Shooting Fast In An Otherwise Slow World

In today’s digital world of instant results, film photography is slow. Painstakingly slow. You have to buy film, if you’re lucky enough to find it. Once obtained and loaded into your camera the realization that you only have 24 or 36 exposures, less if your shooting medium format, sets in. This restriction creates a sense of anxiety. The stress over getting the shot builds up so much, that you simply don’t hit the shutter at all. Once you do finally finish the roll of film, your faced with the task of finding somewhere to develop it, forking over your hard earned dollars to see just how bad you messed up. Perhaps your lucky and a photo lab still operates near you, if not your forced to mail it somewhere. Either way your certainly going to have to wait it out. Finally the day comes when you can pick up the roll from the lab, or it arrives in the mail. You sit down, collect your thoughts, pray to the film gods, and open the package…. Your greatest fears are realized, not a single shot turned out and you wasted a small fortune. Yep should have just used the digital camera, its so much easier that way.

Welcome to the world of film photography in the digital age, or so the (social)media would have you believe anyway. Its expensive, slow, and you hardly get the results your hoping for. Those who still choose to shoot film are lumped into three ‘neatly’ defined groups 1. Fine are photographers with skills are far and beyond anything you’ll every possess 2. Luddites 3. Hipsters. Each group equally despised for their own reasons. These preconceived notions of course are either flat out lies or so far from the truth they might as well be.

 Is film photography expensive? yes, but so is digital if you get caught up by gear acquisition syndrome. GAS for short. Is it a hassle? Yes, but what hobby worth dabbling in isn’t? Is it slow? Define slow. Sure you might have to wait a bit longer to see your results. But we are talking hours here, or perhaps a few days to a week (Ok its a bit longer if you mail out your film), certainly not months or years.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be this way of course. Over the weekend I set out to disprove this notion. Disregarded much of my usual photographic processes to see just how fast I could find, shoot, develop, and share online a roll of film I shot. Saturday morning I walked down to my local drug store and picked up a cheap roll of generic film. Western Family brand Color 200 to be exact, costing me just shy of 5 dollars. With my trusty Pentax K1000 in hand, I loaded the film, and walked a mere 5 blocks to a park near my apartment, and proceeded to expose all 24 exposures in roughly 40 minutes. I must admit that’s much faster than I usually shot a roll film, painstakingly faster even. I then walked back to the drug store and turned in my film for processing, which cost me another 5 dollars. Had time permitted I could have had my results within 60 minutes, but I had tickets to football game Saturday afternoon so I had to put off seeing the results tell Sunday morning.

In the end I had to wait a little over 24 hours, and my wallet was 10 dollars lighter. Yet not only did I get my film developed at that price, but a set of prints. Plus I’ve already scanned the images into my computer creating digital copies, a few of which I’m sharing as part of this post. All things considered I was quite happy with the cost, results, and turn around time.


About jsodphotography

Seattle based film photographer. Recording light through a pinhole, Holga, and various 35mm cameras.
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17 Responses to Shooting Fast In An Otherwise Slow World

  1. Eric says:

    I really used to feel this way. When I shot digital, I’d shoot hundreds of photos a day (500ish when I’d travel). Now, when I take roadtrips, I don’t even bring along a digital camera. I discovered that I simply don’t need to capture everything I see from every angle I see it. In that way, film was very liberating.

    As for your speed test, I’ve done that too. I took 12 (medium format) shots in one more and processed them right away. I had the developed film on my scanner within an hour and a half after taking the last photo.

    And if you really want instant, there’s always Polaroid.

    Fun post!

    • Thanks for the kind words Eric.

      I too long ago started leaving the digital camera at home. Choosing only to shoot on film on my various adventures. That being said I don’t have anything against digital photography, just the notion that one is far superior to the other. That argument is just a waste of everyone’s time.

  2. well, you know what? when i first started reading this post, i thought…here goes another digital techie ranting on about how good digital is etc etc!
    its only till i got to the end that i realised you are trying to show whats good about film!
    far as film, and my blog are concerned, yes, i use film…a lot, be it 35mm or 120.
    but i also use digital…not as a replacement for film….but more as an artist would use a sketchbook….to take a shot and see if it would work with film….if yes, then i record it on film.
    anyways…i see ur in seattle….what a wonderful place it is too! if been there many a time….done the underground walks at pioneer square, sampled the bars and clubs etc…a fine place indeed….im just over the border…BC!

    • I wanted to start off the post with a sarcastic tone about how film photography is viewed in todays world. Personally I am about 90% film 10% digital, that being said I really have nothing against either format. The long winded discussions about the death of film or the superiority of digital seems like a waste of time to me.

      BC is a great place, I’m particularly fond of the fine cities of Vancouver and Victoria. I hope to one day take a camping road trip along the western coast of Vancouver Island.

  3. jesusjoglar says:

    slow down you move to fast, you got to make the morning last . . . !!!
    nice text Jeff, I subscribe your view!!!

  4. janaobscura says:

    Sounds like a fun afternoon Jeff, and some really great colors. Thanks for the reminder on how easy it is to shoot color 35mm film, even in today’s quick-paced digital world. I should take advantage of the drugstores that still offer 60min processing. I feel their days are numbered.

    • It was nice getting film back fast. I did the same thing with the roll I shot in the Pentax on our trip to the Hoh Rain Forest. It should be noted though, that the drugstore doesn’t exactly handle the film with the amount of care a pro lab will. I suppose that is to be expected though.

  5. Luddy's Lens says:

    I didn’t know Western Family sold film in addition to everything else; not bad, by the looks of it.

    Your point that film can be quick and affordable turns most of the digital-only claims on their heads, and I think more people are wising up. When digital first really took hold in the early ‘aughts, I really became a dinosaur — ten years ago I was certainly in a shrinking minority of film users, and would be met with nothing but eyeball-rolls by the digital crowd. These days, I’m seeing more photographers who started in digital turning to film; don’t know why that is, but it is reassuring.

    • I believe Western Family brand film is just Kodak film disguised as such, and sold for slightly cheaper.

      As for film shooters from a digital age, I used to shoot film as a kid but never thought much about it. Then when digital cameras picked up speed while in college (early 2000s) I switched over. About two years ago I more or less abandoned my DSLR and have been shooting with various film cameras ever since, most notably pinhole cameras. Those do tend to turn heads and start some interesting conversations.

  6. Your reference to 24 or 36 frames made me smile – I’ve been doing a little project with medium format film , one camera has 12 frames a film and the other 8! No doubling up on exposures to make sure you get a good one.

  7. amazing piece of work. I really want to start shooting pictures in film now….you guys are amazing 🙂 lovely 🙂

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