Photographing with Film VS Digital

April 19, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Ya'll! Hope you're having a great week! I know I've been writing a lot about film photography the last month or so and it's mainly because I've been really into film during the same time. I've talked about camera's, developing and scanning and even how to meter. I have talked about all of the technical and material stuff but I haven't talked about the feel of shooting with film again. We photographers are really into gear and the how-to of photography and I think sometimes we forget about the why and the feeling of photography. We concentrate on megapixels and how many frames per second and auto focusing . We forget all of the famous photographers over the last 100 years didn't have any of these modern convinces and their photographs still stand over and above a lot of modern photographers. Not that there aren't great photographers now but gear isn't the reason of what made them great. It's the feel , the art of the photography that made the greats great. To me shooting film is back to basics.

Back to Basics. Shooting film makes me go back to basics. The seeing the scene. With film photography I have to slow down. Each shot cost money. Even with me developing my own film and Scanning it myself its almost 50-.75 cent per shot which doesn't sound like a lot but does add up after you're used to shooting for free with digital. Each shot matters. So you take your time waiting for the perfect scene. When you find that perfect scene then there is the metering part. These are 50 plus year old camera's and trusting how you are metering is really key to getting a good exposure. Knowing if you're going to error in exposure you should error in over exposure. Framing and composition is very important. Although you can edit that in post every time you crop you introduce more grain. Every part of the process in film photography affects the way your final image will turn out .  The film itself is very important. The manufacturer the ISO of the film do you want to shoot black and white or color. All of these things matter when shooting film.  Even the way you develop the negatives and what chemicals you decide to use will change the way the final image will turn out.  Everything matters when making decisions when shooting film.  Maybe that's why I like it so much. You have to be involved in the shooting process and even the developing process. They all make a difference when shooting film. You are involved. You make all of the decisions. The camera's I use for film are 100% mechanical. The only thing that is electronic is the meter. I really like that. Film fits the style of photography that I like Travel and Street.  For younger photographers that are just discovering film it's all new and the nostalgia of film. For me it's back to the roots that I remember.  Are the images better than what I get with digital?  If you're looking at technical things like sharpness color and pop. No not really but if you're looking for the "how does it make you feel" factor then yes. You've heard me say this before it's like listening to a vinyl record album compared to listening to a digital recording. The vinyl has pops and cracks that you can hear but that gives it character and something you can't put your finger on. Film is the same way. The grain and the colors just give it that something.

Shooting Digital. When I first started shooting digital 24 years ago I had to learn what Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and being able adjust your ISO.  I had to relearn. I had shot manual for over 20 years and had only had film cameras that were mechanical manual camera's. I din't even have auto focus. That was something else I had to learn.  After a couple of years I had it all figured out and became basically an Aperture Priority photographer just like I am today.  When I'm shooting digital I tend to shoot a lot and almost anything compared to when I shoot film. If something looks a little interesting I shoot. I don't think so much because my camera does all of the thinking for me. I pick the aperture and the camera does the rest. Really if you looked at my photo's most everything starts at F8 and my camera at this point is just a point and shoot. I will adjust my Aperture depending on what look I want but basically I put on F8 and let it eat.  I don't have to think about metering, I don't have to think about ISO or focusing . The camera does it all and it does it great. But after a while you stop thinking and just point and shoot. It (to me) takes the fun the artistry to it out of the shot. If you mess up when you're taking the shot you can fix it in post. Digital images you can do so much in post that its an art in itself . And believe me if Ansil Adams had Lightroom and Photoshop he would be one of the experts .  But everything seems so slick and automatic.  For me it seems like the involvement feels less than when I shoot film. Don't get me wrong I'm not knocking digital I love to shoot digital but I also love to shoot film. 

Conclusion. I love the involvement I have when I shoot film. I love the process from start to finish. I think that shooting film makes me a better digital photographer. I think that going back and forth between film and digital makes me a better photographer. Where if I only shot digital I get into the point and shoot mode and don't think as much because I know I can fix in editing.  If you take a better photo in digital then when you edit you even get a better photo. So if you look at the technical aspect of Film VS Digital I'd say that Digital wins but if you are looking at feel and that X factor I'd say that Film wins. So until next week get out and shoot !


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