Film is not dead. Uncover the intricacies of analog film with tips and experiences from these seven professional photographers.

As of this writing, there are well over 7 million photographs tagged #FilmIsNotDead on Instagram. In the wake of the digital takeover of recent decades, analog photography hasn’t receded into the annals of history, as some might have thought. Instead, it’s evolved and adapted to suit a new age.

As reported by TIME last year, more and more camera companies are re-introducing beloved, long-gone films. And after years of decreasing sales, they’re witnessing an uptick in demand. Whether it’s because of the process itself or due to the tone and depth of the final image, film is experiencing a significant resurgence with photographers of all ages, and the industry is taking note. #FilmIsNotDead is not the only popular hashtag for Instagram photographers; #StayBrokeShootFilm has been used approximately 1.5 million times, while #AnalogueVibes has more than 750 thousand images.

We asked seven Shutterstock contributors and Offset photographers to tell us about why they continue to choose film in a digital world. We also picked their brains to get their best advice for working with analog cameras and purchasing film. Below, they tell their stories.

1. “Film feels so raw and real and tangible and just the right amount of whimsical and unpredictable.”

Lea Ciceraro

7 Photographers Share Their Best Advice on the Art of Analog Film — Don't Fear Mistakes

Image by Lea Ciceraro. Gear: 35mm Nikon F100 camera, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens, Kodak Portra 160 film.

What’s the story behind this photo?

In 2015, I went to Joshua Tree for an art retreat. One morning, we went as a group into Joshua Tree National Park with our cameras and hiking boots. When we arrived in the parking lot, I saw this amazing camper, and I just had to snap a photo of it. When the owner appeared in the doorway with her dog, I asked if I could take a few shots of her standing there, and she agreed! I’m happy I did; it’s one of my all-time favorite photos.

7 Photographers Share Their Best Advice on the Art of Analog Film — Try Different Films and Cameras

Image by Lea Ciceraro.

Why do you still use film?

Non-film photographers may have a hard time understanding why I choose film over digital, especially given the cost per click and the steep learning curve. It’s complicated. It’s tedious. You have to be willing to screw up. Then you have to try, try again. So why is film photography making a comeback? Why do I love it so much?

Film feels so raw and real and tangible and just the right amount of whimsical and unpredictable. It forces me to slow down and think about each shot, rather than haphazardly firing off the shutter. Shooting film creates an amazing, physical negative that will last far longer than 1’s and 0’s on a hard drive that will inevitably fail.

Then there is the technical beauty of film. When it is exposed just right, somehow it manages to retain both highlights and shadows in the most stunning way. And even when it’s not shot perfectly, film has this way of surprising you in the most magnificent and rewarding ways. It is delicate and subtle and timeless. Film feels honest and emotional. Printing film to enjoy and share is the final piece of the beautiful puzzle that is image-making.

Pro Tip:

A fun way to expand your film shooting knowledge is to rent (or borrow) a different camera to experiment with. I learned photography from my dad on his Nikkormat (c. 1972) using nothing but 35mm film. That is where my comfort zone was for a long while. It’s amazing how many different types of cameras and formats are out there. Learn as much as you can about as many different types as possible. It will only help you in the long run!

I am a part of the ongoing online workshop FINDinaBOX, led by Jonathan Canlas. Since it’s hard for me to attend in-person workshops because of family obligations, this is just what I needed. It’s a better bang for my buck, and I can do it right from home. FINDinaBOX is constantly helping me improve my film shooting and my business, and it’s keeping my creativity alive when I hit those inevitable rough patches.

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2. “I like the lack of control and the element of surprise that comes with shooting film.”

Aaron Joel Santos

7 Photographers Share Their Best Advice on the Art of Analog Film — Embrace the Process

Image by Aaron Joel Santos. Gear: fixed-lens plastic toy Holga camera, 400 speed black & white film.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I was on a short trip to North Korea a few years back and didn’t want to bring my digital camera, as I thought it would attract too much attention. I also wanted to photograph in a way that mirrored the strangeness and lack of information in the country, so I decided to bring an old broken Holga camera with me. This particular image was taken in downtown Pyongyang. It was just a lucky moment as two children were walking past a monolithic communist building. The broken lens gives it a very ghostly feeling that I like.

Pictured: [1] Aaron Joel Santos. [2] Aaron Joel Santos.

Why do you still use film?

I like the lack of control and the element of surprise that comes with shooting film. But mostly I like getting my hands dirty and experimenting with processing and developing. I like shooting with expired film and Polaroids, purposefully scratching prints and negatives, and using dirty water or river water in my tanks. I like buying old, beat-up cameras and broken lenses. The worse off a camera looks, the more likely I am to buy it. For me, there’s more freedom in film, and at the best of times, it allows me to capture an image I wouldn’t have been able to capture in any other way.

Pro Tip:

Japan Camera Hunter, Emulsive, and Lomography are all great resources for film geeks online, and all of those sites are parts of much larger film communities. I think there’s a real sense of camaraderie, encouragement, and experimentation in these communities, with people realizing they’re keeping an art form from dying away. With digital, it’s easy to snap a photo and post it online, but it’s hard to fall in love with that process—it feels so mechanical and automatic. With film, you have to put in the time and the effort. You have to learn about it, and you kind of have to fall in love with it. My biggest tip would be to get a good scanner.

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3. “I love the endless errors, and then, at the end of the day, I love seeing the final print on the drying shelf and thinking to myself, ‘It’s not bad.'”

Martins Vanags

7 Photographers Share Their Best Advice on the Art of Analog Film — Embrace Your Errors

Image by Martins Vanags. Gear: Mamiya RZ67 Pro camera, Sekor Z 180mm f/4.5 W-N lens, Kodak T-Max film. Settings: Exposure 1/250 sec; f16; ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This image is about myself, my journeys and explorations, and my search for perfection. I am fascinated with trees, especially old ones, dry and lonely. I admire the works of Ansel Adams, Minor White, and Edward Weston, who also appreciated simple forms in nature. This image fascinates me with its “greyness.” The texture is almost unreal. I could not walk away from this tree, and I shot an entire roll of film with it.

7 Photographers Share Their Best Advice on the Art of Analog Film — Learn How to Develop and Print

Image by Martins Vanags.

Why do you still use film?

With film, I create everything with my hands and in my mind, from the shutter click to the print on the wall. I love the endless errors, and then, at the end of the day, I love seeing the final print on the drying shelf and thinking to myself, “It’s not bad.” Digital just lacks some of the challenges; it’s too easy.

Pro Tip:

Film is a delicate, emotional medium. You need to learn to develop and print your work yourself; otherwise, there is no magic. In the darkroom, left alone with your senses and knowledge, you can create true miracles. You need to find your film: the one that makes you flawless in your process, and the one you love and hate for being so perfect. For me, it is Kodak T-Max. With film, you have to learn to see differently, to see the unnoticed, and to see the impossible.

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4. “Using film teaches discipline. The expense and time commitment encourage consideration of the scene.”

Russell Binns

7 Photographers Share Their Best Advice on the Art of Analog Film — Show Discipline

Image by Russell Binns. Gear: Olympus OM4ti camera, 35mm lens, 35mm Adox orthochromatic 25 ISO film.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This shot was taken on a cold, grey November day in Weston-super-Mare, England when I had an ultra-slow orthochromatic film in my camera. It is the same kind of film that was used in the very early days of photography. It seemed a typically English scene; despite the biting wind and closed stalls, people were still willing to come out with their flasks in the cold and sit at the tables on the beach.

Why do you still use film?

Using film teaches discipline. The expense and time commitment encourage consideration of the scene. Also worth remembering is that negatives (or positives) can easily be scanned at home on a flat-bed scanner, which means that it is possible to get the best of both worlds: the traditional magic of film with the endless possibilities of Photoshop. Film is a unique medium, an artistic medium full of expression, and photographers need to maintain the demand. Once a great film, like Kodachrome for example, is gone, it’s gone!

Pictured: [1] Russell Binns. [2] Russell Binns. [3] Russell Binns.

Pro Tip:

Every film is like playing a piece of music with a different violin, and every film is best suited to a particular situation. It’s fantastic to explore old fashioned or forgotten films, all of which have their own unique identity. There are still some great film manufacturers in Eastern Europe (Efke, Adox etc.) making emulsions from the past.

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5. “I find it to be a fun and engaging process—from choosing the type of film, to manually setting the exposure, to mixing the chemicals and monitoring my development times, to scanning the film.”

Adam Garelick

7 Photographers Share Their Best Advice on the Art of Analog Film — Make the Process Your Own

Image by Adam Garelick. Gear: Hasselblad 500 C/M camera, Hasselblad 50mm F/4 CF T* FLE Lens, Fuji Neopan Acros 100 Film.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This is an image I made late one night in March 2011, just south of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. The long exposure and the windy conditions combined to give a nice texture to the water. Even in a place as busy, populated, and frenetic as Manhattan, you can occasionally experience a sense of serenity late at night. It is one of the things I love most about New York.

7 Photographers Share Their Best Advice on the Art of Analog Film — Visualize and Plan

Image by Adam Garelick.

Why do you still use film?

I find it to be a fun and engaging process—from choosing the type of film, to manually setting the exposure, to mixing the chemicals and monitoring my development times, to scanning the film. I feel invested in the entire process. Also, because film is more labor-intensive, I tend to slow down and visualize what I want to accomplish with each image before I ever trip the shutter. Each frame on a 12-exposure roll of medium format film turns into a significant investment of my time, so I am very deliberate about each one of them.

Pro Tip:

My advice to anyone new to film is to find a process that works for you. I love the grain and imperfections of film, but I don’t have access to a darkroom. So I adopted a hybrid process where I would develop the film by hand in my apartment, then scan the negatives using a dedicated film scanner. It’s time-intensive and doesn’t yield a high volume of images, but it has worked for me. Take the time to find a process that you enjoy, and your images will reflect it.

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6. “When you print a photo on nice photo paper and see the grain and the texture, it gives your photos a beautiful look that you can’t get with digital photography.”

Edgar Takoyaki

7 Photographers Share Their Best Advice on the Art of Analog Film — Consider Every Click

Image by Edgar Takoyaki. Gear: Mamiya C330 Medium Format TLR camera, 80mm F/2.8 Sekor Lens, Portra 400 ISO film. Settings: Exposure 2 sec; f5.6; ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I took this in winter in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. It was incredibly cold on this evening, so this vantage point, normally crowded with couples on dates, was all mine to take this long exposure shot.

Why do you still use film?

Initially, I switched from digital to film to challenge myself as a photographer. The tactile process of loading the film, framing the shot through a waist-level finder, and calculating the exposure with a handheld light meter is very satisfying and rewarding when you see the developed images. I usually try to throw in a couple of double exposures on each roll I shoot. A successful double exposure is one of my favorite things about shooting film. Ultimately, it comes down to the look of film. When you print a photo on nice photo paper and see the grain and the texture, it gives your photos a beautiful look that you can’t get with digital photography.

7 Photographers Share Their Best Advice on the Art of Analog Film — Find a Reliable Lab

Image by Edgar Takoyaki.

Pro Tip:

I would suggest experimenting with different film stocks to find a couple you really like. Once you get the hang of how those films handle, try pushing/pulling the film and see what looks work for your photo style. If you are used to shooting digital, you’ll quickly see how film changes your approach to shooting. It definitely slows you down in a good way. There’s more consideration behind every shutter click when you only have 12, 24, or 36 frames. Every frame counts.

Lastly, find a good lab to develop your film and make prints for you. If you don’t have one locally, you can find some great ones online. I use The Darkroom in southern California. Just mail your film to them, and in a few days, they upload your photos on their site where you can log in and download them to your computer or smartphone. Your negatives and prints, if you ordered them, arrive in the mail a few days after.

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7. “Shooting film is awesome. It has a different vibe, a different approach, and an element of mystery.”

Theo Cerbo (Theodore Cerboneschi)

7 Photographers Share Their Best Advice on the Art of Analog Film — Find Mystery

Image by Theo Cerbo (Theodore Cerboneschi). Gear: Rolleiflex camera, 75mm Zeiss Tessar f3.5 lens, Kodak Ektar 100 film.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I went surfing and forgot a critical part of my equipment, so I could not go out in the freezing Pacific Northwest. Fortunately, I had my medium format Rolleiflex on hand and decided to go for a walk on the beach and take a few shots. That dog was sitting on the beach, and I went to take a picture of him. I was trying to catch his attention to get a better shot, but he was so focused on making sure his master would not drown while surfing that he never looked at me. I’m not sure he was even blinking! The shots still turned out well. I like the colors a lot.

Why do you still use film?

Shooting film is awesome. It has a different vibe, a different approach, and an element of mystery.

Pictured: [1] Theo Cerbo (Theodore Cerboneschi). [2] Theo Cerbo (Theodore Cerboneschi).

Pro Tip:

My very best advice is to not only shoot but also do all the post-processing yourself. Developing, scanning, and printing film are all steps that have repercussions on your final image, and you should be in control of these steps to achieve the aesthetics you are looking for. Plus, it’s fun and relaxing (at least to me).

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Top Image by Adam Garelick.