Film Is Not Dead. Why I Shoot Film in 2016!

Today’s Film Friday post comes from Jonathan Canlas .

Why film in 2016? It seems every quarter companies are coming out with bigger and better digital cameras that leave the technology of film in the dust. There are even presets that can replicate the look of film to the point that I can’t tell which is which when compared side to side! Also, if you look at the film stock offerings in 2016, it is pretty slim pickings compared to say a decade ago, or even 2 years ago. So you might ask yourself why would one choose to shoot film in 2016 or like me, shoot 100% film like myself?

Rolleiflex Ilford HP5+3 f2point8 Golden CO 002

Two words: The experience. There is a magic found in shooting film that is uniquely its own.

Nothing slows you down more and causes you to think about exactly what is going to be in your frame than the idea that every time you hit the shutter it is going to cost you money. This may be seen as a limitation to some but personally I find it the most freeing. When I hit the shutter on my camera, it challenges me to make sure I’ve got it right the first time. I need to carefully think about everything in my frame – the lighting, the subject matter, and the story being told. I’m never taking a countless number of photos of one thing.  And, because of choice number of frames, shooting film doesn’t force me to sit later in the editing chair-of-death for hours trying to figure out which one is the best even though they all look the same.

Pentax 67ii Kodak Portra 160 Cinelux 110 lens f2 Haleiwa HI003

Shooting film really forces you to think about what you are doing.  Having only really shot film my whole career, I’m not sure I could ever take 5000+ photos at an event unless I literally was not thinking. Call me simple minded, but I don’t have 5000+ ideas, let alone 5000+ good ideas in any given day. So taking that many photos would literally equate to pushing a button without thinking. I find the more I think about what it is that I am going to photograph, the better my photos are versus the “off the hip” random shots or those taken without thinking (on digital). It would be quite a feat if someone invented an SD card that charged you for every actuation. Gone would be the spray and pray mentality and the hours spent behind a computer editing/culling. In exchange, you gain all those hours/days/weeks and this time could be turned into simply anything you wanted.  

Pentax 67ii Kodak Portra 400+2 110 Cinelux lens f2 Waimea HI

No one who fell in love with art of photography did it with the idea of constantly sitting behind a computer. Yes, we must learn to edit and cull our own work but there is a certain magic found being behind a camera and creating/capturing moments/things/people. This magic, or the fire and drive to create images, I feel, is being snuffed out by the editing chair-of-death. How? The thought of sitting behind a computer causes people to choose to NOT bring their camera with them when they walk out the door.  The thought of picking up said camera makes them cringe – because it only requires more time in said chair-of-death. I have seen that spark of excitement rekindled countless times when photographers put film back in their hands.

When teamed with the right lab, you literally pass that time in a chair onto people whose sole job is to keep you out of it.  They know your preferences, they know your color, they know your contrast and density levels, they are literally your own editing team.  Shooting film and trusting the right lab gives you your life back.  That desire to go out and create grows bigger and bigger with each batch of film back from the lab.

I’ve found that one of the greatest things about shooting film is that regardless of the statement of “everything has been done before” in terms of photography, there is always room for learning, even if it is through mistakes. In the last year alone, I’ve found new ways to expose/develop Kodak Professional Ektar100 Film (rated and metered at a true 400 iso then pushed 2 stops in development) and Kodak Professional Portra 800 Film (rated at 400, metered for the shadows, then pushed 1 stop in the development for extra contrast and pop of color) to achieve a look that I have not been previously been able to achieve. Both methods were actually experiments where I thought the results I’d get were a completely different look from the one I achieved. I’ve been shooting film for almost 20 years and the thought that there is still a ton of room to learn makes it very exciting. I can’t wait to see what I will find.

Capturing images on film is nothing short of magic from the actual act of being limited to 12 to 36 exposures, to exposing celluloid to light and creating a latent image. And, there is something to be said about creating something that is not made of 1’s and 0’s. I’m no doomsday person, but I often get cold sweats thinking about when my hard drives will inevitably go out on me.  I take a lot of comfort in the fact that even as technology changes (how long will flash drives be around until the next new thing comes out?), the over 100-year technology of printing from a negative will continue for decades to come.

Have you lost the capture magic or spark when shooting? Take up your film camera, load up some Kodak Professional film and see how shooting film might change your life. Also, make sure you stop by to hear my presentation “Shooting Film in 2016” at WPPI in the Kodak Alaris booth #1235 on March 7 at 10:30 AM!

On March 1st, I’m releasing FIND in a BOX ( which is the online version of the workshop FILM IS NOT DEAD available on your computer or smart device. For more information, please visit

Jonathan Canlas

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