Photography is demanding whether you shoot film or digital. I think I’ll have to be constantly answering people the question, why I shoot film in this day and age. And sometimes I even ask that myself, because it’s seemingly so much more difficult compared to digital photography. And why on earth you’d want to make photography purposely harder for yourself? But is it, in fact, harder?
I’ve noticed that photography in itself is hard, no matter what kind of cameras you’re into. Yes, film is seemingly more difficult, but it’s a process that you can learn and familiarize yourself with. When it comes a second nature, it doesn’t feel more difficult as such. It just feels like a different approach with it’s own strengths and weaknesses.
Some times, I’ve felt extremely frustrated shooting film. But that’s why I’ve decided not to be fanatic about it and I still shoot digital as well. It feels refreshing to switch every once in a while. Grabbing the digital camera feels like it’s making things easier for a very short duration. It honestly feels very liberating to remember what it feels to have an auto-focus, auto-exposure, back screen, wifi and all the modern advantages. Every time though, the illusion of having an easier time fades away rather quickly. And that’s because, it doesn’t make the actual photography any easier. I come home with exactly the same amount of keepers no matter what camera I use, because digital camera doesn’t make finding the subject any easier. It also doesn’t increase your artistic abilities or deepen your understanding of art theory. If you’re a street shooter, where social aspects come into play, it doesn’t make much difference whether the camera is film or digital. The social skills are in the photographer, not in the camera, much like most of the things that make a good photographer.™
What digital does, it can make some practical things somewhat faster, like focusing and having instant results, which is convenient when you can’t be bothered to wait finishing the entire roll. But then again, manual exposures and fast focusing are acquired skills, and I’d say I’m more sufficient with, for example manual focus, because I’ve practised to the point where it’s a second nature to me. More reliable too. And this is a bit off-topic I suppose, but I also don’t get much out of auto-exposures either (film or digital), because I want to be in control of the exposure. I’m interested in creative camera controls and the camera cannot know what my interpretation of the scene is. I may want to under or over-expose on purpose or at least meter very selectively from a certain area of the frame. Personally I find manual, no-bullshit cameras the best option for that kind of shooting.
Summa summarum — I’d argue film photography isn’t necessarily any harder than digital photography. It is just potentially unfamiliar to a modern photographer. It feels harder when you’re new to it, just like any new endeavour, but after reaching a certain point in the learning curve, you realise photography is hard — not film. In terms of technical difficulty, it doesn’t matter whether you shoot film or digital, when you know your shit.