BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
William Jacobs

Need for film photography

I am a graduate of the Maine Photo Workshops through the U. of Maine and the "old school" of traditional film photography. I still believe in real film processing, printing, dodging and burning, and creating a "real" photographic image. My question is this. With the way folks can manipulate images on the computer now, is there going to be much need for those of us that create images the hard, "but love doing it", way? Any one have the same thoughts or concerns?

To love this question, log in above
3/17/2005 1:19:20 PM

Kerry L. Walker   I am a film shooter myself and I have no desire to go digital. Although there have been and will continue to be debates over which is better, let's face facts. They are both simply forms of capture medium. Some people prefer one and some prefer the other. I think you have answered your own question though (but love doing it). Do whichever you love.

To love this comment, log in above
3/17/2005 2:45:34 PM

William Jacobs   Thanks for your input. I just wonder sometimes if the average person can go out and buy a good digital camera, and with the help of programs such as Photoshop, create an image that really was not there, does that not take the skill and art out of true photography?
I agree that digital has its place, but
it seems as though it is a no win situation for film lovers. I really am just expressing myself from the loss of a shoot to someone that has had no formal training but has the digital equipment to create what really is not there.
Thanks for reading, and/or responding.
No matter what though, I will not give up my love for real film photography and I hope the rest of the film lovers out there won't either!

To love this comment, log in above
3/17/2005 2:57:14 PM

Kerry L. Walker   When I started out, NO camera even had a built-in meter, much less autoexposure or autofocus. Do these improvements make taking pictures easier? Sure! Do they make one a better photographer? No! Photoshop makes it easier for digital shooters to enhance their images but it is no replacement for a good exposure to begin with. Whether one shoots with film and dodges and burns or shoots with digital and Photoshops, the effect is the same. If the composition isn't there, there is nothing one can do to make a good picture.

To love this comment, log in above
3/17/2005 3:16:12 PM

Melissa  L. Zavadil
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/26/2005
  Your question is very interesting and you bring up a good point in reguards to technology verses art. I believe that you are in love with a particular form of photography and are very grounded and comfortable in the way in which you do things. I believe that great art is born through passion.

No one here can state that you will or will not be hired/needed based on your "old school" photographic skills. The only thing that one can state is that if you can continuously invest in your knowledge in all requards of photography and be open to change, new ideas and concepts then you will have a better chance at appeasing companies that need current technologies and skills.

Art form in its purest form will always have a nostalgia. If you engage in a pure artform and you can sell the 'purity' of it and people will understand and value it thus, buy it you will have a need. The key would be do people recognize the difference?

Another point that I would like to make would be that photoshop is not this magical tool that falls into someones lap and creates great pictures. It is an enormous, powerful tool that takes hours upon hours to learn and a steady hand to develop the abilities that you see here on this site. Please don't underestimate the hours that people have invested learning these skills.

To love this comment, log in above
3/17/2005 4:33:17 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  You could loose a job to someone with no training who shoots film just because they would do it cheaper.
Digital isn't costing anybody jobs, it's about giving them what they want. It's always been that way. Nobody's ever going to cut and paste their way into fooling paying clients.
If they want polar bears going down the strip in Vegas to fit a slogan of "the coolest place on earth", then you got to find a way. If it's an actual picture of something, they want a good one regardless of how they get it.
It's like hand made versus machine made. The good old fashioned way is going to fall on deaf ears if the machined made somehow fits their needs better.

To love this comment, log in above
3/18/2005 12:02:51 AM

Ganesh G
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/24/2005
  Hi everyone,

It was interesting to read this discussion here. I have used a film camera all my life coz I never could afford a digital one. Now, I am saving up to buy a digital camera.

Even if you shoot digitally and you want to put it up on a site or print it, you still need to get it scanned. And after scanning, I dont think any photographer prints/uploads his image as it is. Some editing is necessary to make them look atleast as good as they ORIGINALLY are. Scanning scars photos more than anything ever could. So, if today, the major need is to rint/upload the photos in the digital form, why go through the unnecessary steps of taking photos, developing them, printing them, scanning them and then using them? Why not do it digitally instead.

In the end, you are still the same person. The photos that you take digitally will DEFINITELY look the same even if you took them optically. As Kerry said, messing with the negatives while developing is the same thing as messing with the photos on photoshop. Also, an inexperienced person like me would then be liable to claim that more experienced photographers are better than me JUST because you have expensive cameras that have a hundred more controls than mine. You think you would agree to that? Can I suddenly take better photos than all of you if you give me the best SLR in town? In the same way, can a bad photograpger make photos better than yours JUST by editing them in Photoshop? Well, and even if he will have to surely admit the man's talent. He might not be a good photographer, but an excellent image editor.

I would like to add that even I am not supporting people who EXTENSIVELY use image editing to make their photos look totalyl different than what they actually are.

The real challenge is taking a photo optically and developing/printing it with ABSOLUTELY no special treatment of the negative and comparing it with a digitally taken photo with ABSOLUTELY
no image editing.

I guess, you will find that the results will be even both way. So I would say we can all take photos whichever way we find fesible. All that matters is that people looking at it should feel good.

I loved this quote by someone ..."Music is something that is TOO IMPORTANT to be left only in the hands of professionals". I guess we can generalize it to all forms of art.

What do you all think?

To love this comment, log in above
3/18/2005 2:30:34 AM


BetterPhoto Member
  I think you take a chance that the lab could scratch or even loose your negative, its happened before

To love this comment, log in above
3/18/2005 2:43:27 AM

William Jacobs   I am overwhelmed by the response to my questions and thoughts. To the ones that have given me more insight into digital, thanks. To all of you that have a love for photography be it film or digital, don't ever lose that passion. Photography captures once in a lifetime images.
Bill J.

To love this comment, log in above
3/18/2005 6:11:33 AM

Kerry L. Walker   It's time for a little history lesson. When photography was invented, the painters hated it. They KNEW it would spell the end of their form of art. Somebody forgot to tell Picasso, de Grazia, etc., not to mention a plethora of otherwise unknown artists who still ply their trade. The invention of the SLR signaled the end of the rangefinder camera. Somebody forgot to tell Leica and now Zeiss is reviving their rangefinder camera. (By the way, the Leica M-7 is much more expensive than most digital cameras but it still has a market.) Now, everyone is saying digital will replace film. For some people, yes, it will, but not for all. Sure, some clients will demand digital while others will want film. Most don't care about the capture medium. They just want good pictures and they don't care how you get them.

To love this comment, log in above
3/18/2005 6:47:56 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  First, as to what Bill is originally asking, I agree with the first two responses from Kerry and Melissa. Also, I think if more digital photographers without film experience took the time to learn, understand and practice how film works, how to light a scene, process and print film, it would make them better digital photographers. That's especially so in understanding things like contrast, lighting ratios, tonality, sharpness, brightness / highlight, shadow detail, etc.

I prefer film and haven't even thought about going digital. Not one of my clients objects particularly because they retain me based on my photographic vision, not what I, or someone else, can "fix" or "modify" or "create" .

And besides, as I've said many times before, no one, and I mean NO ONE has been able to demonstrate to me that a digital image will last, say 20 years, no matter how it's backed up. That's to say nothing for the number of images that some how get lost between camera and monitor and aren't recoverable. True, a lab may lose or beat up a roll of film, once in a great while, but then that's why I shoot back-ups and hold them back from processing til the others are cooked. Then I don't have any problems with scratched transparencies. Aside from that, I'd rather be fixing a scratched transparency in photoshop than looking around for lost pixels. They're really hard to find sometimes.

To love this comment, log in above
3/18/2005 7:58:27 PM

Ganesh G
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/24/2005
  Nobody cared to discuss about my comments. Are you all better photographers JUST because you have more expensive cameras with hundreds fo controls? Or is there something else?


To love this comment, log in above
3/18/2005 8:48:12 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  This is reminding me of a Dr. Seuss story.
What's film experience have to do with anything? That digital photographer that needs to learn lights and contrast is just a photographer that needs to learn some things. Digital is what he uses, not what he is.
None of it holds water because what gets fixed with a jpeg or tiff, has been getting fixed with film ever since it's been used.
Take care of negatives, they'll last a pretty long time. Take care of your cd's or dvd's, they'll last a pretty long time. Who was shooting digital in 1980 that's looking for an image that's lasted 20 years?
It's all a bunch of crap, such and such happens to digital, yet people still shooting back ups with film.
Something new is around that's a different way of doing things, then a bunch of people get paranoid.
Choose your path, they take you to the same place.

To love this comment, log in above
3/18/2005 9:19:58 PM

Lori Carpenter
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/31/2004
  Your peers will be interested in how you processed your image. The client, on the other hand, just sees the end result and usually doesn't care how you got from point A to point B. If you produce high quality work, regardless of what your processes, you'll be successful.

I started with film and thought that I would remain there and never go digital, this was until I realized that my processes could be minimized greatly (saving me lots of money) by shooting digital to begin with. Now, I would only pick up my film camera as a backup if for some reason my digital failed.

I know this was a bit redundant from what others have said, but the coffee was motivating me this morning.

To love this comment, log in above
3/19/2005 5:48:01 AM

William Jacobs   Again, to all that have replied, THANKS.
I have learned a great deal. So no matter what you use, the love of photography is what counts. To those that do this for money, what the customer wants is what we need to provide to the best of our ability no matter how we provide it. I know that I would never be comfortable using digital and there are those that will probably never be comfortable using film.
Thanks again everyone!
Bill J.

To love this comment, log in above
3/21/2005 3:20:59 AM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.