4 minute read

What Shooting on Film Taught Me About Letting Go

Exploring the value of film compared to digital photography.

What Shooting on Film Taught Me About Letting Go

Hi! My name is Henry, and I am a Producer here at Gitwit. I recently shared in our Monday Morning All-Team meeting. Every week a Nitwit shares something they've been learning lately. As a photographer, I decided to present to the Gitwit team what I've been learning about film lately. I then wrote this article, so I could also share a bit about film with you. Enjoy!

I have been taking photos for about nine or ten years now. It started as a desire to document the world around me, and slowly morphed into an art form. Throughout high school and college, I’ve tried to learn as many different styles of photography as I could find, from landscape and portrait photography, to astrophotography and street style.

Campsite outside of Glacier National Park, September 2020

About two years ago, I started messing around with shooting film on my grandfather's old Canon AE-1. I rediscovered an art that many modern photographers are beginning to explore. In my reintroduction to film, I have found something extraordinarily unique about the process: It's forcing me to relinquish control and focus solely on the moments--while embedding a creative process into my daily life. 

Empty lot in Salt Lake City, September 2020

Intrinsic Value

People like digital photography because it provides real-time feedback. When I take a photo on a digital camera or a phone, I am immediately able to review the image, and determine if I need to take another. Once I have the shot I want, I can take it into Lightroom or Photoshop and manipulate it to my heart's content. 

With film, I don't get to review my image until that roll is developed. In a way, I yield control over the final product. Most of the time, I don't bother editing at all. I let the film stock do the color grading, and pray the subject is in focus and in frame. It documents the unfiltered truth of a moment in time, perfect or not. 

This process tricks my mind into believing that these images have intrinsic value that my digital photos do not. Allowing myself to let go of control has actually improved my work as an artist.

Curbside pickup, April 2020

Letting Go of Perfection Can Make You More Creative

We are flooded with digital content from the moment we wake up: photos, headlines, Instagram posts, and marketing emails. In a seemingly unending stream of content, the challenge becomes: How do we stand out? 

Our answer: Focus on the process of creating, not the result. 

We encourage our team to learn skills that they’re unfamiliar with: from augmented reality to app design to illustration. If it challenges us to step outside of our creative comfort zone, it’s worth trying. 

Shooting film is one way I push my creative boundaries because it removes the expectation of perfection. Without the ability to immediately see how the shot turned out, I am, by default, less distracted by the result. 

Focusing your attention on the creative process lowers the barrier for creation. In other words: take a first stab at something without any expectations of quality, and see what it does for your creativity.

Visiting a museum, August 2020


P.S. Interested in getting started in film photography? It’s cheaper than you might think.

It's really easy to spend a lot of money when it comes to film photography, but in truth, there is a relatively low barrier of entry. 

About a year ago, I retired my grandfather’s camera to a shelf in my room. I have two film cameras that I use primarily: A Contax T2 that was my father's in the late '90's, and a Canon Sure Shot Telemax that I found for $7 on Facebook Marketplace. Most film cameras are out of production, and the ones that are (like the coveted Leica M) cost more than a car. Always check Ebay or Facebook Marketplace (or even garage sales and thrift stores) for deals on lightly used, second hand film cameras. 

As for film stock, I shoot almost everything on Portra 400 or Fuji Superia 400, and I get my rolls developed and scanned at a local shop for about $10 a roll. It’s not inexpensive, but in the long run, it's plenty less than I spend on coffee every month.

Henry Ninde is a Producer at Gitwit.