Film Photography: Capturing Moments The Old-Fashioned Way

GRACELYN LIM explores film photography and learns more about the appeal behind this up-and-rising trend among youths.



Gracelyn Lim
Hype Editor

Hype Issue #58

Published on
December 27, 2023
Queen Victoria with her husband, Prince Albert

A photograph taken in 1861 of Queen Victoria with her husband, Prince Albert. Photo taken from Harper’s Bazaar.

Take a look at pictures from the past and you’ll notice that everyone in those pictures carries a serious expression – a stark contrast to the portraits we see today, where everyone is smiling brightly.

Back in the day, photography was so expensive and rare that having your photo taken was likened to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Hence, people would take the moment seriously and opt for a formal, serious expression rather than a goofy smile. In addition, the technology was in its infancy, meaning that it took several minutes to capture a shot. Holding a smile for a long time isn’t easy, so a formal expression was favoured.

Today, taking a photo is a matter of milliseconds and you can snap not one, not two, but millions of photos as and when you like, as long as your phone or digital camera has the storage available. Film photography, on the other hand, is a totally different concept – one that while rooted in the past, has been experiencing somewhat of a renaissance in recent years.

What’s film photography?

Kodak 35mm film camera

One of the most popular and beginner-friendly film cameras is the Kodak 35mm film camera. Photo taken from Moment.

Digital cameras use sensors that react to light in order to capture your images. Film cameras, on the other hand, use rolls of film in place of sensors. These films contain a photosensitive material that reacts with light to capture the image you want. So in this sense, the storage media is also the sensor, you can only use each roll of film once. Moreover, after you’ve used up your roll of film, you still need to pay to develop and print your photos separately before you get to see the end result.

So what’s the appeal of film photography?

film photography

Digital photography produces pictures that are sharp and rich in colour whereas film photography gives you pictures that carry a vintage vibe. Photo taken from @shegotafilmcamera on Instagram.

There are many reasons why film photography is so appealing to youths today. One of the many reasons might be the fact that it provides them with the opportunity to slow things down in the fast-paced society that we live in. The thing about film photography is that you have limited shots – once you’re out of film, you’ll need to load a new roll. So, every shot has to be taken with both precision and intention if you don’t want to waste your film and your money. In a world where everything moves so quickly, film photography helps you to hit that pause button. It forces you to take things slow and pushes you to live in the moment. The nature of film photography is a striking disparity to the fast pace of our everyday lives, but that’s also what makes it so alluring and enticing.

Secondly, there’s always that element of surprise when it comes to film photography. There isn’t that sense of instant gratification you receive when looking at the shots snapped with your digital camera. You can’t see film photos until the roll of film has been processed and prints have been made from it. Not being able to see your shots right away and having to wait till you finish all your film, which can take some time depending on how many shots you take, helps build anticipation. To a certain extent, it even makes your shots all the more endearing and precious. As the saying goes, “distance makes the heart grow fonder”, so does time.

Lastly, there’s also that tangible experience which makes film photography all the more appealing. Even though you can replicate a similar film vibe and aesthetic in your digital photos using post production software, the feeling of developing your own photograph is different. It’s iconic how in our highly digitalised world, it’s that physical and tactile experience which tugs on the heartstrings of youths.

It’s never too early or late to start film photography. Don’t be worried about making mistakes because trial and error play a big part in the joy and fun of film photography. Experiment, mess up, and have fun.

If you’re looking to get a film camera, we’re pleased to let you know that from Dec 27, 2023 to 1 Jan, 2024, Retronalogue – a brand which offers second-hand film cameras – and Writer’s Room will be having a New Year’s giveaway. Take part in our giveaway on Instagram where 10 winners will be walking away with a 10% discount voucher for their next purchase.