Why people are quitting analog photography?

I’ve been actually wondering just how long the current analog photography trend keeps going. And yes, I think it’s somewhat of a trend at the moment (but please read on). There will always be dedicated film shooters too (the nuts like us) just as there are always people doing whatever niche thing, but it still very much feels like the current state of film photography has a vibe of a passing trend.* 

The common misconception is that film photography is just as easy as digital photography — or at least marginally different in terms of difficulty. The film look is cool and highly desirable. Maybe people are getting a bit bored of Instagram filters and now want the real thing, hence trying out film. Film photography is how ever far away from adding just a filter. As a photographic practise, it takes so much commitment and patience, which is something most people don’t seem to have in this day and age. The current era seem to plagued with impatience and the craving of instant gratification. These values and film photography doesn’t mix very well and I think it’s ultimately going to kill film photography as a trend, as we now know it. (Edit: Just to be a bit more clear what I mean, I’m not claiming that film photography itself is a fad, but there’s a fad revolving around it.)

The telltale signs

Let me explain why I feel this way. What are the telltale signs of an era coming to an end? Old SLR’s seemed to be the shit couple of years ago. Especially anything like Canon AE-1’s and alike. They still are, but a clear shift has started to emerge. Now point-and-shoots seem to be the shit. To be honest, I can hardly understand the appeal of a plastic 90’s point-and-shoot camera. For me it’s still mechanical all the way. Olympus MJU II has been the hottest camera in second hand markets for about a year. Following it, there’s all sorts of grandma cameras coming behind it. Why this is? What does it tell us about? I have a hypothesis. People are starting to realise how much harder film photography is and are shifting towards easier cameras that have auto-focus, auto-exposure and all the other features, that a photographer who can’t be bothered to learn manual shooting could want. I see this as a transitional phase. People return to digital after an X amount of frustration over film sweats. 

It is always exciting to start out a new hobby and get enthused about something. But the honeymoon phase always goes away at some point. Now that the world has gone through it’s AE-1 phase once again, it seems like the green film shooters are drifting towards cameras that doesn’t put so much responsibility and pressure on their shoulders. After the MJU II phase, I honestly think the majority of the last remaining film newbies, has mainly gone back to digital. 

I recently subscribed to a YouTube channel called Map Hopping Mac, which is (was) a film oriented channel by a guy who started film photography three months ago. In this video he explains why he is now quitting and to be completely honest, it was a disappointing to hear his arguments against film photography. It’s even more disappointing to hear someone doing such a dramatic U-turn after just few months. I don’t agree with all of his points, but what he says are of course totally legit reasons and just illustrates why film photography isn’t suitable for everybody. I think many film shooter shares his frustration. How ever, I can’t understand why there must always be such a competition between the two formats. Why it must be either this or that? I personally shoot film and digital and it has never been an all or nothing thing. But for many people it seems to be.

 

At the very same time there’s of course an increasing amount of enthusiasm towards film photography, which is nice, but generally it seems like the initial hype is starting to settle a bit. After that, videos just like this are surely to pop out more often. YouTube photographers love to make videos about why they switched from this to that and I’d be surprised if “why I switched from film to digital” -type of videos wouldn’t start appearing more and more often.

I hope I’m not being too negative here and I still highly recommend to shoot film. For me personally film is timeless and it’s my ultimate fantasy that film would reclaim it’s status as a mainstream photographic medium, alongside with digital.

Post script: some additional notes added to the article to make it a bit more clear that I’m not actually trying to claim that film photography itself would be a fad. Like I mentioned, I think film photography is timeless. I expressed my progress of thought maybe a bit unclearly. I was trying to express that (based on purely subjective observation) there seems to be a distinct fad revolving around the current state of film photography, that doesn’t have the mental sustainability to keep the greener shooters involved. Which is different of course than saying that the entire medium is a fad.

7 Comments

  1. Tenhoboy

    I’ve seen this kind of rise and fall of enthusiasm in practically every hobby. I’m keen of trying as many things and hobbies as possible. I’ve done it all, mountain biking, stamp collecting, horse riding etc. I think square dance and geocaching are something I have not tried. But basically everything else.

    As I explore different hobbies it’s easy to say what I like and what I don’t like. When I like it, I usually immerse myself in it thoroughly and try to learn as much as possible from the subject. That’s why I can name a few dozen orchids, hundreds of chiles, disassemble a mountain bike blindfolded and know every “nippelitieto” of everything 😂

    To cut the long story short: I’ve seen propably hundreds of hobbyist running like headless chickens skreeching out their new found enthusiasm, doing it all, purchasing every thing related and then like in two months be like “Naah, I know I just spend 800€ in hydroponics for my chili farm, got a huge Capsicum Baccatum -tattoo on my forehead and named my first-born ‘Habanero’ but let’s face it – chili growing is too cumbersome. I can get chilis from the store. Btw. All you people here in the forum you can check on me on my NEW BLOG because I’m FULL TILT INTO vintage guitars and 1930’s delts blues!!”

    You know, people. 😀

    I feel that there is more and more people shooting film. People like me who have lived through an analog childhood and digital adulthood have witnessed the rise and fall of different recording medias. Everyone of us knows that those memory sticks and hard drives are not going to be around long. But a photograph will.

    That’s my main reason to shoot film. And I’m not alone.

  2. Leave them go, who cares? I shoot about a 100000 digital pictures a year as a sportsphotographer. There is no way turning back time in my profession, but I love shooting film. It´s vivid, it´s not perfect (like me), it´s still a lot more work per photo, but I like that I have to wait til I can see what I actually got after shooting. So you have to be confident in your skills and expierience, you have to work with a clear idea of your pictures and you have to think twice before pushing the knob. Every little fealure can spoil your picture forever, so when it all worked out at the end it´s much more benefit than looking on the camera monitor and repeat shooting as long til it´s perfect. I love the way film handles highlights more than digital sensors, i like the grain, films live, digital is just maths. Of course film will never come back to the point it was centuries ago, but there is still some advantages compared to digital cameras. To whom is willing to learn and try there is so much to explore. I´m doin it for more than 35 years and there´s still a lot I still don´t know. So, if one hipster gives up after three month, let him go!

  3. Federico

    So professional photographers like Harley Weir, Colin Dodgson, Jamie Hawkesworth, Olivier Zahm, Zoe Ghertner, and more….(and me), are just “riding a fad”? Well,…I guess we just suck. 😊

  4. There are many kinds of film lovers, and a lot wont give up film. I think you generalised a bit. I like plastic film compacts. I know how to manual focus and use light meters and set the exposure and what not. I like certain type of plastics compacts because they were designed for the nerdy photogeek dads of the yesteryear. The ridiculous design and all plastic design appeals to my sense of aesthetics. I also like their wild and generally “poorer” image quality. And for sure, I like to focus on just composition with the auto compacts. I think composition is the most critical skill to train. And I do shoot a lot of film, digital too, but mainly for video and work stuff. Here’s my reviews of plastic compacts:https://blog.nokkos.fi/category/one-roll-one-camera/

    I also don’t develop my films myself. Its just not my way. I do appreciate darkroom work and I did do it myself for three months. I wasn’t pleased with the results and a good lab does it so much better. I like shooting, but I don’t like playing with chemicals. It doesn’t bring me joy, so I focus what brings me joy.

    • Thanks for commenting! You are absolutely right — I generalised quite a bit and should’ve think about my wording more carefully. Something like this happens all the time, at least for me. Writing a personal blog like this sometimes basically comes down to printing out the stream of thoughts, while sipping the morning coffee etc, without thinking about too much how it can be perceived. I don’t have the big picture and while I was writing, I was mirroring perhaps a bit too much of what I’m seeing among my peers. There’s a lot of giving up and trying out so called easier cameras as shortcuts. Also, for whatever reason, there’s been somewhat increasing amount of blog posts and YouTube videos about moving back to digital, which in a way depressed me slightly — quite possibly falsely reinforcing the feeling of people shying away from film. But that’s of course not the entire picture, but rather how it just seemed to me, especially on that morning while I was writing the post.

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