Amateur’s Guide to Film vs. Digital Photography

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Did you use a camera today? Cameras are all around us. They are a commonplace tool in modern society. What most people don’t know is that there is more than one type of photography. The two most popular forms are digital and photography. In this article, we will be discussing these forms of photography. We will talk about the similarities and differences, as well as the pros and cons that come with practicing film and digital photography. Enjoy!

What is Digital Photography?


Digital photography is the process of using electronic technology to capture an image. It is a mainstream and user-friendly form of photography. It involves gathering visible light that is then turned into a digital image.  The most common type of digital camera is the one built into the smartphone you carry around in your pocket.

Captured images are stored on memory cards and can be viewed right after they are taken. Images can be easily edited or manipulated using the camera’s settings. There are various electronic technologies such as computer webcams or downloadable software that fall under this category as well because they are in the category of digital photography.

What is Film Photography?


Film Photography is the process of capturing an image on film (rather than with a digital sensor). Film is made of strips or rolls of light sensitive material. Film cameras do not have digital screens and generally don’t need batteries to operate. Between photographs, film strips have to be manually rolled forward using the camera’s inner mechanisms. This allows there to be a fresh, unexposed section of film to be available.

Think of film in the same way you would think of a memory card. Each roll of film can only capture a certain number of pictures, so it is important to carry extra film if you are planning on taking lots of pictures. Film photographs can be shot in black and white or in color, but film shot in black and white is easier to develop than color is.

How Are Digital and Film Photography Different?


The biggest difference here is the presence of physical film rolls. Film photography cannot exist without it. Digital photography can function as long as the camera has a battery and a storage device.

The other difference is that pictures captured on film cannot be viewed until after the film has been developed properly. Digital photographs are ready for viewing as soon as the picture is taken. Additionally, digital images can be manipulated with user friendly software, but film images cannot be.

How are Digital and Film Photography Similar?


The similarities between film and digital photography have everything to do with light. Both forms of photography depend on a certain level of light in order for captured images to be visible. This is why most cameras on the market today come with some sort of flash feature to increase the level of light needed to properly take a picture. Image quality varies from camera to camera depending on the quality of the camera in use. Whether you choose to use a film or digital camera, the decision is yours to make.

How does Film Photography Work?


Pictures are imprinted onto the roll of film while the camera’s shutter is open, exposing the film to light. This exposure creates an undeveloped version of the picture, also known as a latent image. These latent images cannot be seen clearly. They have to be developed in a dark room using several different chemical baths, which converts the latent images into negatives. These can be turned into physical pictures by projecting the negative image onto light sensitive photo paper. It does take a certain level of training and experience to become proficient at developing film photography.

How Does Digital Photography Work?


Digital cameras use a light sensitive device called an image sensor that converts light into electronic signals. This is what allows images to be viewed instantly, eliminating the need for film development. Images are captured by the image sensor and saved as digital files.. These can be stored on a computer and/or shared on the internet.

Are There Different Types of Digital Photography?


Digital image files can be formatted into two different forms: raw or raster.

Raw files are best used when a digital image needs to be edited after being captured.

Raster files are a more widely compatible digital format. It is best used on complex images or photographs. The majority of images found on the internet are in raster formatting with JPEG being one of the most popular formats.

It is important to note that raw image files can be converted into raster, but not the other way around. Once converted, a raw image file will permanently lose its’ formatting and be replaced with raster image formatting.

History of Film Photography


Film photography, also known as analog photography, got its start in 1889 when George Eastman invented a new, flexible type of film that could be rolled up without breaking. This gave the general public the opportunity to practice amateur photography for the first time in history. At the time, images captured on film could only be developed in black and white. It wasn’t until the early 1940’s that film photography gained the technology for pictures to be developed in color.

History of Digital Photography


The very first camera capable of creating a digital image was developed in 1975 by engineers employed by the American camera company, Kodak. Over the next few decades, numerous other companies developed digital camera prototypes of their own available for purchase and in 2000, Samsung came out with the first smartphone with a digital camera. By 2004, digital cameras were outselling film cameras. Today, digital camera revenue has reached over $21 billion worldwide and 61.8% of individuals 30-49 years old own a digital camera in the United States (Statista).



Digital Photography is more present in daily life today. Without needing any real prior experience with cameras, an average person can practice digital photography because the technology is user friendly. Film photography does require a higher level of experience and knowledge concerning film development. Doing so incorrectly can distort the captured images. While building a darkroom and acquiring the needed chemicals is possible, it is expensive and time consuming. Both styles of photography have pros and cons. The decision is ultimately up to your needs and style as a photographer.



If I don’t have access to a darkroom, how do I get help developing my film?

Certain retailers and convenience stores offer film development services for a fee. It does take a few days before your film is ready to be picked up, so keep that in mind if you are on a deadline of some kind.

What is a camera shutter?

It is a device within the camera that controls the amount of light that reaches the sensor.. Think of it as the camera’s gatekeeper. It helps to limit  the amount of light that enters the camera  when taking a picture and also blocks light from entering the lens when the camera isn’t taking a picture.

What does shutter speed mean?

It is a time measurement for how long a camera’s shutter allows light to enter the lens. The higher the shutter speed, the more light the camera lens is exposed to and vice versa for lower shutter speeds.

What is ISO?

ISO stands for International Standard Organization. It is a standard measuring system used in photography when talking about a camera’s level of light sensitivity.

What is aperture?

In the lens of a camera, there is a hole that allows light to enter. Aperture simply refers to the size of that hole. The higher the aperture, the bigger the hole is in the camera lens and the more light that can pass through the camera lens. The lower the aperture, the smaller the hole is in the camera lens, allowing less light to pass through the camera lens to the sensor.

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Zachary (Jack) Street bio picture

Zachary (Jack) Street

I am originally from Denver, CO. I graduated from Montana State University Spring 2023 with a Bachelors Degree in English. In my free time I like to write, read, and enjoy the great outdoors anyway that I can.

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