Behind the Lens: Adventures in film, part II


Lawrence Journal-World

Musicians perform on a campground stage at the Walnut Valley Music Festival in Winfield Sept. 18. I used an old film camera with a 50mm lens and Fujicolor 800 speed film. Using film meant I could not check my work as I shot — a big advantage in digital photography.

My adventure shooting 35mm film in an old camera was a lot of fun and fairly successful. It was a slightly odd experience because I hadn’t shot film in several years.

I’m using a lab in California to develop my film, do large enhanced digital scans and put them on a CD. Almost as convenient as shooting digital. But the period of waiting to see results is something rarely experienced in the age of digital photography. Did I expose correctly? Am I in focus?

Fortunately, I also shot two rolls of color C-41 film that I got processed at a local one-hour lab. Those shots seemed fine. But I think using film affected my photography a little. Here’s my take on the main pros and cons of each.

Film pros

  • No more “chimping.” Photographers who shoot digital tend to immediately review every shot they snap. This habit of bending over the LCD monitor on your camera after every shot takes your eye off the subject. Because there is nothing to look at with film, it’s easy to stay focused on what’s in front of you.
  • Shooting film means access to using great old, and now cheap, film cameras. Many of these film cameras are just as good and often better built than new digital cameras. I loved using my Leica M3 again.

Film cons

  • Film comes in various light sensitivity ratings measured by ISO. Once you load a camera with a roll of film, like a day-light 125 ISO, you are stuck with that film until the end of the roll. If the light changes or you walk indoors you will have no way to readjust your film sensitivity. This often leads to changing film before completing rolls and wasting film. With a digital camera you can change the sensitivity setting for each frame if you choose.
  • With film you can’t review what you’ve just shot. Digital has a big advantage here. Learning from your mistakes while you can still correct them and reshoot your subject matter is critical.
  • The most noticeable and frustrating thing I discovered while shooting film was how much I limited the amount of shots I took. I was much more aware of the cost of every frame I snapped so I was less likely to experiment or photograph things just to see what it looked like photographed. This may be the biggest draw back to film and the biggest advantage for digital. With digital there is no excuse not to take a photograph — ever. With no film to purchase or processing costs, there is no excuse not to shoot anything and everything that interests you.

Film’s fun, especially when you can use cool and competent equipment already paid for. Digital, however, has the edge on immediacy and the cost savings once you have made the investment in the digital gear. Both can take great photographs.


Lawrence photographer Tim Forcade and I are offering our class on creating and publishing your own photography book from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Oct. 5 and Oct. 19, at Teller’s. For registration and information contact or


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