Moving back to film?
Almost all the photographs on this site are shot on digital cameras. I haven’t shot on film for a long time but I have hundreds of negatives I’ve taken over the years a few of which I’ve scanned and appear on this page.
I used to develop all my own films, both colour and black and white, and whilst it was time consuming, wasteful and in the case of colour, very expensive it was also very rewarding. I gave up on colour a long time ago though. Printing black and white was enjoyable and most of the techniques learnt in the darkroom transferred readily to Photoshop. Dodging and burning, changing contrast grades applied just the same in the analogue world as it does in the digital world.
Of course, digital has many advantages and film is now relegated to a niche market.
However, in the way that vinyl has seen a resurgence in a world of digital downloads and streaming there does seem to be a growing interest in analogue photography. I share this interest and am seriously considering buying a film camera and shooting film alongside digital.
So what are the advantages of film?
Very little in practical terms. I think the main thing in film’s favour is psychological. It encourages slower shooting due to the limited number of frames available. Slower shooting usually means more considered shooting.
There is also a more emotional involvement with film, especially if developing and printing your own work. Digital can lead to a ‘disconnect’ between the photographer and the image – there’s always the feeling that there’s a computer as the middle-man; whether that’s Photoshop or the technology in modern cameras. Of course this is only an arbitrary distinction – swap the CPU for chemicals and there is little distinction. It just feels that there is.
Paradoxically the imperfection of film is one of its greatest benefits. Digital can seem ‘too good’, sometimes unrealistically so. The reduced tonal range and grain in film images can give it a more human feel. The fact that there are several companies offering plugins and presets purporting to emulate traditional films (they don’t really work!) seems to back this up.
One final thing that appeals to me about shooting film is that the cameras are so much nicer. There is something about a traditional manual focus film camera that that is unmatched in the digital world. Modern cameras have so many features that the instruction books (or more likely the PDF download) run to 500 pages. I’ve never read one yet so no doubt I’m missing out on a lot of useful features that the camera offers. Basically cameras should be simple and intuitive – get it in focus, set the correct exposure and press the shutter.
So it’s film from now on?
Despite all the above I’ll still be shooting digital the vast majority of the time – 100% of the time until I pick up a second hand film camera. In reality, the benefits of digital far outweigh the benefits of film.
In the meantime I’ll post new digital images and a few scans (like those on this page) from old negatives and darkroom prints.
A few more photographs taken on film can be found on my Facebook page