Film Photography – Gone, But Not Forgotten in a Digital World

Digital photography is king of the photography world. For most of us, film is now a relic of the past…but our great photos on film should not be forgotten.

Forget the traditionalists who insist that film is better. In some ways it definitely is; it is simply not practical in the digital world to continue taking your photos on film. However, that doesn’t mean you should throw your old photos away.

It may come as a shock to some young people, but great photography has existed for many years, done by true artists who relied on camera skills, not computers, to produce their images. Some manipulation was possible in the darkroom by the few who knew how, but most great photography was captured ‘in camera.’

What a shame, then, that so many of these great images are now gathering dust in closets around the world.

Our rush to embrace digital technology was not gradual. Digital cameras made film almost obsolete in just a few short years. With the cameras came computer software, USB cards, online storage and social networking. Almost overnight, everything related to photography involved digital technology. You really could not do anything with a photo unless it was on your computer.

Of course, this is no problem for photos taken now and in the future. Most of us now have digital cameras and are becoming comfortable with software. My concern is, what has happened to all those great photos from the past, taken on film and now out of place in the modern world?

I have been taking photos to sell in my gallery for over twenty years. I appreciate all the benefits of digital photography, but for now I have chosen not to buy a digital camera. I have thousands of photos from my many travels, all taken on colour slides, which I am determined to put to good use.

I just know that when I buy a digital SLR camera and start snapping, all these old slides will be forgotten. They will gather dust, fade, and eventually be good for nothing but throwing away. So my decision to continue working with film is about making sure that doesn’t happen.

These days I am trawling through years of images, picking out the shots that deserve to be seen, and scanning them. As long as they remain on film, they may be out of date; but once converted to digital files they are every bit as good as anything taken on a modern camera. Some people would argue that for quality, they are even better.

Since I started scanning my slides, I have rediscovered a treasure trove of photos from years past. For every photo I have printed and sold, there are ten more photos just as good that have never seen the light of day. Some photos I always knew were there. Others I had forgotten I ever shot. Some of those photos are now on sale and proving more popular than photos I had been selling for all these years.

When you revisit photos after many years, you start to notice things about them that you may not have appreciated before. Sometimes the photo you chose to print first is not the best, although you may have thought so at the time. After admiring one photo of a waterfall for ten years, it is a real eye-opener to remember you also have ten other angles of the same waterfall, taken on the same roll of film but never printed, and each spectacular in its own way.

Scanning your negatives and colour slides does not have to be expensive. You can buy a film scanner for just a few hundred dollars which has the resolution and the software to get the job done. After that, the only thing you have to spend is time.

If scanning them yourself doesn’t appeal, you can pay to have it done professionally. This can cost as little as a few dollars a file, and should include all the colour correction and spot removal you need to make your photos ready for printing. It may be too costly to have all your photos scanned commercially, but you could make a selection of your top 100 to save for posterity.

Whichever way you choose to go about it, I encourage you to revisit your old photos. Don’t allow them to gather dust until they are thrown away. Scanning can breathe new life into old memories, and I guarantee you will find some real gems that are worth preserving.