Film vs Digital . A Photographer Ponders.

Back in the Day

When I started taking pictures enthusiastically, artistically, and professional (not always all at the same time), I shot with film. This was in the late 90’s. I started out shooting mostly black and white film. I also would shoot color negative film and transparency film. While most of the photography I did was with 35mm cameras, but I did a little medium format and large format work as well.

Cell Phone Cameras

There is something exciting about film. There is a certain degree of unknown. Even when I shot a roll of film and developed it the same day, there was an aspect of delayed gratification that most photographers don’t experience today. When I am hanging out with my kids and I want to take a quick picture, I pick up my phone, snap a shot, and look at it. Simple. I get to see the picture right away. With filters and effects, the power of my little camera phone is amazing. I once had a photography teacher who said that photography is the art of the people. And it is true now, more than ever. Just about everyone has a camera, and the quantity of images that we are exposed to in our lives just keeps increasing. Taking pictures is fun. We love to share images of ourselves, our friends and family, and the world around us, and it is so easy to do now.

Film Photography

Anyway, back to film. I used to shoot with film and now I don’t really. It’s a lot of work cataloging film. I don’t really enjoy bringing it to the lab, and developing myself requires more time and space than I have. Who wants to retouch specks by hand, and worry about dust, etc. The physicality of it became a burden, especially once I was exposed to the ease of digital photography. So I stopped shooting with a film camera. I sold my Nikon F100, gave my Yashica Mat to a friend on long term loan, misplaced my Polaroid 420 camera, and gave up my dream of having a couple of sweet 4X5 setups. I stopped going to the darkroom, and started using Lightroom.

Early Years of Digital

Sure, digital sensors sucked for a while, but once I was introduced to the ease and instant gratification of the digital world, there was no turning back. And digital photography is awesome today. Last year, I had a couple of friends start bugging me about shooting film. Meg (from Practical Wedding) and Elizabeth (from Lowe House Events) kept telling me that I needed to start shooting film again. Sometimes I take a little nudging. They nudged, and I dusted off the Minolta X-700 that my grandfather had given me 20 years ago, grabbed some well expired film, and started shooting little bits here and there.

Trying to Shoot Film Again. I’ll Stick to My Digital Camera

Well, I am not sure what I expected. The feel of that little camera is fantastic. The shutter makes a gratifying sound, and the feeling of rewinding the camera and loading film is great. From a tactile perspective it is refreshing to shoot with my film camera. I also enjoy not seeing an image right away. I find myself being a more active seer. So I have been slowly shooting here and there, and succeeded in collecting several rolls of fully exposed film, which I recently sent to Photoworks SF to be processed and scanned (because digital is what I do now). The images are nice. I will continue to play around with the film thing. I like the images, but I am not sure that the fact that they were captured on film makes them any better. Film vs Digital is a big conversation. I am not sure what I expected.

In the end, I kind of feel like shooting film and scanning it is not so different than shooting digitally. For no I am going to stick to my digital media.

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Christina
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Christina

This is such a great post! I loved to see the side by side comparisons. I also feel that the biggest difference in shooting film and digital is the feeling while you are shooting. I usually shoot medium format film so that accentuates it even more – slowing down being more deliberate, waiting to see the shots, unexpected surprises. But at this point I don’t think one is better than the other. You get a few more steps in tonal range in film, but it’s not a big difference. I love that shot of the boy with the dino skull… Read more »