appeal of film over digital?

Film is the best, and I will never stop shooting it exclusively until it is all discontinued. The lessons in patience, learning from all sorts of mistakes and missed opportunities, discovering and then focusing only on what you are most interested in (as opposed to things that may arguably be just "interesting") have had a big influence on my life in general. I am sure you can treat shooting digital like shooting film but I don't need to spend $2,000 - $9,000 to go down that road for equipment that I would never truly bond with.
 
you guys are killing me. I'm trying to talk myself out of film because of cost and lack of ease that shooting digital affords. But it's still not working and I find myself thinking about a M6. Many years ago I shot my Canon AE1 with a kit 50mm lens, split between Tri-X and Kodachrome. Lately I've been shooting my M10 with the 35 steel rim reissue and it reminds me of pics I used to take, like this one. I really want to get off this desire to shoot film - we'll see.
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My two cents: keep thinking about film, and do it! Stop thinking about the M6. Nice, but unnecessary, and a bit of a distraction. Blasphemy, I know, but I'm speaking from experience.
 
I understand your point, but if we go that route then it can be applied to many more things like the camera, lens, AF/MF, autoexposure, camera strap... etc.

So I would separate the process (which is a personal thing) from the result. The restrictions of film photography could very well be applied with a digital camera if someone is meticulous with their craft.

To answer the OP question: " Is there a look with film that can't be reproduced with digital processing?"
No.

There is a direct link between process and result. To suggest otherwise is ignorance.

Watercolor produces a different effect than charcoal. Pastel is different than gouache. Intaglio differs from ink wash. Sculpture in bronze looks different than sculpture in marble. Each medium comes with processes and tools which require skills intrinsically linked to the use of that medium.

The problems with faking it are myriad. There's fairly obvious problems, for example, faking a water color digitally is often more time consuming than just doing it in watercolor in the first place. Yes, one can be "meticulous with their craft" of making fakes, but they're still working with different tools and different skill sets, which invariably will influence the final result. You don't think about the paper if you're not using paper, you don't think about your brush when you don't use brushes, you don't know when you've made things too wet, or not wet enough. You have an ideal in your head of what you think watercolor should look like (instead of what it actually does), and digital tools to contend with. You may end up with an effect that looks convincing enough, but the thought process will differ because it has to suit the medium used, and the tool that medium requires, and so necessarily will the result also differ. It won't be the same as if one actually used the medium instead of imitating it. All of this is indisputably true, but to add my own opinion to it, the major trap of digital working is seeking false perfection. That idealized image of what one thinks a medium should look like is a trap.

It is also rather ironic, as if photographers had any knowledge of the history of their art, they would know that it wasn't until photographers rejected imitation of other mediums and non-photographic processes, that photography came into its own as medium for art. Film and digital differ in their tools, and thus processes, and thus results. If you want something to look like film, you can use film, or you can spend time and effort creating an imitation of effects that are inherent with the use of film, but why? The goal in such an endeavor is inherently stupid. You could also program your computer to print out every letter of text you type, as you type it, program it to play the sound of typewriter strikes and bells, but why?

edit: I do want to point out that I am not at all anti-digital. I began using photoshop in the 1990s. I have always been keenly interested in what I could do with computers. There are things that you can do digitally that you cannot do with other mediums, and that is where the real advantages of digital workflows lays. To put it another way, if a musician uses a synthesizer, I'm more likely to be impressed when it sounds like a synthesizer than when it sounds like a fake strings section.
 
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It is also rather ironic, as if photographers had any knowledge of the history of their art, they would know that it wasn't until photographers rejected imitation of other mediums and non-photographic processes, that photography came into its own as medium for art. Film and digital differ in their tools, and thus processes, and thus results. If you want something to look like film, you can use film, or you can spend time and effort creating an imitation of effects that are inherent with the use of film, but why? The goal in such an endeavor is inherently stupid. You could also program your computer to print out every letter of text you type, as you type it, program it to play the sound of typewriter strikes and bells, but why?

edit: I do want to point out that I am not at all anti-digital. I began using photoshop in the 1990s. I have always been keenly interested in what I could do with computers. There are things that you can do digitally that you cannot do with other mediums, and that is where the real advantages of digital workflows lays. To put it another way, if a musician uses a synthesizer, I'm more likely to be impressed when it sounds like a synthesizer than when it sounds like a fake strings section.

I enjoyed this whole comment and this paragraph reminded me of my feelings about some of the earlier digital photography gurus, whose views are now normalised, who promoted the idea that the photo could and should be endlessly manipulated, effectively pulling us back towards the painting that the early photographers so sought to emulate.

Edited to add that, of course, this isn’t really about film and digital, but intent and approach to photography as art.
 
“Artists are interested in making things, more than things made.” Michael A Smith, of Lodimer Press. Interview in f11 magazine. Or, Barnwulf’s signature quote here: “I now work only for the sensation I have while working.” (Giacometti) The latter really resonates with me. No matter what troubles me, when I am out walking with a camera I am in a zone. I get that with my M9-P which is really a digital M2. I know what colours I’ll get, I have to think about exposure, tilting down with the half press, if I haven’t already switched to manual.

With the Monochrom M it is just a bit more special, having closed my colour channel, even more careful with the exposure - no chance of getting anything back in blown highlights - and knowing what marvellous tones I’ll likely capture. It had the nick name at launch, Henri. I got to shoot mine in Paris ten years ago and it captured that special light of the City of Light so wonderfully in a few shots.

So you can experience ‘flow’ with digital. Exposure in an M6, or better an M7 which I haven’t tried, is something else with black and white or colour negative film. Pick a number, it’ll work. I recall some shots of dark interiors with bright window light at the front I could only have got right with film, out of the camera, and only having to half think about it.

Different tools change what you see. My best photograph with my Hasselblad I never saw in ten years walking past it twice a day for a few weeks each year.

But Shab posted above his pragmatic conclusion re digital. And if you look at his recent thread of the Cantabrian coast you will find a refutation - that the means counts for little, and a confirmation, that a good photographer will produce a result using any camera. Those photographs and his vision show what it’s really all about.

If a new Leica film camera, which people often say they hope they live up to, so justifying the purchase, leads to more intense engagement with photography, then why not. It’s only later they can reflect on it not being necessary.
 
Hmm, the appeal of film over digital? I love them both, but I try not get too philosophical about it. I'm not an artist or a professional, though I try to use some artistry when I shoot, process, and print. I do photography because I love it - the process and the final image. I do like the film look better than digital, the grain and tones of black & white, the palettes of different color films, etc. but I don't like spending a lot of time and effort trying to emulate the film look digitally. It seems kind of futile and I don't know, slightly dishonest? I do use Silver FX Pro for digital black and white but I have a standard preset that I apply without a lot of tweaking. I'm not trying to fake film; I'm trying to get the image I'm looking for. I also like the film simulations, including some custom recipes, in my Fujifilm X camera for color.

I started with film because there was no digital then. My first digital camera was a Panasonic FZ-20. It was great getting instant feedback on exposure and composition and I learned more in six months with digital than six years with film. That may be a bit of an exaggeration but not by much.

Since then I've been back and forth, using digital and film. With film, it's a hybrid approach for me. Color goes to a lab for processing; black & white I develop myself. I scan my negatives and get up to 17x19" prints on a good Epson inkjet printer with a Pantone hardware/software color calibrated monitor. It works for me.

There's no doubt, fin my mind, that fully digital is hard to beat for convenience, quick turn around time, and expense, after the initial investment. Color film and processing has gotten so expensive. I don't have a darkroom, so only being able to process two rolls of black & white at a time with a changing bag and a developing tank, hanging the film in the shower to dry, scanning, etc. is time consuming and getting to be more of a chore than fun.

Having just said that, I just bought 36 rolls of film! I love my film cameras. My OM-1 just feels right, like an extension of my eye. I love the tactile feel of the film, and the camera controls. It's very satisfying, but when I'm out shooting, whether film or digital, I get in the zone and it doesn't matter what I'm using. I get in the moment, and super concentrated, yet perfectly calm. It's very zen-like.

Film and digital - I like them both. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. The most important thing, no matter what I'm shooting, is capturing the moment and making a pleasing photography. It's more about the timing and the composition than the medium, for me.

Here's an environmental portrait I did, probably my best, with an OM-1 and Zuiko 50/1.4, Kodak Tri-X 400 developed in XTOL. I think it would be difficult to get this look digitally:

Zuiko50 7 by Greg Gunn, on Flickr


Here's a digital file from an Olympus EP-3 with the Panasonic 20/1.7, minimally processed, black & white with Silver FX Pro. I like it but it might have been better with film.

Festivus19 by Greg Gunn, on Flickr


Here's a color digital picture from the FZ-20 that I couldn't get with film. It's two exposures blended in Photoshop Elements - one for the shadows, one for highlights. The soaring bird in the upper right was an insubstantial blur in one exposure, sharp(er) and distinct in the exposure for the highlights. This is from a twenty year old, 5mp camera:

Sunrise Over Surf City Pier by Greg Gunn, on Flickr
 
Police guitarist Andy Summers--a rock 'n' roll legend who is also a very talented and dedicated photographer--wrote in his autobiography One Train Later about how at a point in his music career when he was getting a bit jaded, picking up a new (to him) Telecaster caused him to recall some of the joy he felt when he first started playing, and made him want to create music with it.

I've often felt--and told young photographers I was mentoring--that cameras are like guitars. You can have the fanciest, most expensive guitar in the world--but if you don't know how to play it, you won't make sweet music. Conversely, you could be handed a really crappy guitar, but if you truly know what you're doing, you can do a bit of tuning and checking it out, and shortly you'll be jamming on it.

And with cameras just as with guitars, some are easier or more fun to play, or have a nicer feel/aesthetics, or give you a sound/look/feel that you want for something particular. So you should use the camera (and process) that feels most comfortable to you, that you are inspired to create with the most, or which gives you a certain look that you want for a particular image/project. Some songs, a Tele gives you just what you want--on others, you'll want an old Martin D-28 because it's just right for the song.

So personally, I use digital whenever I'm shooting for pay/publication, shooting something that doesn't pay well and that I'm not too interested in doing anything with later, shooting action (I shoot a lot of pro boxing /MMA, shooting in low light (which I do a lot of, too), shooting something that has to be turned around quickly, (usually when) shooting color for my own use, or shooting something that is going to someone who would have no idea what to do with a film image and is only going to use it on the Web anyway.

My only digital cameras right now are DSLRs, and I don't *enjoy* using them, they're great tools but not *fun* to use. So, like a session musician, I can play whatever you need me to, and I'll shoot digital when necessary for the job, or what I need to put out, it's part of the gig.

(I'd love to try an M10, to see how I get on with that--or a Z8, as I could use film lenses with that but still shoot for pay with it...and it can do some things my DSLR can't. I'd really like to see if they're as *fun* to use as I believe they might be.)

Whenever I am shooting for fun, or for my own personal artistic projects (such as they are), I nearly always shoot film, particularly black and white film. I like the look of what I get in the darkroom with B&W film (scanning it, however, can be a damn nightmare), and I vastly enjoy using film cameras far, far more than using a DSLR. The DSLRs (and the Fuji X100s I once owned) are irritating and annoying as they always seem come between me and what is in front of me, whereas film cameras (even cheap old things like an FE) just seem to get the hell out of the way and let me focus (mentally) on what I'm shooting. I seem to be far more "in the moment" when shooting film than when shooting digital, as when shooting digital I'm paying more attention to the camera then and what it's doing (or failing to do) than feeling and noticing what's going on around me.

I'm rarely *inspired* to pick up my DSLR and try to create something with it. Whereas my film cameras cause me to want to think of things to do with them. They're much more fun and inspiring to "play". Really though, I'm convinced that it's the *camera* rather than the image capture medium I am interested in; I have an ancient digital back for my Hasselblad V bodies, and I do love to shoot with it on those cameras--but unfortunately I have to shoot it tethered, it's so old. I believe that if I had a more modern digital back to put on my Blad, I'd probably carry that around everywhere, as I love shooting the Hasselblad V cameras. Which is why I think I'd love an M10, if I had one--I'd get great digital output from it, but it would give me almost exactly the same experience when making the photos as my M6 does. And wouldn't have all those damned autofocus points, a crappy viewfinder, an insistence that it knows more about how I want to shoot something than I do.

Sorry for the rambling, this has been an interesting discussion, just wanted to kick in my 2p. Thanks if you made it this far!
 
These days I mostly shoot digital ...
more out of Laziness and being cheap

Digital can be quite Good, sometimes quite Beautiful
but NOTHING beats FILM
no matter how good my digi stands, it cannot produce the Beauty and Atmosphere of LIGHT. The imperfections of Film can be quite Magnificent
The Imperfections of digital quite hard, and unsettling

Just my opinion and experiences ...
 
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I conducted an interesting experiment some years ago and went through my entire back catalogue to Pick out my favourite 100 photos for a blog I was setting up after I retired. I ended up picking just over 300 images, and despite having used digital for 15 years by then, both private and commercially, it turned out that only about 6 were digital.
I still don't know why that is.
Whether I just like the look of film or I'm just a shit digital photographer I don't know.
I'm in the midst of a 2 week roadtrip through Queensland in the land of Oz, I've only taken one roll of 120 film and 900 digital images so far, bet I like the film stuff better.
Now I'm taking photographs purely for myself I really have to wonder if I shouldn't just sell all my digital gear and stick to film. Only real problem I've just moved house and would have to build yet another darkroom, I'm 65 with health issues and I just don't know if I could be arsed.
First world problems...
 
There are a few of us who, when looking back, prefer more of the pictures we shot with film than with digital. The time gap is helpful as it dilutes any prejudgment ans lets the picture speak for itself. However, I’m reminded of Jane Bown who, when asked why she took so few frames, replied, ‘I realised that the best frames were always the first or last, so I stopped taking the ones in the middle.’
 
I conducted an interesting experiment some years ago and went through my entire back catalogue to Pick out my favourite 100 photos for a blog I was setting up after I retired. I ended up picking just over 300 images, and despite having used digital for 15 years by then, both private and commercially, it turned out that only about 6 were digital.
I still don't know why that is.
Whether I just like the look of film or I'm just a shit digital photographer I don't know.
I'm in the midst of a 2 week roadtrip through Queensland in the land of Oz, I've only taken one roll of 120 film and 900 digital images so far, bet I like the film stuff better.
Now I'm taking photographs purely for myself I really have to wonder if I shouldn't just sell all my digital gear and stick to film. Only real problem I've just moved house and would have to build yet another darkroom, I'm 65 with health issues and I just don't know if I could be arsed.
First world problems...

Exactly my experience too!
 
I conducted an interesting experiment some years ago and went through my entire back catalogue to Pick out my favourite 100 photos for a blog I was setting up after I retired. I ended up picking just over 300 images, and despite having used digital for 15 years by then, both private and commercially, it turned out that only about 6 were digital.
I still don't know why that is.
Whether I just like the look of film or I'm just a shit digital photographer I don't know.
I'm in the midst of a 2 week roadtrip through Queensland in the land of Oz, I've only taken one roll of 120 film and 900 digital images so far, bet I like the film stuff better.
Now I'm taking photographs purely for myself I really have to wonder if I shouldn't just sell all my digital gear and stick to film. Only real problem I've just moved house and would have to build yet another darkroom, I'm 65 with health issues and I just don't know if I could be arsed.
First world problems...
If you don’t take it seriously, even subconsciously, your work won’t be as good.

Film is beautiful, digital is not.

gelatin silver print (nikkor 50mm f1.4 No.414866) nikon s2

Frankendael, 2023

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It will certainly never be if you never use it, or think it can’t be as beautiful.

I have printed some of my Rajasthan photos on Adox Lupex silver chloride paper. Knowing my history with B&W film and printing, most people I showed them to, including photographers, just said immediately “I didn’t know you took film to India”. There is no real difference once you get it right. If you prefer one process or another, you’ll get better photos that way, even if you only prefer it subconsciously.

Marty
 
If you don’t take it seriously, even subconsciously, your work won’t be as good.


It will certainly never be if you never use it, or think it can’t be as beautiful.

I have printed some of my Rajasthan photos on Adox Lupex silver chloride paper. Knowing my history with B&W film and printing, most people I showed them to, including photographers, just said immediately “I didn’t know you took film to India”. There is no real difference once you get it right. If you prefer one process or another, you’ll get better photos that way, even if you only prefer it subconsciously.

Marty

You’re surely right about engaging with equal commitment and seriousness.

How are you printing your digital files photographically? I’ve been thinking about make digital mega for contact printing as I’ve got a reasonable amount of paper around and that does appeal. It’s been a long time since I did darkroom enlargements - albeit I spent hours on end back in the day.

Mike
 
If you don’t take it seriously, even subconsciously, your work won’t be as good.


It will certainly never be if you never use it, or think it can’t be as beautiful.

I have printed some of my Rajasthan photos on Adox Lupex silver chloride paper. Knowing my history with B&W film and printing, most people I showed them to, including photographers, just said immediately “I didn’t know you took film to India”. There is no real difference once you get it right. If you prefer one process or another, you’ll get better photos that way, even if you only prefer it subconsciously.

Marty
Very interesting... thank you!

I would love looking at your "prints"...
 
Perhaps many of you are not familiar with the late Richard Benson. Benson was one of the world's great darkroom printers and experimenters with printing processes, especially offset printing techniques. Look him up online. He is an important person to photography. Benson wrote a wonderful book, "The Printed Picture", that is a classic IMO. He also did a series of lectures, recorded by Harvard University (he was a dean at Harvard, among his other credentials) that can be seen at Home | The Printed Picture that are also wonderful. Benson was always concerned with getting the best quality possible in the printing he did.

Benson is one of my photo heroes. One of his statements that will remain my mantra for eternity is it is "how the picture looks" that's important. The processes he details in his book and in these lectures are interesting but the only thing that really matters is how the picture looks. It's all that has ever mattered over the centuries of making pictures. Processes? That other stuff are just slogans on bumper stickers.
 
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