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Friday, 12 October 2012

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Isn't it really about process?

I haven't used film regularly in five years. Haven't used it at all in almost two (a few rolls of Kodachrome before Dwayne's stopped processing it). Will never use it again. Love it, though. Love the look, the easy archival nature (I almost exclusively used monochrome film).

I also hate the expense of having someone else process it and the labor of doing it myself. Hate scanning, never learned to print well chemically (hated that too), hate dust, hate unwieldy TIF files, hate the weight and the difficulty of working handheld (6x6 + Acros = tripod all the time).

Digital sensors make photography a lot more rewarding for me, but I'd never say I hate film - I just hated using it. So I'm a vote in favor of MM's theory, except that for me it's not even about the image - just the experience. I never even show people my pictures anymore. Am I even a photographer then? Maybe not, but I don't care - it's not about that either. :)

For me, it's not just about the image. It's about my relationship with the subject, and it's about the feeling of making the picture. So heck, yes, the process matters! And when someone tells me that only film makes their heart go pit-a-pat, I have complete empathy.

Personally, I use digital cameras exclusively.

I can understand why professionals might get excited about this sort of conflict, since they have much at stake. I am baffled by the vehemence of hobbyists like myself. Do what you like, and enjoy the differences, right?

It is obvious Gary suffers from a severe case of PSS (Photographic Schizophrenic Syndrome.) Who in their right mind could possibly like, let alone use, both film and digital? Come on. Take sides and come out fighting, as all good forum members would demand!

"if anybody claims to "hate" film, or to "hate" digital, then I really don't see how they can also claim they like photography."

This.

While there is stuff that irritates about any process, that is secondary.
Heck, I even enjoy using my crappy phone cam, once in a while.

Ran into a dude today that was wearing one of these T-shirts and, though I haven't read any of the comic, felt I had to post it here:

http://store.dieselsweeties.com/collections/i-square-pixels

Perfect for those of you that don't just like digital...

With ample due respect to a talented fellow LF film shooter (great work, Gary!), I’ll stand by my statement, In fact, I think Gary’s blogpost supports my premise. For all of the reasons listed in his second-to-last paragraph, he seems to shoot film when it doesn’t seem to be the case for him that “the final image is all that matters.” Correct me if I'm wrong, but when the image is paramount (e.g., for his livelihood, as is the case for me), Gary shoots digital. But like I do, Gary likes film cameras, he likes the film process, he likes the historical legacy of film, and he likes the view-camera experience--even though all of these things won’t necessarily or reliably produce a better image than digital does. So is the image really all that matters?

But rather than speaking for anyone else, I’ll use myself as a case in point. For me, when "the image is what matters" -- as is always the case with my professional work and almost always with my snapshots of family and friends -- I reach for digital 100% of the time. Whether it’s convenience (no explanation needed), cost (I shoot on average more than 2,000 digital images each week professionally), quality (I shoot full-frame digital), getting keepers in low-percentage shooting (how many street- or sports photographers shoot hundreds of frames film a week?), post-processing capability (PS CS6 on a blazingly fast computer), or any other metric that matters to me (except one), digital wins hands down for all handheld photography. (It's just a matter of time until it wins in all tripod photography as well, including large-format.)

Yet I also try to shoot as many square inches of film as possible. I use as often as I have time my 35mm, 6x12 (120), and 8x10 cameras (not that there's always time: those 2,000-plus digital images each week don't edit themselves). So I think it's fair to say that I'm neither anti-digital nor disdainful of film. I have one foot firmly planted in each camp and expect to straddle that unending divide for the rest of my life (film choices will keep decreasing, but film won't disappear in my lifetime).

And that one area in which for me digital will never trump film? Again speaking only for myself, it’s “meaning”— the sense of accomplishment that comes from getting a pleasing image without relying on any of the countless clear advantages of digital. It's an inverse relationship: the more advantages that digital has, the more that not using digital "means."

In my personal (non-employment-related) work, "the final image" is never "all that matters." I’ve listed before in this space various “meaning”-related analogies for shooting film, and to me they’re still relevant: driving a stick when you could drive an automatic; cooking your own dinner when you can afford to go out or bring food in; using a knife to prepare food when you have a food processor; learning an acoustic instrument when you can get the same sound from a synthesizer; the list goes on and on. Few people opt for all of these things, but millions of people choose the less automated route for at least some of them.

So yes, I really do think that most film shooters shoot film because (or when) for them the image isn’t all that matters. And I also think that when the image IS what matters most (as it frequently does for most photographers, at all levels, including me and everyone I know) a photographer in the 21st century is almost always going to choose digital.

if anybody claims to "hate" film, or to "hate" digital, then I really don't see how they can also claim they like photography

I agree with that statement. But I also think that one can hate shooting film or hate shooting digital and still like photography.

There's no chance I'd ever want to be a Daguerreotypist, but I appreciate what Daguerre did for the hobby and applaud the handful of photographers out there still making Daguerreotypes despite the considerable challenges for such a pursuit.

The end image is what matters most but how you get there matters, too.

People really need to think about "the result".

Is the result a print or web photo you are happy with?

Is the result a happy time with a pleasent to use device, doing a pleasent activity?

For me, the claim to fame of digital is that I actually get pictures made all the way to be web or to print.

I have friends who are much happier with B&W darkroom, and get pictures made all the way to silver more easily than digital.

Mike said "I have to say I completely disagree with his premise, that "it's all about the image." I don't think it is at all."

If I'm looking at a photo then I do think it's all about the image. It doesn't matter whether it was film or digital if the image works, and it doesn't matter if it doesn't work. Just like looking at a great painting—it doesn't matter whether it's an oil or a watercolour. The image is everything when we're looking at an image.

If I'm talking about process it does matter. What counts is choosing a process you can work with, want to work with, that lets you do what you want to do and make a photograph you want to make. Film or digital does make a difference there, but I don't think either has an inherent superiority. I do think different people have their own personal preferences, some have very strong personal preferences, and some assume that their personal preference just has to be the best way to do it.

Step back from both of those things and what really matters is caring about making photographs, caring about something enough to want to make a photograph of it, and caring enough about the photograph to want to make it the way you want it to be. The question of film or digital has nothing to do with that.

For the record I shot 35mm film and did my own B&W processing until I got out of photography as a hobby over 30 years ago. I came back a bit over a year ago and I'm shooting digital, and doing colour almost exclusively. I don't want to go back to a wet darkroom because I haven't got the ability to set one up in my home and digital gives me the opportunity to do my processing sitting comfortably at a desk, plus it's a whole new skill to learn. At 65 I feel more comfortable trying to learn something new than trying to recover long lost skills. Both can be frustrating but I don't have to put up with my mind saying "What's wrong with you? You used to be able to do this" and the endless comparisons of then and now if I'm trying to learn a new skill.

I believe I have used the same comment, ("it's all about the image, film or digital doesn't matter") but let's not read more into it than it warrants.

A great image can be either digital or film. Conversely, neither has any magic sauce that saves an inconsequential image (any more than Leica lenses or wide F stops).

I do however think both sides are struggling a bit with some kind of aesthetic consensus.

Sure, film has a certain look. It's hard to replicate in digital (esp B&W). My take is that you shouldn't try but strive for your own aesthetic*, but if Provia or TriX is your idea of perfection, digital won't measure up - for you.

Similarly, some digital users, including those migrating from film, are a bit lost. They either stick slavishly to the camera settings as if it represented some kind of truth, or lack the confidence to know when to stop pushing the sliders around.

Most OOC JPEGs are intentionally flat and under-sharpened, but banging the sliders to max and making horrid over-saturated and pixelated prints is not inevitable either - it's entirely elective. Freedom demands self-restraint, but not constraint.

Those of us who are getting on a bit should have the advantage of restraint, but some of us struggle to see beyond the constraints imposed by the past, like a long serving soldier adjusting to civilian life without structure and imposed discipline.

It will all work out in time. We are just going through a period of transition and like all transitions it has as many unexpected and painful consequences for some as it does opportunities and excitement for others.

*A signature look is one of the real potential benefits of digital but it is very difficult to achieve. I have been a Photoshop junkie for 15 years but still struggle to consistently produce something identifiably my own, but many do and it makes their work even more unmistakable.

MM, thanks for your thoughts and very good post, I shoot film on my time off partly because its so different from the work I do shooting digital for my "day" job, I guess if such a job existed where I was shooting film for my "day" job, I would likely be shooting digital for my personal work.

I suppose participants in a Japanese tea ceremony don't really take much note of how the tea tastes.

BTW...
That's really a lovely peaceful image, Gary. 1988...was anything BUT a peaceful time for me. If only I had had a large print of this on a wall back then.

Markus Spring: "down-to-earth landscapes" - good title for a book.

Is it not all about the print in the end? Always has been!? And between exposure and a print are many fine ways to get to your intended final result!?

Many differing types of film, positive or negative, handcoated glass plates and the recent addition of the digital sensor is just another "flavor" added to the rich palette available to the photographer.

If otherwise, we should see more gallery shows and printed publications with 35mm,6x7, 8x10's negatives and now sensors displayed on the wall, not those unimportant prints?

These are grand days to be in the visual arts game, enjoy and experiment to find your system to get to a fine photographic print. Allow me neglect monitor displayed images, as they are glorified thumbnails, image data /quality wise for the arguments sake.

Many of our master photographers of the last century were so because of their experimental use of "ridiculous" new technology, one of them called a Leica 35mm camera for example.

So I like to say; give me a print that blows my visual mind and I will applaud your creative ways getting there with proper curiosity.


Thanks, Kenneth, I hope you had more peaceful days after 1988.

Photography is one of the creative art forms. All those who aspire to become a photographer is required to attain a certain set of skills. Earlier, a photographer had very restricted sources to showcase his or her talent. However, now these days a lot of options are there for a photographer to showcase his or her talent

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