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When was the last time you shot film? 

click to enlarge Participants of the Emma Crawford Coffin Races in Manitou Springs. This image was made using Kodak Portra film and a Yashica medium format camera. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Participants of the Emma Crawford Coffin Races in Manitou Springs. This image was made using Kodak Portra film and a Yashica medium format camera.
I have a little secret to tell all of you amateur shutterbugs with digital cameras. Film is not dead. In fact among professionals, film photography is more popular than ever.

The reason is simple: Film has a look and a feel that's very difficult to emulate using digital cameras. It’s raw and gritty and it’s super flexible.

It starts with film stock — each type of film has a different color palette, feel and flavor. Kodak Portra, for instance, is a wonderful color film that produces lovely tonalities.

You can also do things with film that you can’t with digital photography. It has great dynamic range, meaning you can expose it a number ways and still get a useable image. On the other hand, digital cameras have a limited dynamic range and require a more precise exposure.

Overexposing film is a popular way to shoot color. It produces creamy, light colors and blown-out highlights. Shadows are rich with detail, too. Many black and white films have some lovely contrast that's harder to achieve when shooting with digital cameras.

If you decide to try film, there are a couple of things to note. First, the process of picture-taking changes when using film: If it’s 35mm, for example, you only have 36 exposures at most. So you have to be more methodical and think more carefully about what you’re taking a picture of.

Second, it takes some practice to get it right, but don't get discouraged. I take my film cameras to gigs where I’m shooting just for fun. That way if I make a mistake, I don’t have to worry.

Here are some images I shot of the Emma Crawford Coffin Race in Manitou Springs using my medium format Yashica and Kodak Portra overexposed 2 stops.


Some of the images have technical issues, but you'll get an idea of how film photography has a lot different feel from digital photography.

Purchase film online at any number of photo stories include B&H and Adorama camera. I send my film to The Find Lab outside Salt Lake City to have it processed and scanned. It’s affordable and super convenient. They send scans electronically and I can download straight to my computer.

So there you go. Dust of your film camera sitting in your basement or your attic and give it a whirl. You might find your happy place shooting film!


Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

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