After some time seeing a few friends temporarily put down their digital cameras in exchange to exploring the film medium I finally caved, following some friendly pressure of course. It was something I knew I'd get into at some point or another but at the time I was more focused on other aspects of my photography to further divide my time into something else (albeit something that still held a lot of value in my growth as a photographer).
So it finally boiled over and I ended up shooting a few rolls over the course of a few weeks. As such, I'm not so much here to showcase my results as to talk about my views and experiences with the format.
To begin with, your mentality changes very quickly. There is no LCD, you can't really burn off a few frames to fine tune your composition and lighting. Being put into a position where you don't have that instant feedback a digital camera provides makes you stop and really begin to think about the shot and double check each facet of an image. It's not that I didn't do this on my digital camera but certainly it wasn't to the degree with a film camera that held a roll of film with 10 shots. This ended up carrying over to my digital shooting right away. I spent less time shooting, reviewing and fine tuning and more time planning a shot in front of me before releasing the trigger.
That alone held a lot of value for me for overall improving my skills as a photographer.
The mechanics of it all also came into play. On the digital side, especially when working with low depth of field shots I tend to fire off 2 or 3 frames at a time, just for the sake of making sure I got proper focus due to camera/subject movement and other variables. With film that sort of freedom doesn't exist. Suddenly proper breathing and hand holding techniques come into play. Again, that ends up being something that carries over to digital after some practice.
One of the other aspects I've found was that I engaged my subject a lot more. We were there to shoot but with only 3 rolls of film the urgency to shoot a lot wasn't there, instead the focus shifted to getting the most of what I had available. In the process I got to know my subject a lot better and that's something I feel will translate to the shots with a much better level of comfort and attention to detail.
There were a number of other factors to discuss but it's something I want to save for a future entry rather than one huge blog post. The point of this one was not to convince people to pick up a film camera. It's certainly not for everyone and it carries a cost with it that may not be justified to some people due to the gear investment, film and development costs and so on. You also wouldn't exactly use it everywhere. The pacing is quite different as is the performance.
That being said I will definitely be picking up a film camera shortly, in part for personal use but I also see the advantages of having one to present another medium when It comes to engagements and weddings. I will liken it to a brush in painting. It is not exactly better or worse than the one you use now, it's different. It's another tool. There are places for it and I want to be able to explore that creatively.
Regardless, I think film cameras still have a strong place in a modern day photographers arsenal. We are at our core artists, there's no reason to limit the tools we can use.