Photography: Now What? Choose Film Or Digital

It doesn't have to be a choice of digital or film photos. Get started with the old film camera, or get a new high-falutin' Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, Samsung, Panasonic, Leica, etc...Just do it.

As a professional photographer I built my business upon digital photography, but my training as a young photographer only involved the use of film.  Of course, we did not have digital technology way back when.  I don’t think that we dreamed about it, either.  I can say that many times I simply wanted a camera inside my head, behind my eyeballs; it could take exactly what I see.  I suspect one day after I am dead, digital technology will allow such a device to be planted in the brain.  Eureka!  Instant photographer.

We are close to that, maybe.

In my opinion, however, photography is both film and digital.  Granted, digital technology has enabled people to do what they once dreamed about.  Millions of electronic cameras are being sold to clickers, amateurs, pros and pro-wannabes.  During the course of this trend film technology has largely come to a standstill.  But all over the world there are pockets of film users, some shooting color transparencies, most creating in black and white.  Professionals and amateurs who know are shooting both media.

There are many who think film is dead.  It is not.  Kodak, Ilford, Arista, Fujifilm and others, are producing terrific color and black and white films for old-fashioned photographers like me.  Processing is available, too – commercial or do it yourself.

Digital photography has obvious advantages.  First, it is the now thing.  If one wants a camera, it can be purchased anywhere, not only in camera stores.  Second, it is instant gratification for the photographer, monkey-do, monkey-see.  Take the photo.  See the photo.  Problem is we can take thousands of photos in one session.  We must view them all, good and bad.  Then we either file them or forget to do so.  Or lose them.

Film photography requires a bit more effort.  I push black and white film through my 30-year-old film cameras.  I process the mysterious images (which I don’t see until they dry).  I can print them in the darkroom, or I can scan them to make digital prints.  In my mind’s eye I know what I have photographed, but I wait, I anticipate the picture that is coming.  That is the fun part - not seeing it, yet.  When I make a print the creation is complete.  The filing part, I still have to do that.

If you don’t have a digital camera, but you do have a film camera, get started on your photography, anyway.  Students are learning film photography at local high schools.  Trident Technical College still teaches darkroom and stuff.  The College of Charleston's arts program includes film.  The Charleston Center for Photography is also a resource for black and white film photographers. Most film is purchased online.

Oh, yeah, one more thing: You are not alone.    

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Kevin Parent July 24, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Yeah, the anticipation has always been it for me which is why I stick with black and white film. While I do own a rarely used high-end Nikon digital, the handmade part has always been mysteriously gratifying for me. And I do believe that one day we are all going to wake up and 'poof' all our digital 'files' will be gone into cyberwherever...but I'll still have my negetives!!
Charles R Alford July 25, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Yeah, those were the good old days, when there was a certain craft involved. We true believers could awe people with the images we produced. Now we have a tough time competing with computer-nerd eighth-graders.... My film cameras make good conversation pieces...you can never go home...
Lindsay Street July 25, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I actually sold my film camera a few years ago for a good bit of money. It wasn't a classic or anything, just a mid 90s Konica-Minolta, if my memory is correct. It was never used, but I don't take photos for art. I'm usually attempting to take photos for news, and there it is important for me to see that wow, I really messed that photo up and need to try again lol. It also doesn't help that I'm a pretty poor photographer with only a basic working knowledge! Now my 1933 Royal typewriter — THAT I cannot live without, no matter how expensive the ribbon gets! (So nice to type and not be exposed to the internet and other computer distractions sometimes)
Douglas Carr Cunningham August 07, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Lindsey, Somehow I missed your comment on my blog. Obviously, you are an old-fashioned person, with young ideas. Kudos on the typewriter! I appreciate your view, especially regarding the internet. I am certainly distracted all the time. Woe is me...


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