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In the digital age, everything has been made easier. We can contact our friends in an instant with a cell phone, find all the nearby food chains in any place by searching the internet, and take photos with just the touch of a button. But sometimes this easiness can rob us of basic knowledge. For instance, even though you can Google all the food chains close to you, you might miss out on the mom and pop places that have the best food. Or you may go to the closest Burger King even though the one further away has a much shorter drive-thru line.
There are just some things that need to be done the old way for you to learn the basics, and photography is one of those things. If someone asked me the best way to learn photography, I would not quote them books or online forums or even specific ways of shooting. I would give them two pieces of advice: Get a film camera, and experiment by shooting a lot.
This is not to say that you can't learn photography with a digital camera. You certainly can. But I believe you can learn more and learn faster with an analog camera. Even after shooting with digital for years, I felt like my photography improved after using a film camera and here are some reasons why:
With many film cameras, you are forced to manually set the aperture and shutter speed by using a light meter. Having to do this every time you take a shot really gives you a good understanding of aperture, shutter speed, and exposure. And if you shoot enough in a variety of situations, you will be able to properly meter a scene just by looking at it.
Of course you can shoot in manual mode with digital camera too. But the fact that you don't have to makes a lot of people choose the automatic settings. There's nothing wrong with this, except that you won't learn the basic of the exposure triangle.
Shooting Black and White:
When most people start out in film, they shoot in B&W. Perhaps it's because it's cheap, or easy to get processed, or they just love the look it. Regardless, it's perfect for beginners because it teaches you how to see light. Color photography can often be distracting, but when you take all the color out, all your left with is light. Being able to see in black and white is very tricky, but what you're really looking for is highlights and shadows. Learning to see light an essential part of photography because, well, that's basically what you're doing is capturing light.
Again, you can do this with most digital cameras, but most people won't. If you convert to B&W in post-processing, then you're missing the whole learning process because you don't have to actively think about what the shot will look like before you take it if you're just converting it later as an afterthought.
Slowing things down:
Ironically, the biggest advantage of analog cameras is that that made them replaced with digital in the first place: Speed and convenience. Nowadays, you can just snap, snap, snap, take a dozen photos in a matter of seconds. No need to worry about how much space you have on your card. No need to worry if you mess up a shot because you can just take another one.
The most common way inexperienced photographers shoot with digital today is: shoot, correct exposure settings, shoot, correct composition, shoot, change angle, shoot, zoom in or out, shoot, change angle again, shoot. So by the sixth shot, you may have a decent photo. You may argue that this is a great way to learn photography. That, because you can instantly see what you've shot, you can correct it and shoot again to get a better photo. This is true, but most don't learn very quickly, if at all, with this method.
With digital, you can always shoot, look, adjust, and re-shoot your subject. ALWAYS. So why is there any need to learn why a photo looks bad if you can just keep shooting until you fix it. Most likely you will never remember why your first five photos looked bad, and you won't care because the last one looks good.
With analog, you have 36 frames at the maximum. So you're going to make every shot count because you don't want to waste any of those precious photos. It may sound like it wouldn't make a difference, but it does. As soon as you put that camera up to your eye, you will actively think about your exposure, about your composition, and about if the photo will even be worth capturing. You will think about everything before you push that shutter button because you won't get to look at it and correct it. In fact, you may never be at that certain spot or situation again.
I promise you that this is one of the best things you can do to improve your photography, even if you've been shooting for years. I have thousands and thousands of of digital photos on my computer. But I often consider my film photos some of my best work and my favorite shots.
Image credit: chrisdorney / 123RF Stock Photo
Written by Spencer Seastrom