It’s not about whether digital is better than film, but rather it is about the fun of shooting with film. The fun and the challenge, sure I think anyone who ever picked up an SLR and shot film, and then switched over to digital will agree “digital” is easier and more forgiving. So if you are struggling starting off with a DSLR you have no idea what it was like shooting film. Now don’t get me wrong I am not one of those bitter film guys who tells the tales from back in the day about how hard film was. How you had to “walk ten miles uphill both ways in the blinding snow to process your film.” Of course I am kidding and yes film was a challenge and I think that is what I miss a little bit about my personal photography. Now please know when I was shooting film I was strictly an armature and I was not that great of a photographer at all.
So I have found that revisiting film cameras is fun and challenging and nostalgic of course. It is kind of like getting into and old car and taking a ride down a back road. And just like old cars are not a 100% old, after all some will have a few newer things to make life a little easier, like modern tires for a smoother ride, same is true with the film cameras. We can scan our film and tweak with Photoshop or other software. But we soon come back to our digital world, take a deep breath and relax. However there could be something to be gained by stepping back into the days of darkrooms and film canisters.
So in this image of my Pug “Jake” I was using a Canon EOS 650 (film) body (1987). I have two of these bodies and I’ll usually put ISO 100 in one and ISO 400 or 800 in the other. I’ll switch between a 50mm f/1.4 and my 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses. On this day I was using Kodak T-Max 100 B&W 36 exposure. This image has very minimal processing. It is a hi-res scan and in Lightroom I pushed the white balance temp 9+ to give a slightly warm (yellowish) tint. I love it, and one of the things that film photographers loved about their film was “grain.” Grain could be found a few different ways. There was ISO grain and there was grain found in the many different papers used for printing. Now if we wanted we could talk about “film grain” to the year’s end and still not cover all there is to talk about. But grain is what I miss. It is so funny that we (as digital photographers) are always searching for the holy grail of shooting high ISO and trying to eliminate “noise.” We want the cleanest possible images, when back in the day it was acceptable to have some noise or grain. Grain is mood, it gives an image character, it creates a visual “feel” to the image. It really is funny how if you look in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop there are controls to add grain. Sure I have added grain to my composite images many times. Why? You may ask. To give a feel, to create mood and character. So now I ask myself why am I not doing this more with regular images. Huh… good question. I wanted to revisit film for fun and a challenge and it looks like I learned something more about what could be lacking in my digital. I like most love the clean images that digital produces, but that clean could be taking something away. Kind of like cooking on a gas grill vs a charcoal or wood fired grill. They both cook the food, but the taste of the wood adds flavor while the gas just cooks… and is cleaner.
Till next time.