Film Photography vs Digital: The Beauty of Waiting for the Perfect Shot

It’s funny how taking photos as a photographer can feel so new when you’re using a different medium. Film photography feels both new and familiar and strangely refreshing all at once. Photography is so permanently stamped on my heart that it doesn’t take much for me to fall in love with it all over again even if it’s in a different form. Shooting film has become a reason for me to push myself as a photographer and to have fun carrying one more camera around! Here’s my story of learning the patience it takes to do film photography vs digital and how rewarding it can be!

Palm Springs desert windmills captured by film photography

Film Photography vs Digital: The Major Differences

Fruit basket next to toaster in sunlight

Film and digital photography are so different. The biggest difference being that you can’t see the film photos until you get them developed. I’ve taken photos and not seen them for months just because I hadn’t sent the film off to be developed!

You also have to really know how to use the camera settings and light meters. That’s the only thing telling you whether or not your photo will be properly exposed or not. There isn’t a screen that you can check! Either way, the photos won’t always be as crisp and clear as a digital photo even if you use all of the correct settings.

Recommended Gear & Where to Get Your Film Developed

Road going through Joshua Tree

Another fun element in looking at film photography vs digital are the camera bodies you can explore. I now own three different film cameras that I’ve collected over the past few months! The cameras are all 35mm, but each one contains many differences.

Canon AV-1

Canon AV-1 film photography camera placed on table

The Canon AV-1 is a really fun camera that was first introduced by Canon in 1979. I use a 50mm 1.4 lens on it which provides a lot of opportunity. It is by far the one I use the most and enjoy carrying around because it has a really cool and vintage look.

Canon AF Sure Shot

Canon AF Sure Shot film photography camera placed on table

The second one is a Canon AF Sure Shot point-and-shoot camera. It’s the perfect pocket camera that you don’t have to worry about manual focus or the other settings! It’s self explanatory, just point and shoot! It also has a really fun pop up flash that is a super fun addition for any wedding reception photos!

Canon EOS Rebel Ti

Canon EOS Rebel TI film photography camera placed on table

The third camera I have is a Canon EOS Rebel Ti. This one is super fun because I can put any of my normal Canon lenses on the body, but it functions as a film camera! It’s really easy to use, the focus is super sharp, and the film automatically winds itself inside the camera.

Joshua tree against a clear blue sky

Developing Your Film Photography Rolls

One of my favorite labs is Richard Photo Lab in Santa Clarita, CA. They develop 35mm film for about $17 a roll and can do all of your color corrections for you. It’s a fast and simple process, and I am so happy with the results!

Bridesmaid holds bride's wedding dress as they walk with bridesmaids through field

How to Get Into Film Photography

When I considered film photography vs digital and picked up a film camera again, my past experience had solely been from a film class in college. I used the film photography lab on campus and learned how to develop my own black-and-white film. It was so much fun! Soon after that, my digital career started growing and I quickly lost sight of the beauty found in film.

Overlook to foggy Oregon coast

Film photography is a slower process from start to finish that utilizes a particular way of shooting that not every photographer will love. That’s OK! It’s up to your own personal preference whether or not it’s something you would like to pursue. It might be a bit of an expensive hobby to pick up initially, but after purchasing the camera and a few film rolls–you can get started!

Even if your photos don’t all turn out at first, learn from your mistakes (as I did) and try again. There is literally no shame in trying so don’t be nervous to just give it a go!

How Film Photography Has Inspired All of My Photography Work

I love the nostalgia of film photography vs digital. It’s also amazing because when I take the photo, I can’t immediately go and edit or post it. I am forced to simply enjoy the moment that I’m in without running to share it. Patience is so key in photography. In capturing photos digitally you can often miss slowing down when shooting.

So much in the photography space is about how fast you can produce and make money. The focus has become less about quality and more about quantity. At times, I’m so caught up in the hustle of producing images at such an incredibly high rate that they begin to feel less meaningful. I can rush through my sessions moving from shot to shot, pose to pose, and having to go through thousands of photos in the end. Film forces me to be much more intentional with the photos I take and the moments I choose to capture. It’s so special.

Film forces me to be much more intentional with the photos I take and the moments I choose to capture. It’s so special.

Couple walks along sand holding bouquet at beach elopement

I’ve learned there is so much beauty in waiting that it makes the photos more meaningful when you get them back. I often forget all of the film photos I even took, so it’s such a fun surprise receiving the finished product.

Yes, it’s much easier to shoot digitally. But, in my opinion, it’s more rewarding to shoot film. I have been re-energized and newly motivated in my work through film photography because it makes my work feel more real!

Are you interested in trying out film photography? I just can’t wait to share this new passion with you! 

Film Photographers That Inspire Me

  1. Joe Greer: I recently bought his book The Lay of the Land and it has inspired me so much in my shooting.
  2. Taylor Ann: She has inspired me in joining film with weddings and elopements. She does a lot of combination posts with 35mm and digital. It’s really beautiful.
Desert rocks at sunset photo taken by photographer as she compares film photography vs digital
rocks cast in shadow by sunset photo taken by photographer as she compares film photography vs digital
Blurry joshua tree at sunset taken by photographer as she compares film photography vs digital

Photographer Tips, The Invitation




Film Photography vs Digital: The Beauty of Waiting for the Perfect Shot

  1. Lili Galvez says:

    I loved reading this blog as I begin my film photography journey. What type of film/brands do you use?

    • Katelyn MacMillan says:

      Hi!! Kmac here! I’m so glad you enjoyed reading it! 🙂 Currently I shoot a lot of Portra 400, and rotate between my Canon AV-1 camera, a Canon Rebel Ti, as well as a Contax Tvs Point and shoot!

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