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  • Writer's pictureGilbert Carosin

Shooting analog 35mm film in the studio, why i will never go back to digital photography

Updated: May 7

In 2023 i made a radical change in my studio session, i switched all my shooting from digital to analog 35mm film while using a Nikon f5 camera. This was not an easy decision, i live in Mauritius Island, getting film here is a long and expensive process and because there is no lab on the island, the film processing has to be done oversea. Still i was committed and determined to make the change happen and here i am now one year later...

a picture of a classic 35mm film camera standing on a tripod
a 35mm film camera, the Nikon F5

Shooting analog 35mm film in the studio is a slower and more precise process, there is no room for mistake so it might not be be for everyone, after one full year and many rolls of film, i will explain why film is a superior medium than digital photography for my field of work ( please not that this may not apply to other genre ).

Superior micro-contrast and 3d pop

portrait in black and white of a young Mauritian girl

This is a controversial topic but micro contrast and 3d pop have always been the most important aspect of my photography even when i was shooting digital. Film by nature has more micro-contrast simply because there is nothing between the lens and the film plane inside the camera. On a digital camera there are several filters and protectives glasses in front of the sensor that will affect the overall image quality.

Then the structure of the film itself is made of several layer of grains that will burn when exposed, we speak of film density for a properly expose image and the density will vary depending on the picture and exposure creating a unique effect that cannot be reproduced by a digital camera this is particularly true for black and white photography.

Unique colours and tones ( the analog 35mm film look )

portrait couleur argentique, jeune fille avec cheveux afro, kodak portra 400

Because film is an organic material it will blend light in a more natural way than a digital sensor, the colour transitions are softer, nicer and you don't need to worry so much about colour matching, the final result is usually pleasing to the eyes even under less than ideal lighting or setup. For portraiture skin tone are soft, natural, it is very hard to define but it really feels organic.

young child posing in the studio kodak colourplus 200

Another thing to consider is the number of different films available on the market each having their distinct colours, tones and attribute, portra ektar or ektachrome for instance render all very differently and there are many more option available, even for black and white there are many alternatives.

An easier workflow

studio setup, elinchrom rotalux 53, godox strobe, matthews roller stand and boom arm

Moving to 35mm film was a liberation for me, first my studio lighting setup has become less complex, somehow film works better with a natural setup so one big huge modifier and some reflectors is all that i need to create all the pictures on my portfolio, i sometime use an additional small led panel to illuminate my backdrop when working with low iso film but most the time one light setup is enough.

I also spend less time on the computer, no more editing is required just shoot and send the film to the lab then deliver to the client. There is also less management no sd card to worry about no files transfer from camera to computer, no editing software to pay for and best of all the camera requires only 8 AA batteries that i have used for one full year.

  Final thoughts on shooting analog 35mm film photography in the studio

Since i started shooting 35mm film in the studio, my clientèle has also changed considerably. I now get more classic portrait/family session rather than my usual business headshot or fashion photoshoot, the reason is simple the natural look of film is ideal for portraiture, artist, family and maternity session. Client management is also a lot easier, those who book know exactly what they are paying for and what result to expect.

When it comes to printing, 35mm film has more resolution than my former dslr ( nikon d700 ). The final size of the image and overall quality is only limited by the scanner quality so it is very important to work with high quality lab to process and scan your photo.

Since the beginning i have been working with cape film supply a very professional lab in south africa they have processed and scanned all the picture on my portfolio

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