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Is Film Photography Dead?

Updated on October 11, 2011
Camera without film.  (Photo by Bruce Maxwell)
Camera without film. (Photo by Bruce Maxwell)

First came the digital camera. Then, just like all technology, it grew and spread. Now Kodak discontinued film. Nikon discontinued lower end film cameras. Polaroid discontinued their infamous instant film, then all film completely. The film companies seem to be going "all in" and converting, permanently, to digital.

Movies are mostly made digitally now, so no more "cutting room floor" (except proverbially), but what of film in photographic cameras?

Is this the end of the days of film, developing, dark rooms? No more 35 mm versus APS at 24? No more removing undeveloped film from our bags in airports before they go through the x-ray machine? No more fixer smell on photographers' fingers? What are the implications of a world with no film?

Remember this?  Good ol' fashioned film.  (Photo by Sanja Gjenero)
Remember this? Good ol' fashioned film. (Photo by Sanja Gjenero)

What We're Leaving Behind

Photographic film is a strip of plastic covered in an emulsion with light-sensative crystals. When they're exposed to different types and amounts of light, they leave an invisible image on the plastic. And after you've put them in several chemicals, the image shows up as a "negative" or the image you photographed.

But that's just the beginning of the process of getting a finished, developed photo. The rest of it includes a lot of mucking around in the dark with only a tiny red light to guide you. Maybe it's not so bad that we're going digital...

On the other hand, photographic film is a legacy. It has had similar intention and function since the first photographs with only slight upgrades. Sure, we should be as advanced as we can be, and convenience always wins out in today's world. But I'll truly be sad to know that there's no film anywhere, even though I haven't used it in years.

Photography's Future

With digital photography, we can see our pictures instantly and delete what we don't want, and we can print them without strangers having to see what we've photographed.

Many people seem to have photo printers in their homes, and many more go to Walmart or Walgreens to print them en masse. I expect that much of this will continue to happen as it has, though the printers will get less expensive and higher quality, so more people will have them.

Polaroid, after announcing that it would discontinue its namessake instant cameras, then came up with Zink technology, which sounds really exciting. It produces 2-inch-by-3-inch photos (high quality, full color) instantly, without ink! They come out dry, so no need to shake them or wait for them to develop.

The more instant, the higher quality, and the lower priced products will be the future of photography after film is gone.


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    • peanutroaster profile image


      7 years ago from New England

      I don't miss the chemicals and I never had access to a good darkroom, my closet and my cheap Omega enlarger never produced the quality photos I am now able to capture with my digital camera.

    • profile image

      dude rasta 

      10 years ago

      film will never die. Digital is aimed toward the perfect image. sometimes grain and burns and whatever else involved equales a more meaningful image

    • helenathegreat profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Manhattan

      There are some things that digital can't quite seem to capture, Andie, you're right. Thanks for the comment!

    • Andie L.A. profile image

      Andie L.A. 

      10 years ago from Los Angeles

      While I've made the move to digital for the vast majority of my professional work, what I'll miss most as film phases out is the chance to pull out my polaroid or toy cameras, such as my Holga or Lomos. Each of them is so unique that I just can't replicate the results digitally; nor do my subjects seem to enjoy the process as much when I don't include them.

      Great hub - really brings the issue home that so many of us have been hoping to avoid. I guess it's time to face the inevitable...

    • helenathegreat profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Manhattan

      Whitney -- As far as I understand, Polaroid's timeline a few years ago was to immediately discontinue the instant "polaroid" film, but they weren't fully shutting down production of other film products until the end of 2009.

      And yes, I see those disposable digital cameras at Duane Reade all the time, and they're definitely putting disposable film cameras completely out of business!

      Steph -- Thanks! It makes sense, too. We all remember the days where film was all there was, but even now it is starting to seem like a distant memory...

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Super hub - we're all thinking along the same lines here...

    • Whitney05 profile image


      10 years ago from Georgia

      I thought that Polaroid went out of business a while back? Maybe I'm just thinking about when companies stopped making polaroid, instant film.

      Have you heard about the disposable digital cameras? These will definitely take the place of disposible film cameras. I couldn't find any for sale on Amazon, but I saw on Yahoo where a company called Pure Digityal is selling them for $19.99.


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