Camera film still valuable niche while digital rules most photography

by | Nov 6, 2015 | Life

Krystal Mohan
Life Reporter

Since digital photography has taken over, 35mm film has largely been put to rest. Most photographs are taken from digital smart phones because it’s convenient. But what about the original art of photography?

Traditional photography enthusiasts say film processing is an exciting and suspenseful way of reviewing the images they captured, because they never know exactly what to expect. A photographer may have a vivid idea of how their work will turn out, but will never know what could happen at the photo lab from light leaks to grainier-than-expected photographs.

Erin Riley, a professional photographer and photography teacher at Humber College believes film will survive the digital onslaught.

“I think it’s going to maintain a small space in photography, for sure. It will probably be reserved for people doing fine art projects and maybe larger formats like medium format, 4×5, that kind of stuff,” said Riley.

“There’s a company called The Impossible Project, and they’ve bought the film recipes if you will, so there is definitely a niche. It’s going to be niche. It’s sort of like the equivalent of driving a five-speed car.”

Creative photography students at Humber have access to a dark room where developing is possible, but they don’t spend a lot of time in there. There are also high schools in the GTA-including Etobicoke Collegiate Institute and Ascension of Our Lord in Mississauga, that offer photography as an elective, and they usually feature a film component where the students are able to process their own work.

“I don’t mind Polaroid or disposable cameras,” said Cassandra Panayiotopoulos, a former Humber creative photography student. “I think they’re old fashioned and offer a different effect than digital does. (But) I’ve never been a fan of darkroom photography. I find it too time consuming because you spend so much time test printing,” she said.

Shoppers Drug Mart and Wal-Mart have both stopped developing film at most of their locations, making it difficult to find places that offer image processing. The older Wal-Mart locations may still have the option in their photo labs, but most Shoppers Drug Marts will only send the photos away to be processed at Fujifilm’s head office in Mississauga. In this case, the photos won’t return to the photographer for nearly two weeks.

“I think it’s a dying art. It’s not really around anymore. Darkroom effects can actually be added digitally, so there’s not really any need for the manual labour put into darkroom photography,” said Panayiotopoulos.

Film-savvy photographers can develop their own photos from the comfort of their home. It may take some time to get used to, but the process just requires some equipment and complete darkness for great results.

Still, most photography students at Humber prefer shooting in digital, as it’s what they’re required to focus on most in the program.

“Digital has come so far. Back in film days, you had to develop, and now you can just take it straight from the camera and put it online if you want,” said Kevin Green, a second year Humber creative photography student.

Film photography requires a substantial amount of dedication given the time span, whereas digital is instantaneous.

The Impossible Project, as mentioned by Riley, is a company that aims to keep film photography alive by refurbishing classic Polaroid cameras and film. The company makes older photographers feel nostalgic, and introduces film to digital generations.