What I Learned Processing 164 Rolls of Film After Waiting a Year

When I dropped off 164 rolls of Kodak Portra 400 at Costco

I recently stopped into the Costco in Mountain View, California with 164 rolls of Kodak Portra 400. You should’ve seen the look of the staff— it was a look of confusion, awe, and amazement.

They were surprised that all that film I brought in was all shot by me. They were also partly worried that they would have to process all of it. I reassured them by telling them to take their time— I wasn’t in a rush. After all, I had been sitting on my film and letting them “marinate” for nearly a full year.

Why wait so long to develop my film?

Copyright: Estate of Garry Winogrand / Central Park Zoo, 1967
Copyright: Estate of Garry Winogrand / Central Park Zoo, 1967

Garry Winogrand, one of the most prolific street photographers who have ever lived (it is rumored that he shot at least 10 rolls of film a day) made the practice of generally waiting about a year before getting his film processed. In-fact, he was so prolific that when he passed away prematurely at age 56, he left behind about 2,500 rolls of undeveloped film.

Winogrand also famously said:

“Photographers mistake the emotion they feel while taking the picture as judgment that the photograph is good.”

What he meant was this: sometimes we get too emotionally connected to our photographs and are often unable to judge them more “objectively”.

One of the best ways to become less emotionally attached to your photographs? Let them sit for a long time, when you let them “marinate” — and then you can judge your photos more “objectively”.

I often find that the longer I wait before I develop my film, the better I am able to self-edit my own photos. Not only that, but after a period of a few months of taking a photo, I forgot haven taken many photographs. Which means when I finally see the photographs a year after, I don’t remember shooting most of them.

It is always easier to criticize and edit the work of other photographers (because you aren’t as emotionally attached). But when you forget about having taken your own photographs, it is almost like you are judging another photographer’s images.

The benefits of waiting so long before developing my film

Now you might be thinking: “Wow, Eric you are crazy and a bit excessive here. A full year before developing your film? Are you crazy? What if you lose some film? Aren’t you anxious to look at your shots? What if all your exposures are wrong? How do you stay so patient?”

To be frank, I am not a very patient person. I am a child of the instant-gratification culture that we all live in. I love technology, and I hate waiting.

But I have found that shooting film and waiting to get my film has taught me how to be more patient.

Not only that, but shooting film has given me a lot other benefits. I will list some of them:

1. Shooting film helps me stay “in the moment”


One of the biggest benefits of shooting film is that it helps me enjoy the moment— rather than worrying about how the photos come out.

When I shoot digital, sometimes I get so caught up in “chimping” (checking the LCD screen while/after I shoot) that I forget to enjoy the experience of shooting— interacting with my subjects, continue to take a lot of photographs, and knowing when to move onto the next scene.

Not only that, but I feel that I work harder when I shoot film. With digital, sometimes I get fooled into thinking that I got the best shot, because I can instantly see what I got on the back of my LCD screen. But with film, there is a lot less certainty— so I “work the scene” more, take more photographs, and work harder to get the best photograph possible.

I also find that when shooting film, it helps me to stay better “in the flow”. Film helps me shoot as a “stream of consciousness“.

For example, whenever I shoot digital and I “chimp” by looking at my LCD screen, it takes me a while to get focused on the flow of shooting on the streets again.

Why is this? I think there is a difference between the “shooting” mode and the “editing mode”.

The “shooting” mode is when you’re on the streets, using the more intuitive part of your brain. You are shooting more with your gut and instincts, and you don’t think too much.

However when we are in “editing” mode (in front of the computer with Lightroom open), we become a lot more analytical. We judge more of our compositions, framing, and whether we should keep the shot or not.

I think we have to keep these two “selves” separate. When we’re on the streets, we shouldn’t overthink things— we should shoot from the gut. But when we’re at home in front of our computer, then we should become more analytical.

However what I think we shouldn’t do is this: be in “shooting” mode and “editing” mode at the same time. The worst is to be in “editing” mode while you’re shooting photographs.

2. Shooting film makes the editing process easier


When I shoot digital, it is easy for me to take 500–800 photographs in a day. With film, I usually only end up shooting 1–2 rolls (which is a lot), which amounts to around 36–72 photographs.

The reason I shoot more on digital is that it doesn’t cost me anything. So I end up shooting more. While it is good to shoot a lot, it makes the editing process a pain in the ass. There are too many images to look through and decide which to keep/ditch.

However with film, I end up shooting a lot less, because every time I click the shutter it costs me something. I have more “skin in the game” when shooting film. Therefore my “hit rate” in film tends to be a lot higher. I only photograph what I really think will be a good photograph, otherwise I won’t waste money.

Therefore in the editing phase with film, I look at a lot less images, and the overall quality of all of my shots tend to be better. 164 rolls of film are around 5904 images. And that is for a year’s worth of shooting. For digital, I shoot at least 5904 images a month, which might amount to around 70,848 images a year.

3. Shooting film helps me re-live experiences more vividly


The biggest unexpected benefit of shooting film (and not processing my film for a full year) is that it allowed me to re-live some of my experiences vividly.

What do I mean by that?

After getting my film back, I got back a plethora of photos of places that I visited, people that I met on the streets, and even personal photographs in homes that I no longer live in. Therefore the photographs felt much more nostalgic, and felt a lot more emotionally touching for me.

With digital, I’m not able to re-live my experiences through my photographs the same way. With digital, I generally download my photographs the same day, look at them immediately, and then export the photographs that I like and forget about the rest.

With film, I honestly don’t know what I’m going to get. I say this a lot to myself when looking through my film shots: “Oh man, I remember that! I totally forgot that I went there! Oh, those were some good times.”

Of course, you can technically do the same thing: shoot digital for an entire year, not look at any of the photographs for a year, then edit them. I’m sure that there are people out there who can have that discipline, but I know that I don’t. Shooting film forces me to be more patient, partly because of laziness (it takes me a while to make it out to a Costco to get my film processed), and also because I am constantly traveling, I don’t have the opportunity to get my film developed very often.

4. Shooting film helps me have a consistent “look”


Another unexpected benefit of shooting film is this: I have a more consistent “look” with my images over a long period of time.

Most photographers I know treat their digital cameras like their smartphones— they generally upgrade every 2 years or so. This is also how I treat digital cameras.

However the problem of always upgrading your cameras is this: new cameras have different image sensors, different high-ISO performance, different color calibration, etc. The photographs you take on an original Canon 5D won’t look the same as photographs from a Canon 5D Mark III.

Therefore if you work on a long-term photography project for 2–3+ years, the images that you shot early on might not look the same as photographs you shot later on.

Not only that, but I find it harder to process digital RAW files to look more consistent. Sometimes with digital photos, I over-process them, and sometimes I under-process them.

1x1.trans 3 Reasons Why You Should Shoot with One Camera and One Lens
My Leica MP and Leica SF20 flash on

With shooting film, I stay consistent with my gear. I have a Leica MP, a 35mm f/2 lens, Kodak Portra 400, and shoot mostly with a flash on. I’ve been shooting film for 3+ years now, and the photographs I’ve shot around 3 years ago and the photos I take now look the same.

You can argue that you can keep a digital camera for 5+ years and have a consistent look. I definitely agree— but I know that I personally wouldn’t keep a digital camera for over 5 years, and most photographers I know upgrade every 2 years.

5. Shooting film helps me avoid “GAS”


I am not impervious to “GAS” (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). I love technology and toys. I am always tempted by the newest and greatest, and whenever I don’t have the newest device (let’s say smartphone, iPad, laptop, etc.), I feel that I’m missing out.

I felt that it was almost yesterday when the Leica M9 came out, and it was the hottest camera in the market. But now whenever I see a Leica M9, it looks so outdated to the new Leica M240, and the (still relatively new) Leica Monochrom. I know a lot of Leica shooters who have a M9, and kind of wished they had the newer digital Leicas, but don’t want to drop another $7,000+ on a new camera.

Even with guys I know who shoot Fuji— they have an older x100, x100s, an X-Pro1, and they spend a lot of time thinking whether they should upgrade to the new x100T, the new XT–1, or just wait for the x200 to come out one of these days.

The same goes with the Sony crowd. The Sony a7 was a game-changer, and then came along the a7R, then the Sony a7s, now the Sony a7II— the madness never ends.

With film, I really have nothing to upgrade to. The Leica MP is pretty much the best film rangefinder ever built, and there will never be anything to “upgrade.” I don’t have to “upgrade” the film. I don’t have to worry about upgrading to a new sensor to upgrade that can shoot ISO 500,000.

Of course there can be different types of “GAS” when it comes to film. You can still get lens GAS— wanting to buy more lenses. Or you might want to buy more medium-format cameras. But technically film cameras will never become “outdated” or “obsolete”— because they already are.

So I like having the peace of mind that I will never have to upgrade my film cameras, and they will never become “outdated.” It is like the pleasure an owner of a classic 1970’s Mustang has, instead of a BMW M3 owner who is always worried about his/her car’s style being changed every 2 or so years.

6. Film looks better than digital


This is just personal preference— I think film still looks far better than digital. Of course you can work on digital photos with VSCO presets and make them look quite “film-like”. But in my experience, film will always have a nicer aesthetic than digital.

With film, the photographs aren’t super-sharp, aren’t super clean, and are quite gritty. But I feel the aesthetic of film looks a lot softer, a lot more timeless, and more “raw”. Digital photographs tend to be almost too perfect and clinical.

The best analogy I have about the aesthetic difference between shooting film versus digital cameras is like reading a paperback book versus reading it on an E-reader. The “essence” of the book is the same— you are getting the same “information” and text whether a book is on paper, on “E-ink”, on your phone, iPad, etc. However the experience is different.

With paper books, you can hold the book in your hand. You can smell the pages. You can flip the pages. You can underline directly on the page. You get a better sense of progress when going through a book. A book takes physical space on your bookshelf. It is easier to recall which part of a book you might have written down a note for you to refer to. You can fold the pages.

With an E-reader you can do all the same things, but for some reason it isn’t always as enjoyable as a paperback book.

To be honest because I travel so much, I do 99% of my reading on my smartphone on the Kindle app. But I always enjoy the experience of reading on a paper-book more, and I am actually currently planning on just taking the extra bulk of traveling with physical books (because it makes me that much happier).

7. Film has more longevity than digital


To continue using this book analogy— you can hand a physical book to your grandchildren in 60 years, and they will still be able to read the book. However I highly doubt that you can “hand” an e-book to your grandchildren in 60 years (will Kindle still even be around?)

I have old papers that I wrote on Windows 95 that I can no longer access (they were saved to a floppy disk). Remember Iomega Zip Drives? Remember hard discs?

In 200 years, it will be easier to access a roll of film and look at images than it will be accessing digital RAW files in 200 years.

Therefore in that sense, film has a longer longevity than digital. It is easier to store film for a longer period of time than it is archiving digital data.

Sure you can make the argument that you can just keep everything on the cloud or backed up on hard drives. But who will keep paying for your cloud service 200 years from now? A hard drive with a spinning disc (on average) fails every 3 years. Flash drives last a long longer, but how much longer? Nobody really knows.

I like the ideas that if I shoot photographs of my kids, they will be able to access the original negatives 50 years from now. I doubt that will be the case with my digital cameras.

The details of shooting film

To continue this little essay on shooting film, let me talk more about the specific details of how I shoot film, how I get my film processed and scanned, and how I store my film.

1. Ordering film

My stash of Portra 400 -- almost out now
Kodak Portra 400

So first of all, I order all of my film (Kodak Portra 400) either on Amazon or BH Photo (whatever is cheaper). I shoot 95% of my film on a Leica MP camera, or on my Contax T3 (compact) camera. I generally store my film in the Japan Camera Hunter film cases, and don’t refrigerate my film.

2. Traveling with film

Japan Camera Hunter Film Case
Japan Camera Hunter Film Case

When traveling, I don’t bother having the people hand-check my film (airport x-rays don’t affect your film as long as they are under ISO 800). Some people have reported that scanning your film ruins the image quality. To me, I haven’t noticed any image degradation even after having my film x-ray scanned 5+ times.

3. Processing and scanning my film

Picking up film at my local Costco

I generally shoot my Kodak Portra 400 at ISO 400 (I don’t push or pull my color negative film), and get them processed and scanned at Costco.

Why Costco?

First of all, they are the most affordable place to get color C41 film processed in the states. It costs around $5 to get one roll of film developed and scanned (to around 3000 pixels wide). If you just want to get your film developed at Costco, it costs only $1.59 per roll of film. The scans cost $2.99 for a roll.


I have my own film scanner at home (Epson v750), but frankly speaking— I don’t have the time to scan so much film, nor do I enjoy the process of scanning film. I’d rather be shooting, traveling, teaching, writing, or making videos.

My scanner, the Epson v750. Pretty much the same thing as the v700. Got a good deal from my friend
My scanner, the Epson v750. Pretty much the same thing as the V700, but I just use mine to scan medium-format film.

What about quality? Most of the Costco’s I’ve visited use professional Noritsu equipment. And as long as you find a Costco with competent technicians, your results will come out great.


20150317_135758 20150317_135750

I highly recommend the Costco in Culver City in California and the Costco in Livonia in Michigan to get your film developed and scanned. I have always gotten amazing results from them (all of the film on my Flickr and website portfolio were developed/scanned by them).

Love the colors on this shot. Processed at the Costco in Marina Del Rey

However for the last batch of film I got processed (164 rolls), I got it done at the Costco in Mountain View, California. I have to say— I was massively disappointed, because many of the scans I got had a lot of dust in them. However fortunately for the shots that I actually did pick that I liked didn’t have so much dust in them.

Note how dusty this shot is

So my suggestion is this: whenever you get your film processed, scanned, or handled by any lab— give them 1–2 “test rolls” to see if the results come okay. Then based on the results of that, give them larger numbers of film.

Nowadays I don’t shoot very much black and white film, but because black-and-white development in the states is so expensive (most places charge around $20/roll), I do it myself at home. I just use a changing bag, hand-develop, and scan it myself.

4. Storing film

Envelopes of film at home, ready to take out the CD's to transfer to my laptop.
Envelopes of film at home, ready to take out the CD’s to transfer to my laptop.
My main machine: a 11-inch Macbook air. I use a Samsung external CD reader to transfer the photos from the Costco CD.
My desk, ready to transfer film from CD to my laptop
Note how the people at Costco cut and sleeve your negatives for you
How the negatives are sleeved and folded into the Costco envelope

What I generally do when I get film back from Costco is this: I copy all the photos of each CD to a folder that also references the number on an envelope.

Note how the envelope reads: “A12809”
Copying the files from the Costco CD.
Copying the files from the Costco CD.

For example, an envelope with the CD might read: “A12809”. Then I make the folder on my computer: “2015-1-27 A12809” (this includes the dates and the title of the CD). Therefore if I ever need to go back to find the original negative of a scanned file, I can get a better sense of where to find that original negative.

folder screenshot-2 copy
Copying the files from the Costco CD to my hard drive.

In regards to storage of film, I am a mess. I generally toss them into boxes, which are marked by year (2013, 2014, 2015). I only had to go back once or twice to hunt down a negative to re-scan (when 3,000 pixels wasn’t big enough). It took me forever.

I honestly have a horrible way of sorting my negatives. My friends generally keep their film very ordered and sleeved in in folders, which are marked with dates. They have a much easier time finding their original negatives if they ever need to.

Use these to organize your film
Best to sleeve and organize your film

Lessons I’ve learned from 2014

So based off the 164 rolls of shooting film, here are some lessons I’ve personally learned:

1. Photograph Cindy more

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I’ve actually found that the majority of the photographs which were the most meaningful for me wasn’t my street photographs, but of Cindy and my friends. So note to self— shoot more photographs of friends, family, and those close to me (not just street photographs).

2. Listen to my meter


In 2014 I also tried experimenting something new: trying to slightly over-expose my photos. Some of my friends told me this lead to nicer saturation and colors.

However I found that based on my experiences, the photographs when I just listened to my meter turned out to look better. The images had more contrast, better saturation, and looked aesthetically more pleasing.

3. Film looks absolutely phenomenal when the light is perfect (natural light, or sunset)

Epic sunrise in Provincetown, 2014
Epic sunrise in Provincetown, 2014

I also need to remember to shoot more when the light is actually nice. I mostly shoot during the day when the light tends to be flat, which tends to create flat-looking images.

However when I did shoot when the light was divine (sunrise, sunset, or window lighting) the photos came out absolutely amazingly.

The glow that I get from shooting film absolutely blows everything I’ve shot digitally out-of-the-water.

Kodak Portra 400 (in good light) almost looks like Kodachrome film.

4. My favorite shots are of people


This isn’t so much of a film thing— but I’ve found when editing my shots, my favorite photographs were almost always of people.

Lately I’ve been experimenting a lot of “urban landscape” photographs, but 99% of them tended to be just boring and snapshotty. They rarely evoked an emotional response from me.

The majority of the photographs I shot that I ultimately liked were of people.

So reminder to self: shoot more people, less urban landscapes, and fewer boring subjects.

5. Some of my favorite shots are from the Contax


Funny enough, my $600 Contax T3 compact-camera yielded some of my favorite shots (more so than my $3,500 Leica MP).

Why is that? Because the Contax T3 is so small, compact, and easy-to-use, I end up shooting a lot more on it in unexpected situations. The Leica MP takes a while to take out of my bag, to setup, to put on a flash, etc.

I think for any type of photography compact cameras generally tend to win. The smaller and easier-to-operate your camera, the more likely you are to take photographs. And the more likely you are to shoot in unlikely situations (like in the grocery store, in a restaurant, or in-between appointments). This is why shooting on an iPhone is easier than shooting on a DSLR.

As a note, in 2015 I plan to shoot more with my Contax T3. It is the perfect “carry-around” film camera that fits easily in a coat pocket. I shoot with it in “P” mode, and just point-and-click.

I will just use the Leica MP when I plan on shooting on the streets for 8+ hours, when speed and precision is the upmost importance (like shooting the streets of NYC or Tokyo for an entire day). But if I want a camera that can live with me, the Contax is perfect.

If you are a digital photographer, I highly recommend the Ricoh GR (especially if you hate lugging around a bulky DSLR). Of course, your iPhone or smartphone is also ideal — because you always have it with you.

6. Shoot more with a flash


I’ve also learned from shooting film— if you have the exposure spot-on, it looks amazing. If your exposure is off (or under-exposed), the photos look like crap.

I’ve actually found that I quite prefer the photos that I shot with flash. The tones are a lot more even, the skin of people’s faces pop better on Kodak Portra 400, and the images are just nicer to look at.

Fortunately my Contax T3 has a built-in flash that I use a lot. Whenever in-doubt, I also generally take two photographs: one with flash, and one without a flash.

I also shoot a lot with my flash (Leica SF 20) on my Leica MP, which I plan on using even more.

7. Experiment more with multi-layered images


My street photographs tend to be very simple and straightforward. I generally photograph people close-up (1 meter away), with a flash, single-subject, and directly in the center of the frame.

But I did experiment a little with multi-layered photographs in 2014, and liked them a lot. I tried to imitate the work of Alex Webb, Jason Eskenazi, Garry Winogrand, and William Klein.

I like the added complexity of multi-layered images, and hope to experiment more with these kinds of images in 2015.

FAQ with shooting film

Here are some frequently asked questions I get about shooting film:

1. Why shoot film if you just scan them and don’t handprint them?


I prefer shooting film because I like how it slows me down, how I can’t “chimp”, and I still think that the scanned photographs look nicer than anything I can personally achieve on digital.

I know a lot of photographers who print their film directly from their negatives. My friend Sean Lotman from Tokyo makes his own color darkroom prints, which look absolutely phenomenal. But I personally don’t have the time nor the space to do so myself.

2. Why are you such a pretentious asshole who thinks film is better than digital?

Shot on a digital Ricoh GR
Shot on a digital Ricoh GR

I actually don’t think that film is “better” than digital. I just personally prefer the process of shooting film than shooting digitally. Shooting film makes me happier than shooting digitally, and I prefer my final outcome of my film photos.

I also shoot digital photographs. I started shooting on digital, working with a Canon point-and-shoot, then a Rebel XT (350d), a Canon 5D, a Leica M9, a Fujifilm x100s/t, a Fujifilm X-T1, and a Ricoh GR.

Although digital has sometimes yielded better results than my film photographs (one of my favorite “Pinocchio nose girl” photos is shot on a digital Ricoh GR) I overall still prefer the film process.

At the end of the day, I think that it isn’t a question of film vs. digital. The question is— how can a photographer shoot both film and digital and how can it make them happy?

I try to do my “serious photography” on film, and on digital I like to take photographs of my food, random snapshots, and like to use it when I run out of film.

At the end of the day, just shoot whatever makes you happy.

Whenever I look at photographs by other photographers, I honestly don’t care if they were shot on film or digital. The only important thing is the emotional response I get from their photographs.

But for me, I always get more emotional satisfaction shooting on film than digital.

3. But I can make my digital shots look like my film shots, so why shoot film in the first place?

Shot on a digital Ricoh GR
Shot on a digital Ricoh GR

That is true— nowadays with all these great Lightroom plugins and presets you can definitely make your digital photos look at a lot like film shots. In-fact, I have a ton of free street photography film simulation presets you can download free from my blog.

If you can make your digital shots look like film, and they make you happy— that is awesome.

But for me, I can’t make my digital shots look exactly how I want them to look. Perhaps this is because my post-processing skills aren’t that good.

Not only that, but it takes me a long time trying to get my digital shots look like my film shots. If I’m wasting all of this time trying to make my digital shots look like my film shots, it just makes more sense for me to shoot film from the get-go.

4. Why shoot film? It is so damn expensive, at the rate you’re shooting, you can buy a new digital Leica every 5 years or so.

Final cost of processing 164 rolls of film at Costco, not cheap.



That might be true— but I actually find that paying money for film is more of an advantage than a disadvantage.

What do I mean by that?

Because film costs money to shoot— I am much more selective of shooting a scene. Therefore I end up appreciating the scenes I photograph that much more.

With digital, because it doesn’t cost anything, I don’t appreciate the picture-taking process as much.

5. Okay, you have me convinced— I want to experiment shooting film. But where should I start?

Canon AE-1, superb budget film camera
Canon AE-1, superb budget film camera

Honestly, just pick up the cheapest film camera you can find. Canon AE–1’s are great bargains (you should be able to find them for under $200 on eBay). I actually don’t recommend buying a film Leica unless you are going to really dedicate yourself to shooting film.

Ilford XP2 disposable black-and-white film camera (you can get processed as C41 at a local drugstore)
Ilford XP2 disposable black-and-white film camera (you can get processed as C41 at a local drugstore)

First experiment shooting film with the cheapest film camera money can buy (you can even buy disposable film cameras at the local drugstore, check out the Ilford disposable XP2 black and white film camera. If you like the look, the experience, and the process— then perhaps you can upgrade your film camera down the road.

1x1.trans What to Consider When Buying a New Camera for Street Photography
Leica M6: Best bang-for-the-buck film rangefinder

If you really love shooting film and want to upgrade your camera, the best bang-for-the-buck film rangefinder is the Leica M6 and Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 lens. The Vogitlander Bessa cameras (R2, R3, R4) are also great bargains. For compact film cameras, I recommend the Contax T2 (or any of the Ricoh GR1-series cameras).

1x1.trans What to Consider When Buying a New Camera for Street Photography
Contax T2: Great value compact film camera

If money is no factor, the “best” film camera you can buy is the Leica MP and the “best” compact camera you can get is the Contax T3 (of course this is all my subjective opinion).

For film, I would also experiment. Try using different films, and stick with one film you like.

I personally prefer Kodak Portra 400 for color film, and Kodak Tri-X for black-and-white. Ilford HP5 is another great black-and-white film.

If you’re on a budget, I recommend the Fujifilm C200 color film, and bulk-loading your own black-and-white-film (you can Google how to do this).

6. How do I get my film processed and scanned?


If you don’t have a Costco nearby, I just recommend getting your film processed as cheaply as you can, and possibly scanning yourself (if possible).

For color film, it is generally very cheap to get your film processed as a C41 process at a local drugstore or camera store.

Scanning tends to be more expensive. If a lab scans for relatively cheaply, just get the pros to scan it for you.

If not, I recommend the Epson v700 (if you plan on shooting medium-format). If not, the cheaper Canon scanners work fine (my friend has gotten good results with the Canon CanoScan 9000F. For high-quality 35mm scans, I recommend the Plustek 8100 scanner (they take a bit longer to scan, however). If you are really lucky, try to find a used “Pakon” scanner that makes life really easy with scanning.

With black and white film, processing it yourself tends to be the best bet. Watch YouTube videos on how to process it yourself with a changing bag.

7. Aren’t you worried about film becoming discontinued?


I am worried about Kodak Potra 400 being discontinued. But I think that film will never go away. In the future film will probably become more expensive, but it will always be around.

Think about paper books. They said that e-books would kill the paper books. But they won’t go away anytime soon.

They said that the radio and CD’s would kill vinyls. But the hipsters have kept vinyl going.

I will keep shooting film as long as I can afford it, and if my specific film does get discontinued, I will just switch to shooting a different film.

8. But isn’t shooting film expensive? Isn’t it just more practical to shoot digital?


Shooting film isn’t cheap. But then again, I think that as long as you spend your hard-earned money on doing things that you truly enjoy and bring joy to your life— it is worth it.

I try my best to live a simple life. I don’t have a car payment, I rarely buy new clothes, I am not interested in buying new digital cameras all the time, nor do I buy any other sorts of luxury goods.

This is a personal thing— it is true that if you shoot digitally you will save money. But if you are the type of person who upgrades your camera every 2 years or so, the cost savings will probably not be that different.

Also the thing to note is that when you shoot film, you shoot a lot less than you expect. I know most guys who shoot film can sometimes struggle to shoot an entire roll of film in a week. If you are busy with work or a family, shooting film can actually be more economical than buying expensive digital cameras.

Conclusion: Moving forward with film

Picking up my film at Costco, excited like a little kid at Christmas :)
Picking up my film at Costco, excited like a little kid at Christmas :)

In the meanwhile, I am still pretty committed to shooting film. It has brought me so much joy to see all of my film from the past year; I love the look, the process, and the delayed gratification.

I don’t know if I will shoot film for the rest of my life. Who knows— maybe there is a digital camera that comes out in the future that I truly fall in love with, that there will be no need to shoot film anymore. I don’t know.


I also am still shooting my “Only in America” series, which I want to shoot all on Kodak Portra 400. Also I am still working on my “Suits” project, which is all shot on Kodak Portra 400 as well. So for those series, I want to shoot them all on film.

But once those projects are over— I will probably re-evaluate whether I want to continue dealing with the hassle of shooting film, or if I should switch (mostly) to shooting digitally.

At the end of the day, I am not trying to tell you that you should shoot film. I just want you to be happy with your photography.

If you are currently dissatisfied with shooting on digital, perhaps you should give film a go. You might like it, or you might hate it.

Life is all about experimenting and finding what you like. Everything I wrote in this article is just my personal thoughts and experiences. Most of the things probably won’t apply to you, but some of it might.

So don’t take my word and excitement of shooting film at face value. Try it out for yourself.

I am sure you will fall in love.

Further resources for shooting film

So many choices, so little time. Taken in Hong Kong
Film galore at Dotwell Camera in Hong Kong

If you are interested in learning more about shooting film, I recommend these articles:

  1. An Introduction to Shooting Street Photography With Film
  2. A Guide on How to Shoot Street Photography on a Film Leica (or Rangefinder)
  3. Why Digital Is Dead For Me In Street Photography
  4. The Benefits Shooting Both Film and Digital in Street Photography

For buying film cameras, I recommend Japan Camera Hunter, eBay, or Craigslist (KEH sometimes also has good deals).

For buying film, I recommend checking out Camera Film Photo, Amazon, or BH Photo.

Also Japan Camera Hunter is the biggest sources of shooting film for me, so make sure to check out his site.

Upcoming street photography workshops in 2015

Student photo by Young Lim. Downtown LA, 2013
Student photo by Young Lim. Downtown LA, 2013


If you wanted to take your street photography to the next level and invest in your own growth and education, join me at one of my upcoming street photography workshops in 2015:

February 25th-March 1st

San Francisco – Week-long Intensive Street Photography Workshop – SOLD OUT!

March 27-29th

Chicago – Intermediate/Advanced Street Photography Workshop – OPEN!

April 3-5th

Toronto – Intermediate/Advanced Street Photography Workshop – OPEN!

April 10-12th

New York CityIntroduction to Street Photography Workshop – OPEN! 

June 5-7th 

Seattle – Introduction to Street Photography Workshop – OPEN! 

June 24-28th

Paris – Week-Long Travel Street Photography WorkshopOPEN!

July 10-12th

Amsterdam – Intermediate/Advanced Street Photography WorkshopOPEN! (NEW!)

July 15-19th

Prague – Week-Long Travel Street Photography Workshop – OPEN!

July 31st-August 2nd

Vienna – Introduction to Street Photography Workshop – OPEN!

August 7-9th

Berlin –Introduction to Street Photography WorkshopOPEN!

August 14-16th

London – Introduction to Street Photography Workshop – Register Intent – NEW! 

August 19-23rd

Istanbul – Week-Long Travel Street Photography Workshop – Register Intent

August 28-30th

Stockholm – Introduction to Street Photography Workshop – Register Intent – NEW!

October 14-18th

New Orleans – Week-Long Travel Street Photography Workshop – Register Intent

You can learn more about my street photography workshops here.