This Photographer Shoots 100% Film. Do You Shoot Film?
Beautiful pictures here! Do you still shoot with film? For me, I have my Nikons put away for that "some day" I'll blow a roll or two. I've shot thousands of rolls with them until I went digital. Do you think film shooting will come back? Do you think film shooting will ever go away?
I do shoot 120 film. Mostly b&w which I develop myself and scan to digital images. I have a gallery here for my "Holga" style images and a backlog of negatives to scan.
I have nearly every film camera I've owned since 1969 as well as my fathers cameras.
Film shooting is back but no for common use - it is gaining popularity among artists who create photo art.
The greatest challenge for film shooters is processing and printing - small and large film processing labs are still closing. Only one of the big labs remains open in Dallas, TX but I wonder how long. Getting chemicals for doing your own processing is becoming a challenge and mail order suppliers are the only source left for me.
I was a film only hold-out until 2006. I still prefer the "feel" of a color negative print and often manipulate my digital images to have that look - especially images of people.
I do not know what I will ever do with my 4-5K 35mm transparencies. Scanning transparencies is a real pain to clean up.
I shoot a mixture of digital and film, as the mood and subjects dictate. I think, like vinyl, it will never truly disappear as there will always be those who recognise its capabilities next to digital and what it brings to the table that digital can't (yet). I also think there may be a bit of a resurgence as those who've only ever known digital seek to experiment further. We'll see...
To me, film and digital are 2 different but tightly related mediums. This is where the debate comes in. People think Digital is a newer, better way to take pictures, and for most people that is true. Following that, they see it as the replacement for film. But, it has qualities that digital does not, and vice versa. So, for a few, digital isn't a replacement and never can be. The manufacturers, labs, etc were mostly geared for volume, and that level of volume is gone, so for them, film is dead. The sad part is that some have killed parts of it in the rush for the new unnecessarily. Look at the impossible project and polaroid. Polaroid was incapable of scaling back, so all that died until the impossible project brought some of it back. A strong, albeit smaller demand still existed. I often meet people who think you can't buy film anymore, because they no longer see it in the local stores.
Every where you go, you see film is making a comeback because of the limitations of digital. To many companies dropped it to quickly, and now have tried to force the market out. But the truth is, many professionals of different venues are coming back in some level to film. Photographic artists are the biggest because digital cannot handle the off the lens work we do. Fashion is also coming back for the same reason, that they like to work off the lens, and digital is not a good format, and never will be for it. Landscape photographers are also making a smaller but still a come back to film as well because of the texture film can give that digital cannot.
I am glad film is making a comeback, because I like the work with it a lot better than digital, and the diversity film offers that digital cannot.
I shoot 85% film 35 and medium format, in four cameras, and only own one digital.
A bunch of interesting responses so far. Paul - interesting how you say film is coming back especially for artists. This is something I've been thinking about, trying film out with my fine art work, which I'm new to since I left film.
When I left film it was mostly because of the expense, and I found in the Pentax K-10D sensor the rendering engine collects the image as analog then converts it to digital, thus giving it a film look. Up to this point I didn't like to look of digital no matter how much it saved in expenses. I also shot Agfa film until that went belly-up, then went back to Kodak film, as Fuji was to saturated for my tastes.
The lab I used shut down, but then a year ago reopened with another name and new audience.
It's interesting how Kodak started it all over 100 years ago. Was it the Brownie camera that the pro's with view camera's didn't buy into, so Kodak introduced it to the consumers which then forced the pro's to jump in or sink? If so, look what's happening with the iPhone camera ....
I used to love shooting film and mostly my 4x5 stuff, but for me it's an anachronism:
: something (such as a word, an object, or an event) that is mistakenly placed in a time where it does not belong in a story, movie, etc.
: a person or a thing that seems to belong to the past and not to fit in the present
There is nothing that film can do, that can't be done better with a sensor. No real good reason to use film, other than you like to use film or you don't want to use a digital camera,because you have plenty of film cameras.
People will probably always shoot film, as long as it's commercially viable for the company to produce it and develop it. Nothing wrong with film, just not enough stuff right about it and as David mentioned, a very dirty process and even unhealthy too. As David pointed out, computers and mostly phones these days create more "bad" waste than cameras and film, but getting rid of one, is a step in the right direction.
Any image that has to go through an enlarger's lens to get produced, can't stand up to what can be produced, even by small digital sensors these days. And needing to scan the film, in order to "use" it, seems less efficient too.
So, shooting film has become a "hobby", like making your own butter, or furniture, or whatever,because it makes you feel good doing it, certainly not cheaper and in many cases not better either, but the enjoyment of doing it the "old way" is fun.
If film was great, there would be a lot more "professionals" using it, as their main tool, but it's not. Pinhole cameras are fun too, but they have very limited usage, as film does today.
Nothing wrong with shooting film, as long as you realize that it has it's limitations and you're doing it for reasons other than the capability of film, over a sensor,
If I win the lotto, I will buy Leica Rangefinder film cameras(I once owned 3 such), and or top of the line Canon film cameras. I will then shoot Chrome slide film only. I will find a wonderful pro lab that will print Cibachrome prints to my liking....
Until that day (my winning at least $10 million dollars), I am stuck with digital Canon cameras...and "free" image making.
For example, If I shot 10 rolls of chrome film today and had the ten rolls processed by a good lab, I will be charged about $200....(for approx 300 images)....
If I shoot 300 "digital" images the price is $0.00.....
"it's kind of like asking if anyone still shoots with glass plates." - indeed they do, and it's quite a growing area.
Film is not just a hobby for more than a few. Some professionals never left, some left and returned using both. I think for any artist to confine a medium to the bin purely because it doesn't fit THEIR workflow is incredibly blinkered.
Oddly I don't see painters saying paint is going out of fashion, yet I'd imaging a deft hand can create paintings digitally to equal effect, and perhaps cheaper too. Perhaps it's more about the texture, real paint on canvas and the originality of a single piece - whereas digital may just cheapen the whole art form. There's a coincidence there somewhere!
" There is nothing that film can do, that can't be done better with a sensor. No real good reason to use film, other than you like to use film or you don't want to use a digital camera,because you have plenty of film cameras. "
" Any image that has to go through an enlarger's lens to get produced, can't stand up to what can be produced, even by small digital sensors these days. And needing to scan the film, in order to "use" it, seems less efficient too. "
As long as film is still made I think it will exist as another art form.We haven't shot film in years but we still can't seem to let go of our Canon T90 and our Nikon A1 Lol. We even still have our black and white dark room in the basement that hasn't been used in years complete with paper, and chemicals!
"There is nothing that film can do, that can't be done better with a sensor. No real good reason to use film, other than you like to use film or you don't want to use a digital camera,because you have plenty of film cameras."
Bunk. Digital wants to correct every shot, so if you are working with off the lens art, you cannot use digital like you can film, this is why film is coming back, and will never leave. Digital is limited because it wants to correct the shot, and many times you do not want that shot corrected in art, fashion, advertising, and other areas, so film is the choice for those specific areas. Digital I feel is still just an expansive toy, that many happen to like in this field. I would rathere shoot film over a quick pat on the back you can get after thirty shots of the same thing to get that one good shot.
"Why does anyone not mention the cost of film? Are you all rich? Or do you only shoot one role (36 images) a month? I am curious.
Do you all have the $200 a month to pay for 10 rolls of chrome film???"
Probably for the same reason everyone conveniently forgets the cost of a computer and monitor, the cost to refresh a digital camera every few years, etc. etc. I've spent a darn sight more on digital than I ever did with film.
There is nothing that digital can't do when compared to film? How about achieving the same dynamic range without having to mash numerous shots together to make one.
" Digital I feel is still just an expansive toy, that many happen to like in this field. "
Well said. I found going to digital made my work more creative through image manipulation, however, film always showed my true creativity through image composition, content, and framing, short of the long.
Robert, I don't shoot film, and if I did it would be on 35mm and sent to the lab. It would be for a specific project the would make the capabilities of digital too much for it, similar to the article I shared in my OP.
you can't add in the computer cost, because you already have it and don't toss the computer out every time your going to shoot again. that's a shill argument of the 90's. it's like saying, your adding in the cost of the camera each time. film is expensive, isn't that great, digital far surpasses it in every way. yet when you say that people will say -no it's not. medium format is better. when it used to be 35mm is better, and then it will be well large format is better.
By the way... Shooting film is not that expensive as it looks like. I don't have money at all and I still can shoot film. I spend less with film than my friends spend with cigarettes and drinks. I have 4 film cameras in different formats and all together was cheaper than a single digital camera.
"you can't add in the computer cost, because you already have it and don't toss the computer out every time your going to shoot again"
Of course you can! It's still an expense, or does your computer somehow magically appear out of thin air? Just as a film camera is an expense. The only difference being that you don't need to upgrade your film camera every couple of years. You can't pick and choose as you see fit, on a cost versus cost basis film works out cheaper. As someone who uses both (and has done so for quite a number of years) I feel I'm qualified to comment.
This isn't a debate about which is 'better'. They both have their merits. My retort is against those who seem to think that because digital has come along film is now dead or on its last legs which is, quite simply, hogwash.
Marcio, thank you.
I shoot mostly film, and use 35 and medium format, and the cost is not that much. I cannot have a dark room here, but will be able to use one where I am moving, so that will cut the cost even more. I love the texture that film gives and digital does not, and even transferring the digital image will not give that same texture, but will give some aspects of film I agree. But even in developing your own film there is more you can do than you can with digital. Different mixes, techniques, and different paper methods.
When I get my Illford camera I will be going to add large format to that as well. But that is a pinhole camera, and pinhole is something you can only do with film, so there you can add another shooting style as well. I have I believe one pinhole shot on here too.
To get back to your original question, do I shoot film? No, no reason to, nothing superior about film that would make me go back,regardless of the cost, which in most cases, was charged to the client anyways.
If I HAD to shoot film, I would only shoot color negative film, for the extra latitude of negative film over transparency film.
Dan, I was a printer for 30+ years and have printed everything that's out there, even glass plates and there is nothing that can be done in the darkroom, that can't be done and better with a digital file and something like Photoshop and the thousands of "effects" film type effects that are out there,that mimic what film can do.
Here's a way to see the actual improvement. Go find a copy of Galen Rowell's Mountain Light,published in 1986 :
All of this was shot mostly with Kodak and then later Fuji Film,slides. He was the premier photographer of his time, until his death. He used the best gear,had the best film available, the best possible film labs in the country, and the world's best printer. When his book came out, it was the "Standard" for all photographers to try and acheive this level of photography. Look at the quality of the book and the color and saturation,depth,latitude of his images and then compare them to any of the top photographers here on FAA and his work can't stand up to what is now being created, mostly because of digital photography. It's that simple. His vision is still amazing, but the product isn't.
As I mentioned earlier, people still do all kinds of stuff, from years gone by,because they enjoy the process, not because it's better. There is and never will be a resurgence of film over digital, not ever! It will always be there as a neat "old" way to do what can be done better with digital cameras, along with glass plates,pinhole cameras and the like.
So I encourage you to continue your film decision and enjoy it and grow with it, but do it because you like it and not because you think it's better, it's not,
Frank, I disagree, because I have used both and you can see the difference very well. Digital you have to doctor it ten times more than film to get the same look, and you cannot work off the lens, and even the best programs look so much more fake than using filters on the lens. The quality is just not there with digital with the exception of point and shoot, portraits to a degree, and a few other formats while film can walk evenly in I would guess 95% of what doctored digital can do.
I'll take film over digital every time even when there are maybe 5% improvements digital can do over film.
Digital is still more of a toy in this field, and this is why film will always be around even when digital finally does die off.
Let's try and keep this discussion to do you use film, why or why not? Do you think film is here to stay, or will ever go away?
In other words, Photography is an art, not a science. Craftsmanship will always supersede technology.
All tools require a learning curve, and beyond that, a a truly gifted artist requires time to develop a level of expertise that makes them extraordinary.... whether it's film versus digital media, or photoshop vs. printshop, or RAW versus "jpg." This thread shows there are still film-photographers that use the conventional darkroom to make their own prints. Yet, despite the inferior dynamic range and resolution of film, the years they bring in extraordinary experience and craftsmanship would yield a superior print compared to a moderately experienced digital photographer that uses RAW.
I use both. What tastes better an apple or an orange? I find them to be two different mediums. Medium format film is still hard to beat for quality. (anybody got a spare 15-30k for a medium format digital camera?) I do my own scans so I think we can take enlargers out of the equation. Film is also archival. What's going to happen with your digital files two decades from now? I think a lot of people refuse to admit that it was convenience that drew them to digital and not quality. Why do we have all this software to mimic film (including hdr) if film was so lousy?
Unless you are working up your own scans you can not compare a scan that someone else did for you in a store with a digital file. They are not going to take the time to work it up properly.
@Robert - you are so right about the costs. My real job has a heavy photography portion and when I was doing film I was limited by budget. Now with digital, all I need are a couple of 32G cards and enough time to weed through all I shoot.
But that brought a problem to me. Digital and full auto cameras have made me lax about taking photos. Where I used to evaluate all the elements and shoot only what I needed to get what I want, I found myself relying on the speed of digital and the auto features in my Cannon D20, D50 and D7. O still get good shots but still feel that I've lost some of the skill of creating an image that I had in my full film days.
For that reason I shoot what some call the "analogue" or lomography. Film in vintage cameras or cameras so simple I have to rely on my wits to make a good photo. One of my cameras was my mothers when she was single back in the 1930's and early 40's. Agfa folding "pocket" camera. It is funny that the younger generation getting into film call it analogue. Essentially capturing an image on film is not analogue. Capturing the image in an analogue way on a sensor - like you mention Frank give a film look or feel but actually using the chemical reactions of light on film and on paper washed with other chemicals is not analogue.
Dave is correct that film processing is environmentally unkind which is why I try to use some of the new chemicals that do not have the same degree of pollution.
There is no good reason to shoot film unless that is what you want to do and I do. I like the anticipation of looking for how the film develops out. I used two rolls of very out of date film just to see how it would work and it didn't. But that is part of the game. Nothing I shoot with film will have significant consequences if it is a fail.
I also shoot with pinholes. I have one Holga pinhole and I've hand built pinhole cameras. The latter is a bit difficult since I use roll film - no transport mechanism on hand built pinholes. I'm probably 60-65% successful with the pinhole but I love a good shot when it comes out.
@Mike - a friend in town makes images in every way imaginable going back to glass plates and tin types. It's a hobby for him and he has a fantastic collection of vintage cameras. Getting those chemicals requires him to have a good knowledge of chemistry it self. I don't know how he does it.
I use both. Digital for stock and film for when I want to do things for myself. Old cameras are cheap and I've bought a pile of them to experiment with. I particularly like the Mamiya TLR and I have a soft spot for the Pentacon Six - both of them medium format. I also shoot with a Graflex Crown Graphic 4x5 camera - the big old American newsman's tool from the 1930s to the 1960s. I think film is more demanding: it makes me stop and think about what I am doing. It would be a shame if it ever vanished completely because that would just reduce the options open to people.
I bought an old enlarger and set up my own darkroom this summer. Unfortunately, it can only handle film up to 6x6 size, so I still rely on the scanner for 6x9 and 4x5.
This is from the old Graflex Press camera:
Digital and film are two different medias. Each media have their own language. When you change the language you change the meaning of your art and expression. And most photographers and artists have never studies art, media and language nor even thought about it.
Though you can replace film to digital because it is cheap, faster, easier, etc. If you really change only for this reason you are not actually giving much attention to your art. The media should be choose to archive the media meaning and expression.
The digital media in general, produce a more effeminate art with a effeminate language. It doesn't mean that digital art is for girls or use girls language. It just means that the art comunication through the media is effeminate (it doesn't mean anything negative). And the film media is the opposite. So artists should choose their medias based on the media language they want to express their art and not only because is easier, faster, cheaper, etc.
And this is the reason many people are going back to film photography. Because there is a language, a expression and meaning in film that they miss in digital.
It is like comparing the classic architecture with Gothic, or the modern academic art with expressionism, etc... It is a normal movement that always happened in arts. People look for the most harmonious, perfect, clean expression and when they got used it they miss the expression and meaning possibilities they left behind.
This is why no matters what we try to get the most perfect, charming, clean, predicted, organised expression and look, we always miss and rescue our most primitive expression. And art history keep in this loop.
"The digital media in general, produce a more effeminate art with a effeminate language. It doesn't mean that digital art is for girls or use girls language. It just means that the art comunication through the media is effeminate (it doesn't mean anything negative)."
I'm afraid you lost me there, Marcio - could you expand on that a little more?
Marcio, what brand film do you use ( Kodak, etc. .. ) and paper?
I used to shoot with Fuji across 100 for landscape (which is perfect for long exposure) and sometimes Ilford PanF 50 (because of the soft look) when shooting models. And Ilford HP5 for street photography.
Now I am using Ilford Delta 100 (because has deeper blacks and higher tonal range) for landscape, still and models. And Agfa APX or Kentmere films for street photography.
And I like Kodak Portra when I shoot colour for my holidays trips photographs.
Papers I use all Ilford MG Art 300 and Ilford MG IV FB. When when I am print just for fun, test or for something not important I use those cheap Tetenal papers.
It is not easy to me to explain because I don't have the knowledge to go much deeper in the subject and explanetion. But it is something you can see and feel if you are aware of it.
The effeminate expression or language have usually more organised flow and result, approaching to reality copy, soft and organised look, less aggressive, more formal... Theses descriptions are just there to give some idea. It is not a rule. But it means that the meaning will bend towards it more or less.
As example you can compare the classic rock in roll which was more agressive, expression, beat, etc. The more modern rock in roll despite often they try to be agressive in their words and voices, their guitar tones are softer, they have violins and all magical sounds stuff on the background and solo, so it is softer.
Or the academics painters on later 1800 wanted to paint everything perfect and organised, smooth tones, clear divisions and composition. The same with the established Renascentist art and the same with the classic Greek art. On the other side was Expressionism, Quatroccentist art and Medieval or earlier Greek art.
Plato, Cicero, Goethe, Boas are some of artists, philosophers or critics who were against the movment towards the effeminate expression and therefore meaning to arts in their time. These critics usually lived in a time of changing.
The media and technology have its influence too. For example, the Renascent painting changed their look after the development of the oil painting. And this look was towards this softning formalitie, copy of reality, etc which now was possible thanks to the new technology which could make it easier to archive. But even when not intended the media technology leads towards it because of the ink look and quality.
And while you can play the old traditional music with eletric guitar, the technologie have a more agressive expression which leads the artist or his art to be expressed more agressive. Therefore rock in roll is the electric guitar language (or one of its language).
And we can say the same about the digital. Digital gives you more control, precision, it has a soft nature which makes you be able to get the most soft modulations with the most precise control. Of course you can make the opposite but will be harder.
I even risk to be very wrong but to me it looks like the digital even start with the perfect straight harmonic line while others medias tend to give the chaos to the artist begin with.
Unfortunately, it can only handle film up to 6x6 size, so I still rely on the scanner for 6x9 and 4x5
You still can make contact prints with 4x5 format and it will be even better than scanned and enlarged.
This was shot with 6x4.5 filme. The smallest medium format size. If you are used to look and compare film and digital you can easily tell that she stands more real, with more presence than digital. And I have images where the dynamicity are much more evident on this format. Though some digital cameras are coming very close to it. If I can get such result with the smallest medium format. Imaged what I get with 6x7 or what I could get with 6x9. And this is a scanned image and unfortunately when we digitalise and seen in screen it loses some information and quality.
While 35mm I get less quality is some aspects than Digital. But digital has digital qualities and I am not looking for digital qualities but film qualities even when the quality is lower:
Some art are good not because of the details richiness. On the opposite, they are good because you can get the scene idea based on simple lanes and shapes evidences.
Thank you for that explanation, Marcio, it makes a lot of sense. I especially agree with the part where you say, "And we can say the same about the digital. Digital gives you more control, precision, it has a soft nature which makes you be able to get the most soft modulations with the most precise control. Of course you can make the opposite but will be harder." It's more or less what I was trying to say earlier, but you express it so much better!
Thanks for the idea of contact prints, Marcio, I'll give that a go. I should have thought about it before, since that was the way a lot of 6x9 negs were used in the 30s, I guess a lot of them were kept in wallets, they'd be better than today's passport photos.
I haven't settled on a particular film, yet. I use a lot of Fomapan because it's cheap and the 100 ASA version is a traditional 1950s film. The ISO 200 "creative" is a good film, too. I liked Neopan Acros but it is expensive compared with Foma. I've got quite a bit of FP4, which is an emulsion I used almost exclusively back in the 70s (together with HP5). I've also used a few rolls of Tri-X 400.
Making comparisons between emulsions has been difficult because of a) erratic shutters on various cameras b) processing variation, I've finally managed to get some Rodinal but in the past I could only get Foma developers, which are multi use so the concentration (and age) changes. I've still got to settle on the exact concentration for one-shot developing with Rodinal.
It all adds to the amount of thought required. I need to carry out controlled tests with various films using a reliable shutter to get things pinned down.
Marcio - thanks! I found the Agfa APX at B&H in New York. I've shot hundreds of the former film before it was discontinued. Kodak Tri-X didn't come close to the tonal range and grain sharpness of Agfa.
Looks like several of us are learning a thing or two from this thread, so I won't close it until later .....
Right, HW if you have your film processed go with the Kodak b&w for c-41 process. If your processing yourself, you'll like AGFA. I always processed it with Rodinal, then Kodak Fixer, etc. Kodak Porta is a good choice for color, I think Marcio said he uses that too.