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  • Writer's pictureOliver Wehrli

Why shoot analog?

There is no distinction between analog and digital in the optical process of creating a photograph. One could speak of photochemical and photoelectric image recording. So why still take analog photographs in the age of digital progress? Is there a romantic longing behind the upsurge for analog photography or is there more to it? I have compiled several reasons that speak for analog photography.

Experience, Feel, Design

The product design of some of today's digital cameras often aims at generalisation. Seen from a distance, the technical devices all look similar and offer extensive menus and setting options. Yet we photographers want to be and work individually with such a device in our hands. Anyone who holds a mechanical device in their hands feels this device, so to speak.

Senses are served here that can hardly be experienced with fully automatic digital plastic equipment. With an analog and mechanical photographic technique, it is incredibly satisfying when in the end a photo comes out that has everything in it. It is craft and it is more individual. An exposed film exists only once, a digital sensor is always the same image carrier for every subsequent photo. So from beginning to end, it is my work. Therein lies one of the charms of analog photography. It is something for the patient, it is something for romantics and adventurers who want to take risks. It is certainly more strenuous. The reward is a mental satisfaction and happiness that you can feel.

Nostalgia and value

I would not say that everything was better in the past. But forty years ago, certain mechanisms were more clearly comprehensible. And this can also be seen in analog or mechanical cameras. Here we speak of "quality workmanship" and should not be surprised if such photographic technology still works today - after decades - and is even more in high demand than ever.

Linhof Technika 4x5"

Re-experience the motif

The analog way of working forces calmness, concentration on the photographic process and the examination of the subject. With the display integrated in the digital camera, one is inclined to check the image of the motif immediately. You take several shots and compare them on the spot, like a true inspector. At the end, you select one of the images on the screen at home. It may not even be the one you felt on location and pressed the shutter release at that moment. Through this process, you don't even notice how you become distanced from the actual motif.

With analog photography, on the other hand, the photographic process is completed much more quickly. You put the camera away again after one or two shots and look forward to the photo later. The photographic motif remains the same. Later, however, you experience that same motif a second time, so to speak - namely when the film comes out of the processor and you enjoy the magical moment of placing it on the light desk to admire the shots.

6x17 slide film panorama picture on light desk

High quality results

Especially with medium format cameras and large format cameras, very high quality image results are possible that are superior to digital in different ways. Such technology and cameras used to be much more expensive. But today that is no longer the case and that makes it more accessible than ever.

I myself shoot in large format with a 6x17 panorama camera as well as in 4x5". But I also like to use the smaller medium format 6x45 from time to time. For less demanding things in my free time, I sometimes use a compact 35 mm camera.


Analog photography also seems to appeal to many because it forces one to "slow down". In fact, one must also remain calm when taking a well thought-out photograph with a digital camera as a tool. It is just that with a purely manually operated camera it is more time-consuming, and therefore less time-saving, to produce a technically good image of a landscape, for example, than with modern digital cameras.

The Look

For me personally, this is a very important reason for analog. An analog photograph consists of film grain and many tiny organic particles. It is probably this analog look, which is sometimes not clearly precise and not aligned with a fixed (pixel) grid, that excites many and makes it visible and tangible. Above all, it is the way film reacts to light, capturing tonal values non-linearly and still being able to separate highlights over a very long range, that makes up a characteristic analog look and gives it an organic aesthetic. It's the same as how many music lovers love to reach for vinyl records. I also often speak of a plasticity synonymous with a three-dimensionality with a soft character. Perfectly printed on paper, you can see all these quality!

It is also exciting to observe that in recent years, more and more attempts are being made to recreate a look reminiscent of the analog characteristic using different filters or other techniques. There are scripts or Photoshop actions to create film looks from digitally shot images. This shows that the analog look has a quality that has touched us as photographers, artists and viewers of images for decades.

Image quality

In large formats, film still has greater technical potential in terms of image quality compared to current digital technology for single-frame photography. If the analog photo is processed digitally, however, high-quality digitisation is essential in order to preserve the analog character of the image as much as possible. To pursue this goal, the overall effort is significantly greater.


Analog photography simply brings a lot of positive characteristics. But that doesn't mean that you can't create great photography with digital, or that digital is worse, less creative or less artistic! The art of digital photography is not to let the technology take too much away from you. If you do (and leave your own eyes, concentration and creativity at home), you will produce, at best, commodity photography - interchangeable and soulless. But then it is not the digital technology that is to blame - it is always the person behind the camera. Very good photographers will take outstanding photos in both analog and digital. And they know how to use the advantages of both techniques.

Analog photography represents the basis of my technical and aesthetic understanding of my photography.

For me, it is clear that the end defines the means. That's why I work hybrid, using analog technology more. Nevertheless, I appreciate both technologies. In my artistic photography, however, there are image ideas that I can only photograph in the desired quality in analog.

Best wishes,


Oliver Wehrli - Large Format Photography 4x5"

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