I just posted my first batch of photos developed from a roll of Fuji Superia film. My local photo shop actually developed them for me last year, but it’s taken me this long to get them scanned and uploaded. I’m also working on a roll of Ilford black and white film that I’m excited about.
All of this film stuff has me thinking about experimenting with film more. Specifically, I want to play with my Tomyko LT002 plastic toy camera. I just loaded it with some Lomography 400 speed color film (if you’re going to go toy/plastic, go all the way, right?). While poking around, doing some research on the camera, I came across some sample images – the type of dreamy photos I’ve wanted to make, just for fun.
(An aside: it’s super hard to find info on these Tomyko – or Lavec – cameras. But you can grab your own for $15 on eBay, or for $5 at a local thrift store.)
Also, I have collected rolls of Kodak Portra and Ektar to try out with my Pentax K1000.
To do all this, there’s a little bit of an investment involved. It takes money to develop and scan the film (though not much), but that’s to be expected with any hobby. And lord knows I know how to spend money on a hobby.
Taking photos with film is different almost automatically. You need some patience, and some selectivity, to make film photos.
That’s my goal for 2014: explore this measured pace. Make thoughtful images. And learn a bit about how people used to make photos.
Again, for Fuji, that’s fine. They’re doing a great business with the X-series of cameras.
For everyone else? Lots of luck.
UPDATE 9-13-13: Kodak responded on Twitter as well, suggesting that they’re still in the film business. However, my digging online found that while film stocks may have the Kodak name, they may not come from the original source. So what: film is film and it has Kodak on the box. For most people, that’s all that matters.
But again – whoever makes the film should be making the digital equivalent.
And while the digital version of those classic films doesn’t exactly mimick the original, it’s enough to feed into the back-to-our-roots photographic trends that Instagram, Hipstamatic, and VSCO itself kick-started. Pros, amateurs, iPhoneographers – a lot of us are using film-style presets these days.
I take it that Fuji is doing okay with its new X-Series cameras. They’re supplementing their film business with a great series of cameras – cameras that, yes, are simulating Fuji films like Velvia and Astia.
But Ilford? Kodak? Agfa? How are they doing in this modern photographic age? Are they comfortable with staying a hyper-niche product for hobbyists and the declining number of professional photographers who still use film?
Why not say, “Hey, no one knows our film better than we do. We’ll help photographers simulate our classic films with a set of presets that we can sell for real money.”
It used to be that film stock, with quality glass, was how you achieved a certain look. Velvia was different from Portra was different from Polaroid. Now, in the digital age, it’s a combination of camera, software, lens, and (for those who use them) presets.
For film companies, their role in that process should be in the software/presets realm.
“Great photo!” an imaginary film company representative says. “Now make it look how you want it to look with our specially-engineered family of film simulations.”
Instead, companies like VSCO swoop in with the right mixture of finesse and quality and eat the film companies’ lunch. They also offer options for today’s photo enthusiast: desktop and mobile software.
Kodak? Their mobile app offerings look like a messy discount aisle in a dimly-lit drug store: nothing but apps for purchasing film(!) and printing photos (that last one is pretty handy – at least they’re encouraging people to keep printing photos).
Fuji is at least doing a bit better in this space. But still. Why keep those X-Series film simulation modes exclusive on the cameras? Why not make a few bucks selling a mobile camera app with those simulations, and beat VSCO at its own game?
Don’t get me wrong. There are tons of photo filter apps – more than one could ever want or use. But shouldn’t the film companies be in this space and doing it better than anyone? Shouldn’t they have been here first, for crying out loud?
Developing software and apps doesn’t replace the film business. I get that. But what else are the film companies going to do? Wait it out like some passing phase?
When the world switches, you switch with it. As it stands, disrupting upstarts like VSCO are taking the film companies out to the darkroom woodshed.