Silver demand grew 19% last year, according to the World Silver Survey 2022. Part of this increase is due to a 3% increase in demand for film from the wider photography industry. Although medical x-rays are a big driver, the popularity of amateur film photography has also played a small role.
Declining sales, falling demand and general pessimism in photography are receiving wide coverage in the photographic press. The industry has been experiencing a decline due to smartphones for some time as well as a seismic shift towards mirrorless cameras.
Related: 5 Reasons Digital Photographers Should Try Film
Despite the flux, photography, as a medium, continues to explode in popularity. And not just smartphone photography, but also film photography. It is therefore fascinating to see these having a significant, albeit minimal, impact on the international silver market.
Medical x-rays are probably the real story
According to the report, photographic demand for silver “increased” by 3% last year “against the long-term trend of decline.” This is not entirely due to the return of traditional film photography (which relies on silver halides at work), unfortunately, because medical x-rays are also included in the same set of numbers.
The report points out that “rather than representing a significant gain”, the increase is more related to the “depth of the 2020 COVID-related crisis” and the resulting backlog of delayed X-rays the medical community has had to to manage.
Despite this, Instant Film sales have apparently almost entirely rebounded from the “pandemic-related hiccups”.
Things are a little less rosy with regular film. According to the report, “Total demand for consumer and professional films and papers fell again last year, as travel continued to prove extremely difficult.” Much of this was likely the film industry which “posted another year of decline”. (A single Hollywood production presumably passes through far more 35mm footage than any number of amateurs.)
Still, with travel resuming and 35mm enthusiasts in Hollywood “firmly committed” to the medium, the report predicts there will continue to be a “strong core of demand” for film photography. As such, it only forecasts a 1% drop in demand for 2022.
Silver liners (sorry)
Franz argues that “although the cost of film processing is increasing”, this does not seem to deter photographers as “additional labs are starting up and restarting film processing lines”. Likewise, younger consumers shooting instant film, the growing demand for single-use cameras, and the growing market for premium film stock for things like photo books are all (small) signs of the return of film photography.
Is Franz exaggerating the role of amateur photography in the film market? Absolutely. It wasn’t until we looked at the report that we saw that the demand for movies had decreases Last year. But is it fun to recognize that it stimulates the international silver market enough to be discussed in industry publications and mentioned in reports? Absolutely.