Shooting Film

August 04, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

This is not a blog about Film VS Digital – there are already too many of those and people tend to have fairly polarized opinions about which are better.  Rather, this is about the workflow of film and why it may be a compelling alternative to shooting digital.   

First and most obviously, when you shoot film you will not see the result until you have it developed and probably scanned.  What that means is that while you are shooting you can focus on the photography rather than being distracted by looking at the images you just took on the back of your digital camera.  Also, opportunities for interesting fleeting images are most likely going to be lost while you are fiddling with the settings of your digital camera most of which have more settings and options than the instrument panel in the space shuttle.

Second, the “Spray and Pray” mentality that is all too common with digital photography often results in you coming home with 600 images that are largely the same and much time is spent in heavy culling and editing of all those images.   With film you know you only have 36, 24, 10 or even just 1 chance, depending on the type of film you shot, so there is a natural tendency to slow things down a little and ensure everything is better composed and checked before pushing the trigger.   By slowing things down you are given an opportunity to think about what you are trying to do with your work rather than just shooting everything in site and hoping for the best.

Third, people like to point out that shooting film is expensive as you often have to send away your film for processing and scanning especially if you are shooting slide film.  They also say that with digital your costs are the same no matter how many pictures you take so you may as well fire away.  It is true that developing film is expensive but digital camera bodies are very expensive and most of the serious photographers I know always seem to have the latest version Canon or Nikon digital bodies.  And, if you try and sell a digital camera that are more than a few years old you find out pretty quick that the Nikon D4 you paid $6,500 for 5 years ago will not fetch you $1,000 on eBay.  Ken Rockwell aptly refers to this phenomenon as digital rot and if you start to look at the actual cost of you digital camera bodies you will soon discover that you can use an awful lot of film for the money you spend on cameras.  The other interesting thing about film cameras is that you can buy amazing gear on eBay for a fraction of the cost of a new digital camera making the numbers even more attractive.

So am I a film addict and do I shoot nothing but film?  Actually no, I shoot both film and digital but for different purposes and interestingly enough I find that shooting film has made me much more critical about how I shoot digitally.  I find that many of the good habits I develop shooting with film are rubbing off on my digital work which is a good thing as Martha Stewart would say.


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