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Using a view camera in 2013

Analog photography, also known as film photography, is a term usually applied to photography that uses chemical processes to capture an image, typically on paper, film or a hard plate. These processes were the only methods available to photographers for more than a century prior to the invention of digital photography, which uses electronic sensors to record images to digital media. Analog electronic photography was sometimes used in the late 20th century but soon died out.

Film cameras use photographic emulsions, light falling upon silver halides is recorded as a latent image, which is then subjected to photographic processing, making it visible and insensitive to light.

Contrary to the belief that digital photography gave a death blow to film, analog photography not only survived, but actually expanded across the globe.[1] With the renewed interest in traditional photography, new organizations (like Film Is Not Dead, Lomography) were established and new lines of products helped to perpetuate analog photography. In 2017, BH Photo & Video, an e-commerce site for photographic equipment, stated that film sales were increasing by 5% each year in the recent past.[2] The Japan Times claimed that though film photography is a "dying art", Japan could be at the starting point of a movement led by young photographers to keep film alive.[3] Firstpost claimed that a vast majority of photographers are slowly coming back to film.[4]

Decline and revival

A wet plate camera made in 1866.

As digital photography took over, Kodak, the major photographic film and cameras producer, announced in 2004 that it would stop selling and manufacturing traditional film cameras in North America and Europe.[5][6] In 2006, Nikon, the Japanese Camera maker announced that it would stop making most of its film cameras.[7] Incurring losses in the film camera line, Konica-Minolta too announced its discontinuation of cameras and film.[8] In 2008 the first instant film maker Polaroid announced it would stop making instant film.[9]

Interest in all types of film photography has been in the process of revival. The Lomography movement started in 1992, which, BBC claimed, has saved film from disappearing.[10] Lomography started manufacturing updated versions of toy cameras like Lomo LC-A (as Lomo LC-A+), Diana (as Diana F+), Holga, Smena and Lubitel.

Film photographers started experimenting with old alternative photographic processes such as cyanotypes, double exposures, pinholes, and redscales. Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day is observed on the last Sunday of April, every year.[11] Organizations such as Roll4Roll spread the artistic movement of double exposures.[12]

Film Photography Project, a website dedicated to film photography, announced in 2017 the comeback of large-format camera by a new startup called The Intrepid Camera Co.[13]


Contemporary film photo, 2017

For those who are keen to work with, or do work with more traditional types of photography, dedicated online communities have been established in which like-minded individuals together share and explore old photographic practices.[14] Film photography has become much more popular with younger generations who have become increasingly interested in the traditional photographic practice; sales in film-based cameras began to soar, and youth were seen to embrace some 19th-century technology.[15] Young photographers say film has more 'soul' than digital.[16] Camera manufacturers have also noticed the renewed interest for film, and new simple point-and-shoot film cameras for beginners, have started to appear.[17]

Polaroid was once a power in analog instant photography. Facing the digital revolution, Polaroid stopped production of instant film in 2008. A new company called Impossible Project (now Polaroid through brand acquisition) acquired Polaroid's production machines to produce new instant films for vintage Polaroid cameras and to revive Polaroid film technologies.

Art forms

Namaka, contact sheet photograph combined with intentional camera movement

The revival of analog photography has resulted in new art forms and photo challenges, as the technical limitations and constraints of film are used as parameters of the art. In the 36 (or sometimes 24) frames challenges, a single roll of film must capture a specific event, time period or as exercises to improve photography skills.[18][19]

In contact sheet photography, the traditional contact sheet is used as a way to make pictures consisting of partial photos. The resulting image spans the whole sheet, divided into squares by the black borders of the film.[20]

Advantages and disadvantages

Main article: Comparison of digital and film photography




Contemporary tintype, 2004

Film photography does not just mean photographic film and its processing with photo chemicals. Itself a science and a craft of its own, changes in chemistry and developing time will affect the end result. An example is tintype photography. A tintype, also called ferrotype, is a positive photograph produced by applying a collodion-nitrocellulose solution to a thin, black-enameled metal plate immediately before exposure. The tintype, introduced in the mid-19th century, was essentially a variation on the ambrotype, which was a unique image made on glass instead of metal. Just as the ambrotype was a negative whose silver images appeared grayish white and whose dark backing made the clear areas of shadows appear dark, so the tintype, actually negative in its chemical formation, was made to appear positive by the black plate.[22] These methods were not abandoned when film came to dominate photography.

Instant film develops an image automatically, and soon after it is ejected from the camera without any processing by the photographer or by a photographic lab. Photographic paper, however, must be processed after exposure in a dark room or photographic lab.


Main article: List of photographic processes

Black-and-white negative film may be processed using a variety of different solutions as well as processing time control, depending on the film type, targeted contrast, or grain structure. While many B&W processing developers are no longer made commercially, (Dektol, D-76 and T-Max developers are still made) other solutions may be mixed using original formulas. Color negative film uses C-41 process, while color reversible film uses E-6 process for color slides. Kodachrome used to have its own process with one developer bath per each film color layer.

Meanwhile, alternative photographers experiment with different processes such as cross processing which yields unnatural colors and high contrasts. This basically means processing a reversal film using a negative developer bath, or the contrary.

For a more sustainable photography, black and white negative film may be processed in plant-based chemicals at home.

Film processing does not use digital technology, since information is not translated into electric pulses of varying amplitude or binary data.


Main article: Photographic film

Photographic film

Photographic film, 1980s–1990s.

Films can be any of the following types:

Silver-based film supports come in various formats, of which the following are still in use:

Black-and-white films still produced as of 2013 include:

Color films (mostly 135 and 120 formats) sold on the market in 2020 are:

See also


  1. ^ "The photographers who refuse to abandon traditional film cameras". BBC News. 2015-04-18. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  2. ^ "The Great Film Renaissance Of 2017". B&H Explora. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  3. ^ Takahashi, Ryusei (2019-07-07). "Film photography shows signs of revival among Japan's youth". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  4. ^ "Starting with the niche world of film photography in the era of digital photography". Firstpost. 2018-01-07. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  5. ^ "Kodak embraces digital revolution". 2004-01-13. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  6. ^ Davies, Catriona (2004-01-14). "Kodak to stop making 35 mm cameras". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  7. ^ Associated Press (2006-01-13). "Nikon to stop making most film cameras". Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  8. ^ "Konica Minolta to stop making cameras and film amid big losses". the Guardian. 2006-01-20. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  9. ^ "Fans bid farewell to Polaroid film –". Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  10. ^ Dowling, Stephen (2012-11-22). "Did the Lomo camera save film photography?". BBC News. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  11. ^ "Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day". Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  12. ^ "A roll for a roll". roll4roll. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  13. ^ "Intrepid 8x10 Camera – Affordable (NEW!) Large Format Camera". The Film Photography Project. 2017-06-14. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-10-02. Retrieved 2006-11-04.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "Teen hipsters discover joys of film photography". 16 May 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  16. ^ Stummer, Robin (28 January 2018). "Back to the darkroom: young fans reject digital to revive classic film camera". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  17. ^ Schneider, Jaron (24 February 2021). "Harman Technologies Announces Point-and-Shoot EZ-35 Film Camera". PetaPixel. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  18. ^ "Film Photography: 36 Frames to Better Images". The Photography Toolkit. 23 October 2020. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  19. ^ Cade, DL (6 March 2020). "Photo Challenge: Shooting BMX on a Nikon F100 and a Single Roll of Kodak Tri-X". Petapixel. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  20. ^ Barnes, Sara (20 April 2018). "Photographer Transforms Everyday Subjects Into Fractured Versions of Themselves". My Modern Met. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  21. ^ Wortham, Jenna (2012-05-30). "Just When You Got Digital Technology, Film Is Back (Published 2012)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  22. ^ "Tintype | photography". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  23. ^ "FOMA – Films". FOMA. Archived from the original on 2013-04-12. Retrieved 2016-10-30.
  24. ^ "ORWO FilmoTec – Camera Films". ORWO FilmoTec GmbH. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2016-10-30.

Further reading