The (Quite Worthwhile) Cost of Film Photography

If a roll of film goes up by a dollar, it’s still worth it.

Yes, I saw the news–Ilford announced a 15% price hike starting August 15. That’s the state of the international economy, a world full of supply shortages and the cost of making the best film on the planet. We need to support them at any price–they’re the reason we still have quality black and white film available.

If you make photographs on film and use a roll a week–50 rolls a year–the cost won’t be that drastically different from what you’re used to, maybe an additional $50 more per year. (A roll of Ilford HP5-36 went up locally from $6.99 to $8.12.) That local photo store in Colorado and California, Mike’s Camera, also offers a 10% discount on orders of 10 or more. Give that a try, call in your order, or ask at your local photo shop if there’s any quantity discount available. Ten rolls used to cost me $6.29 roll. Now it’s $7.30 roll with the quantity discount–an extra buck is all.

What do we spend an extra buck a week on now that isn’t frivolous spending? In the states, one less beer out at the bar will cover you for two months of the rate increase. That’s a whopping six less beers a year, we can do it!

Are we really going to quit using film because of this small extra expense? When this is the work that we’re are going to be known by? That will last? That is going to be seen by future generations? It’s the only photography that will be seen by them.

I’m going to keep going out and photographing my Longmont Lake Project, at any cost! Why? Because I’m a photographer, of course.

Are we really going to lament rising prices and have to listen to digital pundits predicting the end of film because “it’s so expensive”? No, we’re not, and no, it’s not. It’s the price of our art. It’s what our work is worth.

So, use up that expired film. Buy bargains where you can. Shoot some bulk-loaded film–see, there’s a way to save a few bucks, and you can even load short rolls for smaller projects. $85 will get you 18 rolls of 36 exposure. That’s only $4.72/roll!

But keep buying the film from these companies–we’re the ones keeping film photography alive. We’re the ones who are enthusiastic about film photography. But so are they.

Follow Ilford, Kodak, Fuji, Arista EDU, Ferrania, Bergger, Foma and the rest of these film manufacturers on Instagram and Twitter. Give them support and acknowledge them for believing in film. They do, just as we do.

Ilford still has 36-exposure 35mm film for $6.49. Buy it from them directly.

They need us, just as we need them.

Together, we are making the best photographs on the planet.

And we’re working together. Our vision, their film. We’re in this together.

It’s a great time to be a photographer.

A film photographer!

5 thoughts on “The (Quite Worthwhile) Cost of Film Photography

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    1. Not at all. It adds $50 total to what I’m already spending in a year, and everyone won’t use a roll a week, either. I’m also hand-developing all my film at home. So, total spending for 50 rolls if it goes up to $7 from $6 I was paying, that’s $350/year, plus processing which is less than $50. $400/year, $33/month. I’m not independently wealthy, and I’m also not kidding. People spend more than that at Starbucks in a month. I don’t go to Starbucks.

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      1. I hear you. I suppose you can look for expired film you can buy on the second-hand market. Whatever it takes to make whatever you want!

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  1. Film will always be tied to the price of silver which is up quite a lot from where it was say 2 years ago, plus there’s been a lot of volatility in that price since then. Film was always going to be ahead of the curve when it comes to price vs. actual value, something a lot of people don’t understand. But experiencing a lot of inflation right now I wouldn’t expect that to go down. I shoot about a roll a week and make somewhere around $20K a year; it’s all about priorities. I’m all-in on film no matter what happens.

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