“Why don’t you try film?”, he asked.

“I can’t afford the time and expense required to work with film”, I muttered. Perhaps a truer statement would be that, right now, is not a high-enough prioritary to allocate the time and resources to go for film.

My connection with film started in 1980. I got shooting using a Pentax MX, with a fantastic 50mm f1.4 which I still use, and I learnt to process and print in my high school’s darkroom. A group of us and an enthusiastic teacher put together that insanely hot, bare bones room.

Changing film was like getting a new sensor for a digital camera. Light sensitivity, contrast, grain (sensor noise), etc could be drastically different when using black and white. Response to colour could completely change the mood of a shot. However, one was stuck with this alternate sensor for the length of the roll (often 24 or 36 shots).

But let’s face it, modern cameras are technological marvels, produce crazy sharp images, just a bit… aseptic. And here comes the film nostalgy, which is channelled via film emulation: putting the sensor I had in mind behind that aseptic image.

I do not use film emulation while taking pictures, but I imagine a type of film while shooting. In my head, the picture that I see/feel is black and white low/medium/high contrast, or a gritty underexposed portrait, or a cool colour negative, or even a vivid slide film. Some time later I will take the cold digital phone picture and use RNI Films (one of the multiple companies that make reasonable film emulations) and obtain a photo which looks like what I had in mind. Most of my photos these days use film emulation. PS 2023-04-17 16:50 NZST: I’m now using Rawtherapee to process many of my photos, relying on its emulation filters.

This process is not perfect, but it works and I can express myself in a meaningful way. Hard to ask much more from a piece of software.

Note: Image The crane, iPhone + RNI Films (2017-12-10)