Category Archives: film

Why use film?

Is film better than digital?

There is plenty of acrimony out there in the disagreement between film and digital photographers. There is also plenty of people for whom the medium doesn’t matter in the slightest.

In my case, I feel the need to pontificate, mostly because I can’t help being opinionated and I like to share those opinions. So there.

I think in some ways, film is indeed superior to digital for recording images.

Why? First, the look of a film image is different. The medium as well as the camera and lens combinations lends a more unique look to the images. Digital tends to bring a sameness, a uniformity to the look of an image, as does the processing that follows. True, you can’t tell with some. But overall, there is a difference and with digital, I find you lose something when you lose those unique qualities that film, let alone alternative capture methods, brings. Why else are film based filters so popular for digital shooters?

Not only is there a diminishment in unique qualities, there is also a loss of serendipity, unique results, happy accidents. While you might make mistakes, digital doesn’t have real flaws nor can you induce unknown results by playing with chemicals or processes. And messing about with Photoshop doesn’t count I’m afraid.

Second, there is the process. Film, by nature of it’s scarcity, (as few as 12 shots in a roll let alone single sheets), requires you to slow down, think abut your shots and make them count. Yes, you can do that when you shoot digitally, but how many people do? While the bountiful nature of digital does mean some additional freedom is possible in your approach, how many rely on number of frames versus quality of frames?

Professsionals used to shoot film, they got the shots, and did so without needing to take 5000 images. They also engaged in plenty of experimentation. I think photography has actually lost something with the ease of digital capture. It’s lost people really learning the skills of a photographer in knowing their gear so well, knowing how to create great images in camera, knowing how to get the shot the first time.

Third, digital has led to a lot of people with cameras calling themselves photographers who really don’t know much about photography or even how to really use a camera. Anyone can get lucky shots and if they shoot enough frames maybe quite a few good ones, but it takes more than that to create with intent. And that is the difference. If you count the number of people using digital cameras vs the number of film shooters out there creating images with intent, I think you’ll find they are proportionally a lot smaller the the film camp.

Before you object, I’m not talking about all the pros out there making their living with a digital camera, they are beside the point. I’m talking about everyone else. Pros don’t have as much choice these days as client expectations require digital compliance unless you get some exceptional clients.

Given these points, in many cases I say film is superior to digital and here’s a finger to all those old farts saying “thank God I don’t have to be in a darkroom anymore”. Lazy buggers.

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1st Steps

So I’ve been researching and reading tons of material on photography and business. I have a lot of preparation to do before I can get the business side of things started. My 1st step, before I apply to the small business program is to get my portfolio in order. I need a lot more portraits and the easiest way to do this is get my friends and associates to sit for portraits. Or stand, or whatever. Heck, they can balance on their heads if they like, as long as they let me take their picture.

Since I’m choosing to specialise in natural light fine art portraiture, this will involve a lot of traditional portraiture as well as environmental portraiture. I’m studying up on my lighting, looking at portraits by the masters, both photographers and painters, working on getting my exposures bang on. When you are shooting film, you don’t have the luxury of fixing it in post. Then again, you really should get it right in the camera in the first place regardless of whether you are shooting digital or film. I also have to work on my presentation, making a portrait session a wonderful experience for the sitter, not just a shoot. It’s a collaborative process that ideally ends with great images and was wonderful to participate in for both of us.

And of course, I simply need to shoot, a lot, and make a lot of prints. Standard black and white prints, lith prints, bromoil prints. Whatever suits the mood of the image and highlights best the nature of the person in the portrait.

My goal is to try and get as much complete on my portfolio over the next two months. Then start on the business side of things with getting the business plan in order.

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Why darkrooms matter

I was out wandering about my neighbourhood with a camera this weeked, as I often do. I really appreciated the fact that it was overcast as my old tlr only has a maximum 1/500th shutter speed, so for my shallow depth of field work, this is an ideal condition. And as well, just after the rain, there were lots of things covered in masses of rain drops, always a guarantee of something to photograph.

It had been a little while since I shot with film. While I use both digital and film cameras, I really love shooting film and working in the darkroom the best. Many people I know, who still shoot some film, don’t do any darkroom work at all. I think this is really a shame.

I know there are many people out there who feel a darkroom is a thing of the past and has no relevance anymore. Others feel they are free, no longer having to spend time in one. Others have only ever and will only ever shoot digital. I think the point these people are missing is that learning to print in a darkroom does still matter.

When I speak with people about photography, they often ask about a place to take courses or their cameras and what they would like to do with their photography. I always suggest that they consider giving a film and darkroom course a try. Luckily we have an excellent school here, Langara College, that has a fantastic darkroom and still runs basic photography courses with film. I really believe that this is valuable, even if you only ever shoot digitally afterwards.

Shooting film has so many benefits, especially for someone who is just learning. Learning to shoot manually, where you can’t see what you did right away teaches you to master your camera fully, because if you don’t, you won’t have successful results. It slows things down, and since you only have a limited number of shots, you learn to make them count. You tend to become more selective of what you shoot, and I think end up paying more attention to what is in front of the camera.

And then there is the darkroom. No matter how many times I watch it, it is still a magical thing, seeing that image form from nothing in front of my eyes. But beyond that, unlike sitting in front of a computer screen, being in the darkroom really makes you part of the creative process, in the physical sense of things. There’s a satisfaction that I don’t find is there when sitting in front of a computer, of having made something with your own hands, where you are physically creating this image, not just pressing a mouse and watching the computer do everything.

I think there’s a disconnect, when it comes to technology, that disappears when you physically create and process an image. There is also the ability to experiment hands on, see what happens when you do ……..It is a chance to play, to become part of the process. And there is nothing like the satisfaction of being able to say I made this.

That’s why I always suggest to people to take a chance and get their hands on an old film camera, which is cheap these days, and go take a film photography/darkroom course. You may decide this isn’t for you in the long run, but you have had the experience to fully make that decision from an educated position and you might even have had fun anyways.

But don’t just take my word for it. Freestyle Photographic Supplies is not only an excellent place to purchase supplies, but is committed to traditional black and white photography. They have published on their site opinions from many photographic educators that they work with on why darkrooms do still matter.
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