How to Replicate the Super 16mm Look with Your DSLR
How do you fake the look of 16mm with your DSLR when shooting on film gets too expensive?
I cut my photographic teeth on a Canon 5D Mark II and thought, "Wow, these are really beautiful images." Then, I picked up a film camera for the first time, maybe it was a Minolta, and after processing the film, I finally realized what it meant to fall head over heels in love with something.
Okay, I'm being super overdramatic, but I really did prefer that vintage, grainy look of film—still do—and I would shoot my projects on film if it wasn't so expensive. A single 400' roll of color 16mm film costs somewhere in the ballpark of $120-$200 and about $0.14/ft. to process and $0.16/ft. to digitize, so for just one roll, you're looking at around $240-$320—and that's just for 11 minutes of footage! (You can try to get your paws on some short ends to cut down on costs.)
If you want to capture the look and feel of 16mm film but can't afford the added expense of shooting on it, Simon Cade of DSLRguide shows how he managed to replicate it using his DSLR in the video below.
Despite what Instagram filters might suggest, there's a lot more that goes into creating a vintage film look than just a sweet filter. You have to account for a lot of little characteristics found in film stock and 16mm cameras, like grain, shutter speed, sharpness, aperture, color, and flicker. Cade adjusts his DSLR settings to simulate those of a film camera, but you may not have to do this. According to him, it's primarily about nailing the grain, color, and flicker.
Apart from the technical aspects, you could do like Cade and recreate the whole 16mm film experience and limit yourself to a limited amount of disk space when shooting. Bring only one or two 32GB SD cards so you're forced to be conservative and intentional with what you shoot, because as we all know, shooting on digital gives you so much latitude and freedom when it comes to this. Limiting yourself might actually help you learn a valuable lesson about the beauty of creative restrictions and help compel you to take a much deeper look at how you choose to compose your shots.