Shooting Film is said to be expensive!
And it’s true when you don’t take into account the initial cost of a good digital camera and the recurring costs for ever newer models thereafter.
Film cameras, with some exceptions (looking at you, Leica!) are cheap as chips for the most part if you don’t go for some models that are overhyped. Most can still be serviced if something is wrong with them and after all, most will survive us anyways.
So yes, shooting film has a constant cost for buying film, developing and printing.
But printing should not be counted, as either no one prints his photos any more (a shame!) and if you do, the cost will be the same as for film.
Now for developing, the cost might depend on how you go about it. Standard development in a cheaper lab and a set of cheap prints cost about what? Fifteen to twenty euros? I really don’t know any more. Less if you just want scans instead of prints.
Now if you send off your films to a really good lab, such as MeinFilmLab, it’s going to cost a bit more but the quality of the prints or scans will be much better!
So how do I go about managing the cost of film?
I simply have fun! I develop and scan my films myself, which is always a very nice adventure… the developing part I mean. The moment you open up your developing tank and lift out the film is magic! Yes, it’s work, but it’s fun.
But then the dark side of film starts! You’ll either have to step into your darkroom if you have one and wet print or you’ll have to scan the film which is a bore! It takes about an hour for me to scan a roll of film albeit in very good quality on my Plustek Opticfilm 8100 scanner. Then some more time to ‘develop’ the scans on my computer and I’m done.
What does this cost?
A roll of my go-to film, Ilford HP5 is about 5,5€. My scanner cost about 180€ and has seen a couple hundred rolls of films already, so this is a rather negligible cost.
Development is VERY cheap, at least black and white. I use Rodinal and Ilford Rapid Fixer. No stop bath, just water. As Rodinal itself is quite cheap and a 500ml bottle serves for about 80 films that comes down to less than 20 cent per roll of film. About the same for the fixer.
Where does this leave us? A roll of filming development has a cost of about 6€ that is 16 cents per frame. Honestly, I can live with that. And I can live with the chore of scanning as it really helps me to get a relation to the photo, to see it reaching the image I had in my mind when I pressed the trigger. I am much more involved with each shot which is one reason that makes me prefer film (apart from the feel of these great cameras).
What it all comes down to is numbers! How many photos do you make?
With digital, people tend, in my eyes, to overdo it. Taking multiple shots, maxing out the frames per second the camera offers, with the hope that there will be the right shot amongst. One short walk will result often in dozens, if not hundreds of shots.
A month of photography or a vacation shooting film at such a rate might yield a thousand photos (of mixed quality) or even more. If I apply my ‘film cost calculation’, this amounts to 160 € a month, nearly 2000€ per year. Mind you, if you take ‘only’ 1000 photos a month…. Can get even more expensive!
But with film I don’t shoot like that! I recently reorganised my photo library and I know exactly how many photos I have made in the last years. Since I went back to film I shot exactly 3645 photos. Beginning in January 2013…. Five whole years of shooting film amounts to an average 729 photos per year! 61 photos a month, not even 2 rolls on average.
So my running costs of shooting film are about a dozen euros a month. I can live with that.
And this is not just a recent thing. When I was young I used to take about half a dozen rolls of the much regretted Kodachrome 64 for a three week vacation. And I usually had the odd roll left over after returning. Of course when I stayed at home it was much less. But who makes only 180 photos in three weeks nowadays?
So I never lost my habit of being a frugal shooter. Of being very selective. And it’s this habit that helps me now with the cost of film.
Shoot film, develop at home, scan at home (accept the time lost for the sake of saving a lot of money) and you’ll never regret to use your film cameras!
Thanks for reading!