Film vs. Digital . . . . good bye digital. . .

Well, I’m going back to film.

I’ve had enough of digital.

We had a good run together.

But it’s over.

I’m going back to tried and true film; both medium format and 5×4 or 4×5 depending on where you are.

I’ve run the tests and I can’t see any advantage anymore to digital beside speed and I don’t want to be know as a “speedy” photographer. As well, I feel both photographers and the creatives that work with them have become lazy, very lazy. Gone are the days when you might shoot 40 or 50 rolls of 120 in a day. Now it’s not uncommon for clients to be looking at thousands of images from a multiple day shoot.

Remember Polaroids? You would shot a couple maybe per set up to show the client and creatives, then they would let you play with it from there; cover that off and then let your own creativity go and paint your own scene. Now they want to see almost every frame you shoot, just so you don’t veer too far from “their” original brief. Hold on though, isn’t that why we were hired in the first place because we are creatives ourselves and bring something of our own to the table? Has digital given them and us too much information? Are we processing all these visuals and coming up with better ideas on the fly? NO, we’re looking at the backs of cameras so we know we have covered off the needed and the client doesn’t give us shit. That doesn’t really breed creativity in my books. Well now they get to see just the Polaroids with me.

So I’ve got myself a decent little 5×4 hand holdable camera and a 6×7 medium format and I will be using this from now on. All my digital equipment is going up for sale. I’m covering off most of my usual focal lengths in medium format and just a couple on the larger sheet film. Film is just giving that warmer glow; that internal glow and feeling that digital lacks. It becomes a smoothness, both leading from the transition in tones to the actual grain. The grain on film is long imitated but never replicated. And the tones just act smoother when going from the burnt out highlights to those deep endless black shadows that always prove to be the bane of digital photographers.

Here is a 6×7 image.

As you can see, the tones moving from the highlights, down down down into the deep shadows on the right hold their own. The colour is accurate without being cartoon like. The contrast is pleasing without being so crunchy that you start to block up in the shadows and blow the highlights to the moon. You can feel the texture in the flaking paint on the walls. The skin tone is bang on.

I just don’t see the use for digital anymore.

Please feel free to comment.

btw 😉 😉

wink wink

19 Responses to “Film vs. Digital . . . . good bye digital. . .”

  1. Brendan says:

    I loved shooting the Hasselblad 503 but for work (my work) digital wins.

  2. Peter Wilson says:

    Interesting Robb,

    I was at a friend’s wedding recently, very understated, but without doubt the most stylish wedding I’ve ever attended. Lots of little touches that were easy to miss, but there, told someone with an eye for detail that much thought had gone into the whole day.

    I knew something was afoot when I arrived at the church, the photographer (and I know how much respect you have for wedding photography) was moving round the church ground taking candid shots of the guests. With a well worn Hasselblad. And he appeared to be winding it on between shots, surely some mistake?

    I’ve seen the proofs, they are simply stunning, both colour shots and the atmospheric B&W shots taken at the bride’s house and during the reception. The detail, textures and tones stood out as different, stunning.

    As an aside, I don’t know if you remember the girl I brought to your exhibition at the Arts Centre in Lisburn? She was a photographer, studied in London, worked in the arts, got disillusioned, became a nurse. She also loved film – the first time I opened her fridge I was surprised to find it full of film. Her take on digital was interesting – anybody can fire off 200 frames, pick the ‘best’ and then Photoshop it to death. To get a truly good result with film you need to know what you are doing. And you only get one chance.

    So, here’s to success, and to clients with the insight to see the difference.

  3. Mom says:

    I know–I’m a complete amateur. But I do think that I know good pics and what I want to see in my own stuff. I agree with you about the quality of film shots. The colour and contrast that I would get on film was so much better than the pics now–of course, I don’t Photo shop them.

  4. CallumW says:

    How does m/f digital compare to film?

    Must be a lot closer in quality than 35mm?
    Best of both worlds?


    • admin says:

      The thing with MF digital is that it isn’t really. There are only a few sensors that are even close to the lower range of MF at 56mm x 40mm or so. Even the new IQ180 from Phase is only 54×40; yes it might give you ridiculous resolution but at that high number, who really needs it? I’m looking for a nice full frame 6×7 or 6×8 with around 30-50 mp. That’s all I really need. I don’t need the high resolution, just the feel of the lenses vs. the film size of a real MF.
      Remember when Contax brought out the first mass produced FF 35mm? Even at 6mp the advantages back then (2001) of a FF digital camera would/should have outweighed the resolution.

  5. Xavier Comas says:

    Digital has liberated us from the medium itself. Now we create images. It is about the message. It doesn’t matter film or digital, it is the photographer’s attitude what really matters. Digital doesn’t undermines the creativity, it is the photographer who undermines it by using a tool on the wrong way. 6X7 or 4X5 cameras don’t make your photographs better. Your eye, your sensibility and your talent makes them better. What does the speed or the warmer glow of film have to do with creativity? It is a mere technical factor. Many people think that they will get great artistic pictures by shooting with film o large format cameras, they have a blind faith on the traditional medium. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable with digital then better use film, but that is different from saying that digital itself is an inferior medium or less real. I use both film and digital and to be honest, I find film to be easier.
    Now, if you want to talk about drawbacks, everyone is scanning negatives and slides to convert film into digital. The quality of your photo ultimately relies on the quality of the scanner you use. It can be very frustrating when comparing slide film with scans. With digital you can’t compare. It is a first generation image.

  6. admin says:

    Good little discussion so far.
    Xavier I do think film allows the photographer to be more creative in camera, as far as the timeline is concerned.
    I’m comfortable with both, myself, but I do feel the pressure from the clients to lean on the shutter release more to give them more options.
    Why more options? Because they and possibly the creatives behind them, don’t really know what they want.
    “Shoot them all and we’ll sort them out later.” How many times on an advertising shoot, for a specific media, have you been asked to shoot it landscape even though the layout shows portrait or vice versa. Hmmmm.
    Do you think they really know? Do they know where they are going to use it? Have they even spoken to you about other usage for other media?
    I could go on but I think you get the picture.

    thanks for the great comment.

    • Xavier Comas says:

      To Admin:

      Thank you for your reply to my comments. I was graphic designers for many years and the picture is not different. Clients have become more and more demanding, deadlines and budgets more tight than ever. This is exactly what is happening with commercial photography. But it doesn’t have anything to do with digital vs. film medium. It is a global trend due to the liberal capitalism and the so called globalization, affecting many other industries where more and faster is better. Regarding photography, clients don’t really care about film or digital, they just want productivity, speed and profit all at low cost. If you are into commercial photography your are obviously being pushed to use digital because its faster and convenient workflow. The reason why the creative aspect of work is being undermined lies on your clients demands and the peculiarities of the professional relationship you have with them. It is not due to the nature of your medium. Your clients are the reason why your creativity is disabled. In other words, the use of digital or film is rather a personal choice and in both cases creativity, the ideas, the inspiration behind the process remain the same. The problem is commercial photography and clients. That is why I do myself only personal photography projects and happily use digital 😉
      Please have a look at my last project and let me know if you think that it lacks of creativity. I would love to hear your comments:

      • admin says:

        It all looks great Xavier. I love the use of the shadows and highlights to reveal your subject’s emotion. Some very cool stuff. Curious about the two colour images; what was your feelings behind including them with all the b&w’s? Is the show printed in silver or is it giclee? Good luck with it .

  7. John MacLean says:

    Hey Rob,

    Regarding the scanned 6×7 of you, I immediately thought the skin on your face appeared kind of flat. It looked like you used the burn tool in PS to take down an overexposure, but hey you just wanted opinions, and you know what they say about those.

    If your clients are cool with the time and expense of shooting, processing and scanning film, and you’re happier with the process and results, then knock yourself out. Personally I find that film had it’s place and digital is the next step in the evolution of imaging. I’m happy I’m alive during this time, but I don’t look back with envy to return to the good old days.

    Here’s my tribute to film:

    • admin says:

      Heya John, no burn tools were used in the making of the image.
      I will keep you posted in regards to the big film project coming up. My main problem is turn around, well not so much a problem as an extended timeline for the project. The lab only runs c41 on Tuesdays so outside of Polaroids, you don’t really have an idea of the shoot until it could be a week or so later.

  8. Hi Rob….

    We met at Mike Larsons thing with the California sun bounce at your studio…

    Very interested in your post about Film V Digital and I can appreciate the draw back to the artistic and creative echelons of Film, I myself shoot a lot of film on both Medium and Large Format cameras finding the resulting images head and shoulders above anything I create digitally. But to alienate yourself from digital as a means of producing great images and furthermore from the craft elements of photography may leave your clients guessing as to what will come next…

    I have to pay the bills using my craft/skill/trade this as you well know leaves little room for self expression especially when your working to a tight brief so im just thinking how will you educate your clients, and leave that you are able to add Film to the business structure and it be viable….

    Personally from a business standpoint I think that a reversal to film can only be a good thing provided it can be sold….

    Kind Regards

  9. Gary Dates says:

    Interesting discussion. I’m always a bit suspect when somebody makes a “proclamation” about anything. However, as both an admirer of your work and a photographer wannabe, I respect your decision as it is well thought out and rational……for you……not for your clients, I think. I don’t see how you can put this genie back in the bottle, as most commercial clients have come to expect a tethered shoot with real-time feedback, haven’t they? I mean, don’t you ultimately going to have to accommodate the people paying you? Are REALLY gonna sell your digital gear? One last thought, how were you able to get an analog image onto your blog post? OK, I’m being a smart-ass, but you get my point. You had to have scanned the neg or print, right? So there again, we have a digital image. Just sayin’……

    Regardless, if anyone can put the genie back in the bottle, I suppose you are among the few qualified to do so. Either way, I really enjoy your work as well as your generous “anatomy” posts. Thank you,

    Gary Dates

  10. Heather J Ferguson says:

    Hi there, Heather here from last weeks photoshoot. So you were using film! I guess when using film you become more observant on each shot at the time of shooting rather than taking loads of digital and then scanning after the event.
    Loving your photography style and photo blogs.
    Nice meeting you.

  11. Paolo says:

    One day i was walking up and down my house and i noticed that all the framed picture hanging on the walls were token from film, apart two.
    That day i packed my pro digital equipment and sold all out.
    I felt free.
    I felt to start back photography.
    In the sense that the indefinite process of capturing and developing on emulsion is absolutely more creative of clicking and watching the screen of a computer, as a digital camera is.
    Not creative.
    Performing, like photoshop.

    In my opinion, film and digital are like oil or watercolour painting compared to acrylic painting.
    Definitely the latest is easier, faster and more accessible.

    For the record and the ones will start to write me that i do not have really present in my mind digital or photoshop..i have been a senior account in the advertising agency group of Apple for 7 years
    My first campaign with an evident digital photography treatment was in 1999.

    This is my opinion.
    I much respect and value the ones of others and will be pleased to receive comments.


  12. Film vs digital is as pointless a debate as oils vs charcoal, since great imaging comes from your heart, your head, and your hands.

    • admin says:

      I wouldn’t say the tool debate is ever pointless. What you use to interpret your ideas into reality will definitely make an visual impact on your execution. Obviously there are some things you can do with film that you can’t do in digital and vice versa.

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