General Photography DiscussionWould You, Or Do you, Or Have You Returned to (Or Never Left) FILM?

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Charles Haacker
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Would You, Or Do you, Or Have You Returned to (Or Never Left) FILM?

Postby Charles Haacker » Wed May 24, 2017 6:39 pm

I came across this link someplace or other: Why You Should Really Consider Having Your Wedding Photographed on Real Film. It got me thinking, Why in the World Would You? As client, or photographer? (Incidentally, I DO NOT intend to start an argument or (heaven forfend) a flame war, I am just curious.)

I'll state my personal position: NO. Never. Not never not nohow. I still have film cameras, but only for nostalgia about what a pain in the *** they were.

I have seen reams written on this subject since I started getting involved in online forae. There remains a very dedicated analog school of thought. The basic principle is that film is not only different from digital, it is better. The color is better. The monochrome is better. The grain is better, sharpness, depth, so on and so forth.

My thinking is that analog almost certainly remained superior to digital for quite some period of time after digital appeared in the early 1990's. By 1994, though (ironically the year our business went under and I hung up my guns), Nikon, Kodak, and the AP collaborated to produce a $17,000, 1.3 MP professional camera that went to a blazing ISO 1600. The scramble was on, particularly among press photographers. I met a chief photographer whose paper had gone all digital in '95. The first $pendy, clunky consumer cameras were already on the market. The guy said, "If you ever try digital you will never look back." But a 1997 Sony Mavica was $700 new, well over $1,000 in today's dollars, and the Mavica was not considered even good enough to go head to head with a $10 disposable at the time. :S It was an expensive toy for bragging rights.

But by 1998 our son was going to Poland as an exchange student and he had to have a half-decent camera. We splurged and bought him a CANON PowerShot A5, about $400 then, about $600 now. We got him the biggest memory thingie we could afford and it was another $200, but he returned with hundreds of pictures he had made in his travels around Poland and the rest of Europe. (Hm. Where are they now?) Nine years later the megapixels were up and the prices were waaaay down, which was when I got my first tiny pack-of-cards Nikon L-12. The guy who told me I would never look back was SO right! I could do things with that camera I simply could never have done with any film camera, certainly not hand-held wandering around a mixed-light, dimly lit museum, say.

SO, in my really humble opinion, today's digital cameras are superior to film. Far Superior, period. I can write all day why but I won't. The main thing is that I would not dream of returning to those thrilling (??) days of yesteryear. For the co$t alone! :D [Discuss...]
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Re: Would You, Or Do you, Or Have You Returned to (Or Never Left) FILM?

Postby LindaShorey » Wed May 24, 2017 7:36 pm

Sometimes I feel that digital has made me lazy regarding careful composition and exposure (actually, shooting raw has made me lazier about exposure - ha). But then I have to temper the thought about lazy by comparing where I am today vs. 20 - 25 years ago when I was soooo into black & white film photography, and later, slides.

I just love being out in nature and photography is part of that joy! I love to lose myself in right brain emotion of the moment and in that, hopefully bring home something on the card that represents what I saw and felt. I tried "working the scene" when I took a couple of online fine art photography classes. Flunked that part big time :)

I have a great many right place/right time images that I truly love, and a lot of experiences where I started to feel overwhelmed by possibilities when I spent a lot of time in one area or on one subject and ended up with nothing.

I chuckled over your "you'll never go back" quote, because that's what Charter Communications told me when I "tried out" a DVR after using a VCR for a decade or more :)

A great topic for discussion, Chuck. Thank you!
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Re: Would You, Or Do you, Or Have You Returned to (Or Never Left) FILM?

Postby Ceropegia » Wed May 24, 2017 10:20 pm

On the theory that one should never say never, I'll simply say I seriously doubt I will return to film (although getting out my childhood Spartus did call to me for a brief nostalgic moment). I'm too impatient, I want to know what I captured. In film days as soon as I finished a roll, unless I was on vacation, I took it in for one hour processing, fingers crossed that I actually managed to get decent images of things important enough to me that I photo'd them. I do not want to run out of film at inopportune times or ration what I shoot to avoid that occurring. I do not like deciding what film type or speed to use then finding myself in situations such as having to finish off a roll of high speed film in normal light when I have taken all the photos I need at high speed. I do not want to have to return prints for reprocessing because the processing was poor, a particular problem with high contrast images. I do not want to incur the cost in film and processing that would be necessary to equal the number of images I can produce for the cost of one memory card and one battery. I do have to agree with Linda though, in general, digital has made me less careful about what and how I shoot. But I am not sure, all things considered, that is necessarily a bad thing. With instant review, I have the opportunity to rethink how to take a shot (assuming it wasn't a fast moving/disappearing object that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to capture at all).
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Re: Would You, Or Do you, Or Have You Returned to (Or Never Left) FILM?

Postby Didereaux » Wed May 24, 2017 10:31 pm

As you know I recently shot a couple rolls of BW film in an old Nikon. It just felt good! That is the intangible thing about film, or for any other manual oriented endeavor, If you have some feel, some sweat equity, some thought in it then it becomes more valuable, and way more memorable. I think those are the factors that get left out of the arguments over film vs digital. If you are only after transient snapshots for social media or such I give my unequivocal yes on digital. If you are going to print the pictures then the two are equal, or maybe digital now has the advantage ( I go with digital on this one). If you are taking pictures for posterity i,e, grandchildren and later then film and printing has a verifiable track record. Digital unless you transfer it onto.inpt the latest greatest format/storage then it is lost forever. It is pur BS when anyone says nothing ever disappears from the digital universe. Just as you ask yourself 'I wonder where they are?' regarding your sons snapshots you have exampled the fate of 99.99% of all digital photos. Yet, I cn go into a drawer and look at photos my aunts, uncles, and grandparents took with their Brownies almost a hundred years ago, and I am not the re case this is a fact for a large percentage of the population...unfortunately most are so dumb they support the idea of family digital photos. Oh they are on DVD and will last forever! yeah, right, Wonder how many old 5 1/2 floppies and drives are still lying around. No, digital is not the sole answer, not the end all, be all. It is merely another limited tool/toy. that some put way too much confidence in. How 'bout that for a soap box derby!!!! LOL
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Re: Would You, Or Do you, Or Have You Returned to (Or Never Left) FILM?

Postby Duck » Wed May 24, 2017 11:20 pm

The first thing I notice is that the article 'interviews' a single wedding photographer whose 'gimmick' is offering film based images as part of his wedding package. This obviously is not an impartial opinion or a unbiased overview of a coming trend. It actually comes across as a soft sell for his services.

Unfortunately, film has been demoted to "artistic" status, a quaint reminder of long ago technology our parents saw as an everyday thing. Sadly the millennial's desires to "going retro" has further pushed film as that 'hipster' thing to do. Nothing like taking something as ubiquitous as shooting film and stuffing it into a narrow, almost negative, category. Capitalizing on the fact a wedding can be shot on film is actually a brilliant idea. Specially since all the cellphone photographers can never compete against that.

There are several quotes from the photographer made about using film that are rather absurd and definitely made as a selling point to the uninitiated.

"Film just looks better. The colors are much more authentic and real, and the image has a more grounded look to it. Also, the cool factor of the grain that you get from film is hard to replicate with a computer (believe me, I've tried!)."

I know digital photographers who purposely give their images a 'retro film look' because that is what they cut their teeth on back in the day. Heck, there are tons of 'retro' filters and Photoshop actions to replicate just about any type of film. Besides, most people could care less. The same goes about the "cool factor" of image grain. I thought that grain comment was rather cute. I almost laughed if it wasn't so ridiculous.

The other comment I thought was also ridiculous was this one;

"Instead of rapid firing to get 15 similar digital images, with film I wait for the perfect moment and 'click,' I've got it. By being forced to slow down, I believe the images that are created are truer to the moment."

This statement is pure propaganda. Any professional photographer (unless they subscribe to the 'spray and pray' philosophy), shooting film or digital, is about actively seeking that true moment and the number of frames required to capture that moment does not correlate to the media being used. If it takes 3 shots to get a garter toss it takes 3 shots, period. It's not as if shooting with film one would say, "hmm, I better not waste three frames on a garter toss. I'll just use one." My feeling is that 15 to one ratio he mentions comes from someone who's never really shot a wedding on film. Yes, shooting digital has freed us to be able to take additional images (just in case) but they are not because shooting on film you would otherwise somehow not get the shot.

As for returning to film? Absolutely! As a self indulgent act of reminding me of 'simpler times', and because I can. Not because it's better on some anachronistic level, but because I enjoy it. I recently bought an old Graflex Speed Graphic Pacemaker that's several years older than me. Again, not because I need it or because it has some awesome powers my digital camera doesn't, but because I know how to use it and it makes me happy. Will it replace my digital cameras in the studio or in the field? Absolutely not. Specially for any client work. Heck, I even have my old Canon AE-1 Program cameras, lenses and all, should I want them. Right now, larger formats have more appeal to me than 35mm. 4x5 will fill that desire for now.

Using film and printing from film is now a status thing. We understand how difficult that task is because we all know that the Fotomats are all gone and photographers shooting film today are processing and printing these things in small batches by hand. It's relegated to the 'art scene' on the same level as painters and sculptors creating art by hand. That's a good thing.
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Re: Would You, Or Do you, Or Have You Returned to (Or Never Left) FILM?

Postby Duck » Wed May 24, 2017 11:41 pm

Ceropegia wrote:On the theory that one should never say never, I'll simply say I seriously doubt I will return to film [...] I'm too impatient, I want to know what I captured. In film days as soon as I finished a roll, unless I was on vacation, I took it in for one hour processing, fingers crossed that I actually managed to get decent images of things important enough to me that I photo'd them. I do not want to run out of film at inopportune times or ration what I shoot to avoid that occurring. I do not like deciding what film type or speed to use then finding myself in situations such as having to finish off a roll of high speed film in normal light when I have taken all the photos I need at high speed. I do not want to have to return prints for reprocessing because the processing was poor, a particular problem with high contrast images. I do not want to incur the cost in film and processing that would be necessary to equal the number of images I can produce for the cost of one memory card and one battery. [...]

I can sympathize with your desires to not returning to film but you are comparing what used to be with analog to what is with digital. To return to film today you have to place it into modern context. Film is a great medium to use, explore and appreciate but it will never return to the one hour fotomats of yesteryear. A modern photographer would not return to film because of all the things a digital camera CAN offer. No way, no how. One would return to film for qualities a digital camera CAN'T offer. Yes, the slower pace is part of it, but the handcraftsmanship of the process is probably the biggest part for most analog photographers. At least to most who work in large format that I talk to.
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Re: Would You, Or Do you, Or Have You Returned to (Or Never Left) FILM?

Postby Duck » Wed May 24, 2017 11:49 pm

Didereaux wrote:[...]If you are taking pictures for posterity i,e, grandchildren and later then film and printing has a verifiable track record. Digital unless you transfer it onto.inpt the latest greatest format/storage then it is lost forever.[...]

Alas, I have to say that I have rolls and rolls of film lost forever because of circumstances in my life (mostly moving from place to place in my youth) that I'll never get back. Of all those rolls of film I only have a handful of prints. While it is easier to lose digital files (as opposed to tangible strips of film) is is just as easy to ensure they don't get lost (if not easier now we have cloud storage). In your comparison you unfairly compared prints preserved in a drawer to digital files stored on a computer. If I were to print from a digital file and stuffed those prints into the same drawer with your analog prints, they would then be on equal terms. If you've equated the CD to the shoebox full of cellophane strips, then you'd have a better argument. ;)

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Re: Would You, Or Do you, Or Have You Returned to (Or Never Left) FILM?

Postby Charles Haacker » Thu May 25, 2017 2:36 am

LindaShorey wrote:Sometimes I feel that digital has made me lazy regarding careful composition and exposure (actually, shooting raw has made me lazier about exposure - ha). But then I have to temper the thought about lazy by comparing where I am today vs. 20 - 25 years ago when I was soooo into black & white film photography, and later, slides.

I just love being out in nature and photography is part of that joy! I love to lose myself in right brain emotion of the moment and in that, hopefully bring home something on the card that represents what I saw and felt. I tried "working the scene" when I took a couple of online fine art photography classes. Flunked that part big time :)

I have a great many right place/right time images that I truly love, and a lot of experiences where I started to feel overwhelmed by possibilities when I spent a lot of time in one area or on one subject and ended up with nothing.

I chuckled over your "you'll never go back" quote, because that's what Charter Communications told me when I "tried out" a DVR after using a VCR for a decade or more :)

A great topic for discussion, Chuck. Thank you!

I don't see you as one bit lazy! To me, one of the biggest advantages to digital is that it allows us to explore the possibilities without having to think about the costs, "working the scene." Years ago they ("they") urged us to shoot! Shoot! Shoot more! But for most of us that was a little $pendy to say the least. I'm sure I never shot as much as I should have until I turned pro with a studio. Then every job was part of the learning experience. Pretty much everything I know now I learned on the job. I suspect that you don't actually "end up with nothing." There's more there than meets the eye. It's a reason to keep all but the worst clinkers. It costs little to store any more and there may be diamonds in the rough that you just haven't found yet. :|
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Re: Would You, Or Do you, Or Have You Returned to (Or Never Left) FILM?

Postby Charles Haacker » Thu May 25, 2017 2:48 am

Ceropegia wrote:On the theory that one should never say never, I'll simply say I seriously doubt I will return to film (although getting out my childhood Spartus did call to me for a brief nostalgic moment). I'm too impatient, I want to know what I captured. In film days as soon as I finished a roll, unless I was on vacation, I took it in for one hour processing, fingers crossed that I actually managed to get decent images of things important enough to me that I photo'd them. I do not want to run out of film at inopportune times or ration what I shoot to avoid that occurring. I do not like deciding what film type or speed to use then finding myself in situations such as having to finish off a roll of high speed film in normal light when I have taken all the photos I need at high speed. I do not want to have to return prints for reprocessing because the processing was poor, a particular problem with high contrast images. I do not want to incur the cost in film and processing that would be necessary to equal the number of images I can produce for the cost of one memory card and one battery. I do have to agree with Linda though, in general, digital has made me less careful about what and how I shoot. But I am not sure, all things considered, that is necessarily a bad thing. With instant review, I have the opportunity to rethink how to take a shot (assuming it wasn't a fast moving/disappearing object that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to capture at all).

Everyone is impatient. Dr. Land was such a success with his Polaroid Land Camera precisely because people wanted to see it now. It's also the reason for the success of one-hour processing. At one point pretty much every drug and grocery store had a 1-hour lab.

You've also touched on another advantage I think digital has over film: the pain of having 9 exposures on a roll of 36 but it's the wrong speed for something else, or it's B&W but you want color, or it's tungsten and you need daylight. It was sometimes possible to back the roll out carefully and Sharpie it with the last number, but that are best was a nuisance and at worst led to doubling over and ruining two sets of images.

Has digital made us lazy, careless, shoot-anything-sure-why-not slobs? I say no. As you said, you can, for most subjects, check it and reshoot it rather than discover to your chagrin days later that you blew it. :(
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Re: Would You, Or Do you, Or Have You Returned to (Or Never Left) FILM?

Postby Charles Haacker » Thu May 25, 2017 3:12 am

Didereaux wrote:As you know I recently shot a couple rolls of BW film in an old Nikon. It just felt good! That is the intangible thing about film, or for any other manual oriented endeavor, If you have some feel, some sweat equity, some thought in it then it becomes more valuable, and way more memorable. I think those are the factors that get left out of the arguments over film vs digital. If you are only after transient snapshots for social media or such I give my unequivocal yes on digital. If you are going to print the pictures then the two are equal, or maybe digital now has the advantage ( I go with digital on this one). If you are taking pictures for posterity i,e, grandchildren and later then film and printing has a verifiable track record. Digital unless you transfer it onto.inpt the latest greatest format/storage then it is lost forever. It is pur BS when anyone says nothing ever disappears from the digital universe. Just as you ask yourself 'I wonder where they are?' regarding your sons snapshots you have exampled the fate of 99.99% of all digital photos. Yet, I cn go into a drawer and look at photos my aunts, uncles, and grandparents took with their Brownies almost a hundred years ago, and I am not the re case this is a fact for a large percentage of the population...unfortunately most are so dumb they support the idea of family digital photos. Oh they are on DVD and will last forever! yeah, right, Wonder how many old 5 1/2 floppies and drives are still lying around. No, digital is not the sole answer, not the end all, be all. It is merely another limited tool/toy. that some put way too much confidence in. How 'bout that for a soap box derby!!!! LOL

Monte, as soon as I submitted the post I realized, Oh Gosh, Monte Just Got A Nikon F2! :oops:

I also often fret about the transitory nature of digital. I rarely print anything. Since 2007 pretty much my entire body of work exists solely in bits and bytes. It's backed up, but in more bits and bytes on multiple drives and/or the Cloud, which is just as amorphous as it sounds, and all of it can be wiped out by a solar storm. CD's and DVD's are now known to delaminate and corrupt. I long ago ditched all my floppies, which brings us to the issue of constant, rapid change of technology. Today's gold standard is tomorrow's "Hey, remember floppies?" :lol: But on the other hand, moth and rust have always corrupted. Improperly fixed prints will fade. On acid paper they will fade. Exposed to UV they will fade. When our studio sank we entrusted all the negative files to a large commercial studio in town. They had been in business for 30-odd years. They failed. The negatives? Who knows. Most were my predecessor's, portraits and weddings going back to the 1950's. When we moved from California to Wisconsin many of our personal negatives and slides wandered off. Every time we moved we lost more. I have photo albums I did before I turned pro. I've been scanning the pictures (that's where all Daphne's are coming from) because the negatives are long gone, and there are gaping gaps in the record anyway. All 16 years we had the studio are not documented at all---too busy making pictures for pay to make any for fun.

So your point is well taken, but ultimately ain't nothin' really permanent. (Jeepers, speakin' of soap box...) :(
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
(I prefer to present pictures in albums because I can put them in specific order.)

All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|


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