Film Photography Makes a Comeback

Roll back the years with classic photography.

You may have seen the grainy, colourful vintage photos all over social media, and people carrying small analogue cameras around on the streets.

Even though the rise of digital photography since the 1970s forced many film stores out of business, the medium is far from dead. Whether it’s for the novelty of trying something new (to us) or the beautiful nostalgic quality of the images, us millennials are picking up film again and giving it a new lease of life.

One main reason for this resurgence is film’s distinct aesthetic, since each type of film stock has its own unique look. Think of them as automatic Instagram filters. Black and white film stocks vary in contrast and grain, which results in different ‘looks’, while your choice of colour film stocks can affect the colour hues and saturation on your photographs. Some enthusiasts also shoot on film to spend less time editing to achieve their desired results.

Although buying and processing film is expensive, the cameras are much cheaper than digital gear. You can get top-of-the-line film cameras for the price of modern DSLRs. The late French master Henri Cartier-Bresson shot on a Leica M3, which currently sells for around $1,200. That price in the digital world would only get you a DSLR body like the Canon EOS 70D or Nikon D7200, never mind a good lens.

Photo: Steve McCurry for National Geographic

Mid-range cameras like the Nikon FM2, used by Steve McCurry to shoot his renowned Afghan Girl portrait, cost around $400, the price of some digital compact cameras.

You can even pick up a disposable film camera for as little as $20! The lower entry price of film gear makes it much easier for first-timers to pick up photography and later upgrade to higher quality film cameras that are made to last.

Enthusiasts add that the process itself has a certain allure to it. It’s in the moments of stillness before clicking the shutter button, the anticipation of receiving newly developed film, or the magic of developing and printing your own film.

The tactile nature of loading the film, winding it for the next shot, and manually adjusting the exposure settings is also part of the fun. Buying and developing each roll of film has a tangible cost, which forces you to slow down and think through what you’d want to capture to create the best possible shot. It is the complete opposite of casually clicking through your iPhone or DSLR and ending up with a hundred ‘meh’ photos of the same thing – been there, done that.

We speak to these film photography enthusiasts to find out why they choose the medium:

Tan Yang Er Photography
Estelle Shing Photography
Kin Leonn Photography
Martin Loh Photography
Rachel Cheng Photography
Layout: Joel Lim