How Film Photography Can Improve Your Digital Photography

With the ability to shoot hundreds of photos and instantly see the results digital photography certainly has it’s appeal. Plus, digital photography is more accessible and affordable than ever. But even if you choose to shoot digital over film, learning the roots of film photography can help you become a better photographer by better understanding the camera and logic behind what you’re doing. It’s easy to purchase a digital camera and let the camera do all the work for you. It’s even easier when you find that the automatic settings may give you good results. But if you force yourself to treat the digital camera like a manual film camera, you may find yourself with even better results. Better yet, you’ll learn from the mistakes of incorrect settings and how to correct them in the future.

Think Before You Shoot

The best thing you can do with your digital camera is use the manual mode and force yourself to select the appropriate ISO (film speed), aperture, shutter speed, and even white balance. Do not let the camera dicate the final result. Instead, you should decide what you want the final image to look like. After all, you are the photographer. If taking motion photography and you prefer the subject to be frozen in action, use a faster shutter speed and an ISO of at least 800. For shallow depth of field, use a larger aperture opening (smaller number). When indoors set your white balance to around 3200k and when outdoors use 5500k.

Use the Digital Camera like a Film Camera

One of the most frustrating, yet at the same time best, things about film photography is not knowing the final result until hours later when you develop the film. Film that didn’t turn out correctly meant you had to learn from your mistakes and reshoot. Film would also limit you to certain conditions depending on the film speed. So when shooting digital, try treating the camera like a film camera:

  • Don’t review a photo until after shooting. When using film you have no choice but to wait until after shooting to see the results. This requires the photographer to really think about composition, lighting, and everything else before even taking a single photograph.
  • Limit the number of shots you take. You could buy a smaller memory card, but try to keep yourself to 24 or 36 shots, the same as a typical roll of film.
  • Use a predetermined ISO for the “roll of film.” Consider in advance whether you’ll be shooting in low light or good light conditions and don’t change the ISO while shooting.
  • Use a predetermined white balance. Using a predetermined white balance will help you understand how different lighting affects the color of a photo. Incandescent lighting can give your image a yellow tint while fluorescent can give your image a blue tint.
  • Never delete a “bad” photo. If you do review a photo after taking it and you don’t think it looks good, don’t delete it. Instead, think about why that photo doesn’t look good. Is there enough lighting? How can the composition be improved? Then take the photo again with your corrections in mind.