Film. Why I love it. (And other silly mistakes).

As it turns out I am heading off to an awesome workshop in Memphis for a few days. They're going to tell me that I have to cater my blog to clients and potential clients and not just random readers. In other words cut the techy, geeky stuff and post pictures. And I'm probably going to listen to them (to a degree). In other words I don't think I'm going to be posting as much about gear (as much as I'm obsessed with it) and more about the actual photographs. But until then...

Film: Expensive, annoying, time-consuming, obsolete.

Digital: Quick, easy, cheap, modern.

So why would anyone in their right mind shoot film?

Answer A. They're not in their right mind.

Answer B. This one is a bit long. There are absolute benefits and fringe benefits, but Im going to group them together as they are somewhat intertwined.

So here goes:

  • Latitude: Film captures more in the shadows and waaaaaay more in the highlights. Especially some of the new films.
  • More latitude means you could be a little freer with your exposures, less worry (though you should still nail your exposures).
  • Image quality: Skin tones on film look better. Period. The color looks better and somehow it manages to smooth away blemishes while still being sharp. Magic.
  • Digital cameras have one sensor which is optimized for certain qualities. In a film camera you could have a bunch of different sensors (films) for different looks.
  • Choice in cameras: In digital you are limited to high end Canon, Nikon and if you're a bit brave Sony (and maybe Leica). In film you have a huuuuge choice of cameras of which almost all of them take spectacular pictures. And they are much much much cheaper.
  • Obsoleteness: Your $3000 digital camera (and mine for that matter) will be worth $50 in ten years. Your $500 film camera will be worth $1000 in ten years.
  • When a new film comes out you shot got to pop it in. No need to buy a new camera.
  • Sensor size: In digital you are limited to 35mm (or medium format if you're absolutely loaded, but then you lose any decent high iso capabilities), in Film you got everything from Minox cameras (spy cameras) to 8"x10". Larger sensor=cooler pictures.
  • You got to know (or learn quickly) your stuff. No chimping (looking at your screen and saying "oooh!! ooooh!!) and changing your settings accordingly.
  • As a result you are more involved in the shoot/hike/client/gondola ride, instead of playing with your camera.
  • Film cameras tend to be much simpler. A shutter speed dial. An aperture ring and thats it. No menus designed by sadists. Simple is good.
  • You do more to get the shot. Knowing that each picture costs $$$ makes you take that extra step to make sure all is good, to get a better angle, to catch the light, to wait for an expression etc.
  • The cameras look cool.
  • If you send your negatives off to a good lab (of which there are but few) your scans come back ready to go. No adjustments needed. Crazy huge time saver.
  • Less shots means less time spent sifting through finding the "best".
  • Less time in front of a computer makes the world better place.

One important caveat: You must send the film to a reputable lab for developing and scanning. I use Richards Photo Lab in LA which is amazing. It also costs a pretty penny. And it is so worth it. That last shoot I posted, it was all on medium format film shot with my new Contax 645 (more on that later)and 80mm lens. Not one photo had any edits done by me (besides an occasional straightening). None. And do you see those skin tones? I could spend hours in photoshop and not be able to get anything close to that with digital.

Here are some from my first roll with my new camera (obviously they're of my fam, no testing new gear on clients!). Straight scans untouched by me:

photo-1-3.jpg photo-2-3.jpg photo-3-2.jpg photo-4-2.jpg photo-5-2.jpg photo-6-2.jpg photo-7-2.jpg photo-8-2.jpg

Awesome yes?

Here are a bunch from the Mamiya developed by Walmart (ouch, not good idea, especially for black and white, notice all those dots on the last few?) and scanned by me. Most of the color I ended up just converting to black and white (though I could have spent more time in photoshop getting them right). Way more time consuming and doesn't look anywhere near the scans by Richard Photo Lab. Lesson learned.

photo-3.jpg photo-4.jpg photo-1.jpg photo-6.jpg photo-7.jpg photo-8.jpg photo-5.jpg photo-10.jpg photo-11.jpg photo-12.jpg photo-2.jpg photo-9.jpg photo-1-2.jpg photo-2-2.jpg

And the biggest mistake? Buying Jonathan Canlas' FIND guide (film is not dead guide) almost a year after I first started playing around with film. It would have saved my a lot of money and even more time. Now you know. Don't make the same mistake.