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In the summer issue of Desert Companion, readers can enjoy the winners, runners-up, and honorable mentions of our 2023 Focus on Nevada Photo Contest. In addition, we present our first-ever nightlife guide, the best locals spots for dancing, laughing, lounging, and rocking in the country’s most entertaining city.

Dank Shot

Disembodied hands hold a camera
Illustration: Ryan Vellinga
Photo: Unsplash; Pexels

A new generation finds the joy — and challenge — of taking pictures on film

Technological evolution has pushed photography to be exceedingly simplistic or complex, according to one’s approach. More limiting, time-consuming, and costly than digital, film photography fell out of favor decades ago. Yet, a new generation of shooters is pursuing the craft both as a hobby and professionally. Three Las Vegas film photographers sat down with Desert Companion to talk about and compare their reasons for embracing the resurgent format. Excerpts of their conversation follow.

What makes analog photography more appealing than digital for you now?
Perla Perez: It’s unmatched compared to digital because of the quality color and details. I shoot lifestyle, so I like to be quick with it while looking for tone, texture, symmetry, and cool backgrounds. Even then, the photos are still a surprise to me. … I mostly like to have fun and go back and relive moments with my friends and family. I’m expressing my personality through film while basically capturing my whole life.

Alan Sabido: Like Perla said, it is unmatched compared to digital photography. If I was like a hobbyist, I would shoot more film because to me, film is my bread and butter. … I calculate it money-wise; because you spend money on the film, the development, the gas. Each shot costs X amount of money. You have to put a lot more into consideration and slow things down.

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You also learn more about photography through film because it is limiting. If one thing isn’t right, it could ruin your entire shot and sometimes your entire roll.

Brenda Peralta: Many photographers have a different eye — the most beautiful thing about film is that you could be shooting something similar, but it’s never going to be the same. I love the aesthetics that different film types bring in. It’s something you can’t achieve on a digital camera.

People who shoot film understand the financial part that comes with it, but once they pick up that camera and see the results they just instantly fall in love with the image — it’s a beautiful craft to learn.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
Peralta: My recent photo shoot was a modern rendition of The Matrix, so I have creative ideas that come from movies and aesthetics rather than just portraits. I get to know my model to have an idea what they want to capture; I fit the best film to their look. It’s more of a feeling for me; you either got the shot or you didn’t.

Perez: Las Vegas is my biggest inspiration. I go through my parents’ old photos, and it shows how life was while growing up here in the 1970s. That and my love for vintage and retro styles is where I get my style from.

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Sabido: I like to go through old vinyls and records and look at the artwork because a lot of it was shot on film. Back then there was limited equipment, and they were thinking about composition, lighting, natural lighting, set, and creating contact sheets. An entire process for one shot. … To me, that is truly creative and artistic because you’re putting in a live element and tying it all into music.

What’s the Las Vegas film-photography community like?
Sabido: I think competitiveness in the film community depends, because there are people who shoot just as a hobby and those who don’t. It’s fun to talk to and shoot with people who don’t view things so seriously.

Peralta: Since I’m just starting out, I don’t charge people for photos; everything that I shoot is 100 percent net loss. I’ve gotten good in such a short amount of time because photographers in the community have been reaching out, being mentors and giving me tips.

Perez: I’d say it is competitive in the digital and film community. Even though Las Vegas is small, the community of photographers is big.