Experts: Explain WHY you shoot film to NEWBIES

CameraQuest

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OK, most photogs only shoot digital today. Easier, quicker, instant gratification etc. Yet, for what it does, a lot of people believe they get BETTER results with film and analog printing and they go that extra mile. If you are one of those experienced people, please take the time to write an essay explaining your methods and why you prefer it to digital.

WHY? so others can learn from your techniques, but the biggest reason is to arouse the curiosity of digital shooters who have little or no film experience and don't know what they are missing.

This thread came about from my conversation with an expert shooter/printer last week, who pointed out to me that he knew the results he would get with film 100% of the time, and that saved him time and money on the back end by not endlessly spending his time in post processing. OK, that is one guy's view, but a very interesting view.

Please stay ON TOPIC in this thread. We want to help the film newbies here. Troll posts and "why I prefer digital" posts will be deleted from the thread.

Thanks to all for taking part,

Stephen
 
Stand a black and white silver halide print next to an inkjet print. Not necessarily one of your own: preferably pictures at exhibitions or from a manufacturer.

About 10-20% of the time, they'll be hard to tell apart. About 10-20% of the time they'll be so different they're incomparable. The remaining 60-80% of the time, halide just looks better.

Yes, part of this is operator skill, and yes, part of the time, it's down to the fact that many skilled B+W printers have had decades to learn how. I'm in the group that has that experience.

If you don't print 'wet', the main reasons to stick with film are because the kit is cheaper and you don't shoot enough pictures to justify the cost of switching to digital; or because you simply enjoy using it more for whatever reason (including curiosity, using fine machinery, historical continuity, loathing of computers...); or because you want to try processes with a unique 'look' that simply don't exist with digital (especially contact processes amd, effectively, hand colouring). You can fake almost any halide effect digitally, but it won't always be a convincing fake. Take orgasms as a parallel.

Otherwise, shoot digi. Why not? I shoot digi colour and silver halide B&W.

Cheers,

R.
 
Because the tools you use influence your process. In the same way that writing with a pen, a typewriter, and a computer are all still writing - but totally different experiences. You might be able to type astonishingly fast, but you may also enjoy the sensation of writing with a fine fountain pen, or even practising spencerian script with a flexible steel nib.

I only have one digital camera, a Canon rebel I bought five or six years ago. But I have eight or nine film cameras of various types - folders, RFs, SLRs, even a 1920s Ansco box and they each offer their own distinct enjoyment of use.

A similar idea can be applied to films, developers, papers, and processes. If photography is an experience for you, rather than a clinical craft - it's nice to have some variety in your equipment and technique. See how new tools and materials change your approach and consequently effect.

From an Art perspective I appreciate using slide film on a personal level because of the thought that each of my slides is not only unique, but that each slide is a portion of film that was physically present at the location of the shot, and that the very light which touched my subjects whatever they may have been - also touched my slide. It is a sort of authenticity that cannot be matched through prints, film or digital. Might not mean anything to some, but it means a lot to me.
 
Shoot film :
- so that you can use nice gear (brass, chrome, leather)
- more dynamics in color or B/W negatives
- more format to choose from : 6x6, 6x9, ...
- grain looks better than pixels when enlarged

Note : my technique is part film / part digital : I do not mind scanning and I like photoshop better than working in the darkroom.

At my local photoclub, I have shown some prints of scanned medium format pictures (prewar Rolleiflex, 6x9 Speed graphic). It just looked great and nobody questioned my technical choices after that : it is hard (or sometime physically impossible) to achieve the "look" of these pictures even with a top of the line digital camera.
 
Roger's got most of the arguments covered in a single post, as he is known to do more often!

All I can add is my personal choices, and bring in a new reason with that.

The vintage and more modern film camera gear is a joy to use once you have settled on what you like best to handle. Apart from the stuff in my signature I have owned and loved a Leica M2, Leica M6 classic 0.85, Nikkormats, Rolleiflex 2.8F and a Tele-Rolleiflex. The arrival of another joy-to-use camera, the Ricoh GXR, signaled the farewell from those that remained, some had been sold earlier. In medium format, I still own and shoot a Zeiss-Ikon Super Ikonta B and an Ensign.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to develop anything like 'experience' when it comes to creating images with that specific film look, that cannot be created with digital. Sometimes I succeed, often I fail miserably, but the processes of handling film, developing, editing, scanning and post-processing I enjoy greatly.

New reason for shooting film: Occasionally I do a paid assignment. Bringing both a digital and a film camera always inspires awe with at least a number of people present, sparks some interesting conversations and helps to get across that I'm sufficiently professional to actually shoot a fully manual camera and get good results from it. People are interested in taking my business card, keeping in touch and hiring me for a similar assignment. This was specifically true with the Rolleiflexes, I need to add.
 
Because the tools you use influence your process. In the same way that writing with a pen, a typewriter, and a computer are all still writing - but totally different experiences. You might be able to type astonishingly fast, but you may also enjoy the sensation of writing with a fine fountain pen, or even practising spencerian script with a flexible steel nib.

I only have one digital camera, a Canon rebel I bought five or six years ago. But I have eight or nine film cameras of various types - folders, RFs, SLRs, even a 1920s Ansco box and they each offer their own distinct enjoyment of use.

A similar idea can be applied to films, developers, papers, and processes. If photography is an experience for you, rather than a clinical craft - it's nice to have some variety in your equipment and technique. See how new tools and materials change your approach and consequently effect.

From an Art perspective I appreciate using slide film on a personal level because of the thought that each of my slides is not only unique, but that each slide is a portion of film that was physically present at the location of the shot, and that the very light which touched my subjects whatever they may have been - also touched my slide. It is a sort of authenticity that cannot be matched through prints, film or digital. Might not mean anything to some, but it means a lot to me.
Steel? STEEL, dear boy? What's wrong with goose-quill?

On one level, I agree with you completely. Process and equipment matter. You will get different pictures with (say) a 12x15 inch film camera than with a digital cigarette packet, and quite honestly, I'd rather use the film camera.

On another level, some digital cameras are preferable to some film cameras, and I'll get better pictures with them. This is of course a matter of personal taste. But I'd rather have an M9 than a Holga. Or, indeed, pretty much anything rather than a Holga. Why not buy a decent camera such as a Lyubitel?

Cheers,

R.
 
I've often pondered the reasons why I shoot film, and in the end I don't think I can really quantify it; certainly not in a logical manner.
It's a personal reason– I like film, for me it has qualities that digital doesn't have (and no NIK doesn't give you the same look).

Those start with planning the shoot; film selection that is done prior to exposure (choose grainy mono film and your results won't be smooth colour)
Digital has more options and sometimes I feel I get bogged down with the choice and infinite possible combinations.

Film is about selection before execution.

Don't get me wrong I love digital, especially photoshop which if used to compliment the darkroom can enhance film.

I also like the cameras, digital has no equivalent to the Rolleiflex (my camera of choice) or the 8x10 cameras I can't imagine a DSLR user driving 60 miles setting up a camera (mantling a LF camera is a craft in itself) then deciding not to take a shot and just driving home–too much wind or the wrong light...
 
Out if all the photos hanging up on my walls, almost all if them are from film, albeit scanned, but most of my best work to date has been on film, black and white and slide.
 
I've often pondered the reasons why I shoot film, and in the end I don't think I can really quantify it; certainly not in a logical manner.
It's a personal reason– I like film, for me it has qualities that digital doesn't have (and no NIK doesn't give you the same look).

Those start with planning the shoot; film selection that is done prior to exposure (choose grainy mono film and your results won't be smooth colour)
Digital has more options and sometimes I feel I get bogged down with the choice and infinite possible combinations.

Film is about selection before execution.

Don't get me wrong I love digital, especially photoshop which if used to compliment the darkroom can enhance film.

I also like the cameras, digital has no equivalent to the Rolleiflex (my camera of choice) or the 8x10 cameras I can't imagine a DSLR user driving 60 miles setting up a camera (mantling a LF camera is a craft in itself) then deciding not to take a shot and just driving home–too much wind or the wrong light...
Oh, I don't know. He might just think, "Why bother? It'll just be another damn' digi pic anyway."

Note: this is not really OT or 'film vs digi'. It's agreeing with you. Because film offers unique technical opportunities, it also offers unique artistic opportunities: medium and final result are obviously inseparable to a very big extent. Now if I could get a digital scan back for my big Gandolfi...

Cheers,

R.
 
Whilst I appreciate that digital is an evolving art form, film, and in my case black and white in particular has always satisfied my photographic needs. Ok so I now scan my negatives, (digitise them) but I get all I could ask for from film capture and I see no need to change what I see as a fully matured and perfected medium.
 
It just happened to me that somebody I used to love much suddenly popped-up after a 23 years long black-out.

I have hundreds of black and white film photographs of this person, and almost as many as color slides (mainly being Kodachrome...).

All still perfectly stocked in marked crystal paper sheets, folders, and boxes.

So now I'm in the process of slowly digging some pictures out and sharing them with the person.

Opening-up the folders, looking at the negatives and contact sheets, handling the Kodachromes.

Just something which will never exist with digital.

Also the person clearly remembers the German all-mechanical camera I was using then. As I still have it, this was something nice to break the ice and start talking.

This is why I still shoot film. Shooting film creates some physical photographic archives which are an unique source of joy.

I wouldn't imagine sitting in front of a computer with someone to explore any common sentimental iconic material.

My son just spent three weeks in Australia. He carried a DSLR with him and - according to him - shot more than 400 photos. Up to now I haven't seen any of his photos yet...
 
OK, most photogs only shoot digital today. Easier, quicker, instant gratification etc. Yet, for what it does, a lot of people believe they get BETTER results with film and analog printing and they go that extra mile. If you are one of those experienced people, please take the time to write an essay explaining your methods and why you prefer it to digital.

WHY? so others can learn from your techniques, but the biggest reason is to arouse the curiosity of digital shooters who have little or no film experience and don't know what they are missing.

This thread came about from my conversation with an expert shooter/printer last week, who pointed out to me that he knew the results he would get with film 100% of the time, and that saved him time and money on the back end by not endlessly spending his time in post processing. OK, that is one guy's view, but a very interesting view.

Please stay ON TOPIC in this thread. We want to help the film newbies here. Troll posts and "why I prefer digital" posts will be deleted from the thread.

Thanks to all for taking part,

Stephen

Ah, yes....well, for me as an ex-HD biker, it was always about enjoying the ride not so much the destination. The same with film as the process is the most important part for me along with the gear which has that charisma and lasting quality that only a 60 year old M3 or similar gear (Nikon F2/Fe2, etc.) can give with the knowledge that I can hand it down to my grandchildren and they can continue using them.

Although I shoot (and have for 15 years) far more with digital cameras than film cameras, I prefer film cameras, the experience and the process and the final pictures a lot more for a lot of reasons. It is much more satisfying than digital photography but I find that both complement each other as different tools for different tasks.:angel:

Film photography enrichens the experience. It is the nectar from which I feed in the blossoms of photographic life.


Why on earth would anyone NOT try film photography?
 
I shoot film because I can :p

Basically, I enjoy it. Got a decent digital with good lenses, but enjoy messing with medium-format gear - even if it's flawed (Kiev) or ancient (Rolleiflex).

Processing black and white film is also enjoyable/therapeutic and keeps me out of trouble.
 
I've been shooting and developing film going on 37 years and for me it's the process that keeps me doing it...I truly enjoy developing both film and prints...there's something about pulling the film out of the developing tank and sneaking a peak at the first few frames...(and a mental high-five for getting it right) then there's working in the darkroom...seeing the image pull up...making adjustments to your exposure and watching it again...yeah, it can be slow but so what...I'm not making hundreds of copies just a few and the time spent doing it by hand gives me satisfaction of a job well done...
I recently participated in the RFF 3 Postcard exchange and of the 35+ postcards that traveled the world mine was the only one printed in a darkroom...am I bragging, no just showing you that I enjoy it that much...it was worth doing by hand...and yes I do know that most people won't know the difference but I do...
Another plus is that I get to use some really neat old cameras with lenses you just don't see everyday...yes there are adapters so you can mount them on your fancy digital cameras but it just doesn't feel the same.
I believe what I learned many years ago was this...in high school you had one hour in your Photo class to either shoot a roll, develop a roll or make some prints...what you couldn't do today had to wait for the next day...if you did it wrong then you had to start all over again...that taught me to get it right the first time (or as close to right as possible)...if you didn't want to waste your time you had to really think before tripping the shutter, pouring out the developer or pushing the button on the enlarger timer...
 
I reluctantly made the switch to digital. But when I used film these were my reasons.

Assuming you already have a film camera and scanner, film is cheaper. With digital you're paying all the costs of film and development up front. For example the budget Leica M-E is $5,500. A roll of Portra 400 with 36 frames is $7 + $8 for develop, cut & sleeve at Duggal. So pro film processed at a pro lab is $15 for 36 shots. That's 13,176 shots in film to equate to the price of a digital Leica. That's a lot of photos. Depending on how much you photograph you can probably save yourself money by sticking to film.

Film is tangible. I don't think you can put a value on holding your photographs. You also never have to worry about backing up your photos as you will always have a physical copy. If you're an artistic photographer I think having physical negatives can increase the perceived value of your work.

There's no deleting photos. I never delete photos as I work but some people do and I think that's a mistake, because you never really know what you have until you enlarge it and take a good look. Also my first job was at a nightlife magazine and I spent 4 nights a week in bars and clubs photographing drunk people. And women were always asking to see a photo I took which really slowed me down and occasionally asking me to delete photos which was extremely annoying. Even after I had purchased an M8 to relive myself from the hours spent scanning my negs, I still continued to use my M7 because it was easier to scan negs than deal with the "let me see!" or "delete that." requests. All I would do was show them the rear of my camera and said sorry, it's film. It made my life/job easier.

Film was just more fun to use. To load it, shoot it, cock the shutter. The feel of the mechanics in my hand is something I really miss about working with film. When I was in college working the darkroom was great too. As I moved into working as a professional I ended up dropping my film off at a lab.
 
This a question I have been asking myself quite a bit these days. Mostly because other people ask me why. But also because in some ways it's a little out of character as I love the latest technology. I was raised on film and learned to develop B/W when I was 12 years old during art class at school. Since that time I have always taken photographs and until the advent of 'digital', I had always maintained a darkroom of sorts. As a teenager, soon as I could scratch enough money together for a decent camera, I bought a second hand OM1 (which I have only now refurbished). That was joined later by a Mamiya 645 and that was that until I updated to a Canon eos 50. But by this stage my love for photography had waned. I was doing the odd wedding to make ends meet and the pressure (I don't know how they do it day in day out) and dealing with the people on the day just drained the joy of photography out of me. I was no longer taking images for the love of it.


Then the digital age arrived. I was by then working on some computer based training projects and the 3.3 mp Sony camera I purchased ($2000) was a revelation! The ability to know that I 'had the shot' and the fact I could go straight to computer and insert without scanning saved hours. I was hooked. Then Canon released the 300D and the DSLR was at last affordable. From this point on my love for photography grew again. That 300D became a 20D and now a 7D (which I use for sport exclusively).


Now some time about 7 years ago (?) I decided to buy a voigtlander rangefinder. From memory I can't even think why. Maybe the 'look'. Maybe a chance to revive my old film skills. I'm not sure. That started my journey the full circle back to film. So it could be argued that digital helped regain my lost love and now I maintain it with film.


So to answer the question. Like many have said already, I do think it 'looks' different. In my eyes, better. I do see more dynamic range in the medium format and after scanning a nicer 'pixel'. The pixels at 100% from my 7D look terrible (though the OMD looks much better). I am aware though that it just might be my perception and I probably fail just as often as anyone else when somebody posts two images and asks which one is the film and which is digital. Yet this isn't the real reason.


It was the immediacy of digital that reignited my love of photography yet it is the film 'process' and all it entails that keeps my shooting daily. If I need an image quick or it's for work, I shoot digital and get the job done. Clinical and efficient. But for the art form, I love the many levels of producing an image - using a beautiful piece of machinery, taking a picture, developing the film and then observing and sharing the results. It seems that each image has so much more invested in it and I somehow can 'see' that in the image.


I enjoy the satisfaction that comes from using the skills that I learned so long ago and that are now rarely found. In fact I get any people asking if I can teach them. I am currently building a darkroom and cannot wait for the next process of printing again as I have never been really impressed with digital printing. It will further add to that 'investment' in the final product that gives it much more value for me.


So for me, it's as much about the process as the 'look'. I doubt whether I would shoot film at all if I didn't also develop the films myself. For me that is just as much fun.
 
For me it is a) I am used to use Film b) like the look of film more including all its limitations c) can't bring myself to spend large amounts of money to buy something that doesn't do anything more than emulating what I can do with film (there are some technical advantages in digital imaging like resolution or flatness of the recording media but not much relevant for what I want to do)

That said, using film is otherwise simply enjoying the process of creating a picture without touching a computer at all ( scanning aside ...). I spend hours in front of a screen every day, use high-end scientific devices so the pure joy of using imperfect and sometimes unpredictable processes is a good change from my job. Also, I prefer to show or give others a print made by myself in a make-shift darkroom.
 
I cannot write an essay on the topic. I just know that I like using film:

1. I like developing BW film.
2. I like the wait factor of film. Digital is instantaneous. Anticipation of film at a later date is fun.
 
Stand a black and white silver halide print next to an inkjet print. Not necessarily one of your own: preferably pictures at exhibitions or from a manufacturer.

About 10-20% of the time, they'll be hard to tell apart. About 10-20% of the time they'll be so different they're incomparable. The remaining 60-80% of the time, halide just looks better.

Last time I checked the blacks of inkjets weren't even remotely comparable to a gelatin silver print. Look at any typical glossy fiber silver print and tell me inkjet is comparable to that. No f'ing way!
 
For the most part my film work is B/W. I like working on a project using film because I can organize it better with proof sheets and can see the project develop over time by using he proof sheets. I know that you print proofs with digital as well, but when I have attempted that I have so many more shots and it's hard to get an overall view of what I am working on. For digital it is better to stay on the computer and use a DAM program like iView or Media Pro. But I relate to contact sheets better.

Also by not having immediate feedback of digital I am not distracted by looking at the camera back to check what I have shot. Not checking is hard to resist and by checking your image it breaks concentration and continuity of your relationship to the subject.

I also enjoy doing wet darkroom processing and printing and freeing myself from a computer screen.
 
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