When do you need film or digital capture?

Depending on your photographic vision and intent there may be the opportunity to consider the artistic value of film capture. This post looks at some of the artistic and craft reason why digital may not entirely satisfy you. For me, digital pictures can be too everything: sharp, contrasty, saturated and clinical. I have always wanted to create pictures that look like film printed on a fibre based darkroom paper. Below are some of the pros and cons of film or digital capture.

What are you using your camera for?

I have always had a hankering to return to some form of film photography. About 10 years ago I went down the road of buying a Canon film body, I found there is a range of pros and cons. Back in the early 80’s, I was using Nikon bodies and lenses. I have bought a Nikon FE2 body from eBay that is yet to arrive. I plan to use widest angle lens I can fix to this body which I’m hoping is the Samyang 14 mm manual focus lens. So I am gradually massing the hardware needed to reinvigorate my film photography. Whether this is a passing fad or not I am not sure, as this is the second attempt, it’s kill or cure. My current intention is to experiment with film alongside my current digital practice.

Your chosen medium of film or digital capture will depend largely on your choice of subject matter. If you are a professional sports photographer the ability to capture, edit, caption and upload the picture of the winning goal at a football match to your editor within minutes is a great boon for digital. At the other extreme of the spectrum, if you are a fine art photographer/artist who is more interested in the art and craft of picture making then you may be interested in exploring the breadth and depth of analogue photography. There is no time pressure to make pictures for anybody else. The whole reason for using a camera is to create yourself through photography.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” George Bernard Shaw

film or digital capture
film or digital capture
Some of the choices

We all have largely taken to the convenience of digital capture and output to the detriment of ultimate fine art print quality. Just because something is available doesn’t mean that it is ultimately suitable in all situations. Now that we have a choice of film or digital capture there are pros and cons as noted below for the use of each medium. Depending on your intent and what you are using your cameras for this can help to inform the choices you make. For example, there are those who still make pictures with the technology available before celluloid film in 1889. This could be the range of processes that include: Tintype, Platinum and Cyanotype etc but this is a very small band of dedicated photographers and artists. There will also be a group of photographers who are still completely aligned the days of the wet darkroom for capture and printing. They have not succumbed to the different look gained from the digital print. There will be yet another group who do their capture with film, scan the negative and print on inkjet paper.

Another option in this subset is those who scan the negative and carry out refining work to the digital negative in Photoshop or Lightroom. From the enhanced digital negative file, a digital contact negative is printed via an inkjet printer.

An example of the digital contact negative is the Fotospeed Digital Contact Film DC 80. This digital contact negative is then contact printed onto standard darkroom papers. A digital negative as it’s known can also be used in any of the alternative forms of printing.

film or digital capture
Film Vs Digital 

Set out below is an incomplete list of pros and cons of digital and analogue photography. For anybody else who is thinking about using film again or maybe film for the first time here are some of the issues to be considered.

Film Pros
  • Start-up costs are low
  • A fully mature process, informing digital photography
  • A hands-on tactile process with a tangible permanent result
  • Undefinable picture quality
  • An intuitive taking and printing process
  • Helps to teach the basics of photography
  • Film teaches the photographer to think before pressing the button
  • Has the element of surprise or serendipity
  • Film has a better tolerance to over-exposure than digital
  • Discontinued positive and negative films are being reintroduced
  • Analogue photography hardware is cheaper – Plenty of used film bodies and lenses are available at affordable low prices
  • A print is a physical long-term record not subject to the vagaries of digital progress and built-in obsolescence
  • Limited frames per film – builds vision, intent and style through a shorter editing process
  • Transparency film – what you see is what you get teaches us to check the viewfinder fully before you press the shutter
  • The look and depth of tone in a fine art print on a fibre based Baryta type paper is not yet matched by Inkjet Baryta papers
  • Multi-grade printing papers
Digital Pros
  • Ultimate control over the artistic and technical process
  • Instant gratification
  • Technology is evolving by the minute
  • Small and lightweight Camera Hardware
  • Cameras are semi-auto intelligent if required
  • Tethered shooting to a computer
  • Raw file format
  • Multiple framing aspect ratios’s
  • Pre-shot Histogram in CSC Cameras
  • Pre-shot Highlight overexposure warning
  • There is no cost to practice or experiment
  • Immediate feedback on the camera LCD Screen
  • ISO can be changed shot by shot
  • Image Stabilisation
  • Most camera user errors are correctable in the post-processing
  • Repeatable post-processing
  • Repeatable prints
  • Control-able film grain with software plugins
  • No need to make Contact sheets
  • Instant printing from the camera via a wireless printer
  • Instant review of pictures when connected to a TV
  • Wireless remote control of the camera
Film Cons
  • On-going costs are high
  • Requires a darkroom or a third-party processing and printing service
  • Requires time to learn and perfect the art and craft of printing
  • Film photography will not forgive any user errors or mistakes
  • It requires a methodical approach
  • The finished fine art print cannot be previewed on paper
  • A printing plan is required
  • Film emulsion easily scratched or damaged
  • Print retouching is usually required
  • Film development is temperature control dependent
  • The cost of B&W negative film can easily be 25 pence or more every time you press the shutter Plus Film Developing Plus Print Developing Paper and Chemicals
Digital Cons
  • Start-up costs are high, on-going costs are high
  • Digital asset management – for security and access in perpetuity
  • Shooting is camera battery capacity dependent
  • Shooting is camera memory card capacity dependent
  • Sensor cleaning is usually periodically required
  • Mono magenta or green colour cast
  • The print does not look like the monitor picture
  • Prints and digital images can look too sharp
  • Prints and digital images can look too clinical
  • Prints and digital images can look too saturated
  • Prints and digital images can look too contrasty
  • Photographers can come de-skilled when using semi-auto intelligent cameras and post-processing pre-sets
Fotospeed Brand Ambassador

I am delighted to announce I have been invited to continue my working relationship with Fotospeed as a brand ambassador. The role of the brand ambassadors is to promote a passion for printmaking, share printing skills and help to broaden the reach of the brand. For example, one way the brand ambassadors can cover all of the parts of our role is to provide words and pictures for the Fotospeed blog. If you have not seen this page why not give it a look?

Nottingham Foto Fest

Fotospeed is gearing up for another Foto Fest following the success of the one last September in Wiltshire. Leave Saturday 15 July 2018 free in your diary if you are anywhere near Nottingham.

Fuji NP-W126S Battery comparison

http://ultralightphotography.net/gear/fuji-cameras/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-np-w126-batteries/ Here is the most useful article about Fujifilm batteries I have found that explains battery technology. You may be wondering why Fujifilm X-H1 camera is shipped with the new NP-W126s battery. The S on the end of the battery type is new. The article provides a good comparison between the Fuji original and third-party compatible batteries and makes recommendations for the alternatives.  I have ordered two new alternative batteries for my X-H1 at half the cost of one Fuji original.