Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

The other day we posted about a nifty plug-in from Digital Film Tools that emulates film. The reaction was amusing. All 12 of the remaining film shooters in our audience felt the need to subject me to the appropriate amount of faux outrage. Their responses were predictable and I think come from the same general set of misconceptions.

If you’re young, and were born into the age of computers, you may tend to romanticize about the good old days you never experienced. I’ve shot more film than most of you. Digital only became available in the last half of my career and I spent more time shooting film than I have yet shooting digital. I was there. I did it every day. I lived it. It wasn’t that great.

Those of you who are of the religion of low – light would have hated it. Tri-X had – (insert Jaws music here) GRAIN! You would equate that to noise and you would hate it. But you would get it at ISO 400 not ISO 25,600 like you do now. “Low-light performance” wasn’t a phrase I ever heard uttered by anyone back in the day.

There was no Photoshop. No HDR. No stitched panoramas. And if something went wrong you were stuck. Retouchers were very limited in what they could do. They were few, expensive and slow. Negative retouchers were even more difficult to find. Essentially – you had to get it perfect in the camera. You had to make compromises.

Film was expensive, and processing more so. The chemicals used in the process were so dangerous that the EPA regulated them. They were officially declared bio-hazards. The heavy metals involved are still doing damage to our ecosystem.

It was hard to make very large prints from film. If you shot for publication you had to use very expensive drum scanners that weren’t all that good.

I could go on – but the fact is, it wasn’t all that much fun. And just because it’s hard to do – doesn’t make the result any better. Nobody cares. Seriously. Your photos aren’t better because you worked harder to make them. They are still just your photos.

Now I know there are a few beanie-wearing “ARTISTES” out there who say that’s the way it should be. To them the process is more important than the outcome. They have a right to their opinion. I have a right to mine too. And I try my best to get it right in the camera but sh*t happens. And when it does I am grateful for the new digital tools that can fix it. If you’re one of those hung up on the process – then you are probably not making great images anyway.

If I’m lucky enough that 100 years from now, my images are still in circulation, and people are still talking about them, nobody will look at my work – either digital or film – and say “I wonder if that was Tri-X?”

It’s silly.

The image is what matters. Period. How you got it is only important to you and those in the camera club you are trying to impress.

Shooting film doesn’t make you an artist. Neither does starving, wearing a beanie and a scarf for that matter. Having vision, heart, dedication to craft, earned and learned skill, a genuine story to tell, empathy and passion for your subject, etc., THOSE things make you an artist. The process? It’s just like the hammer to the nail. The sooner you get that, the sooner you move toward being great.


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Join the conversation! 61 Comments

  1. It’s about time someone chatters the myth that our film days were the best of times. Thanks for stepping up!

  2. Well said Scott! I follow your blog regularly and have come to expect your usual high quality commentary and reviews, but being of a certain age and having lived “film” as you stated, I found this article not only relevant but dead accurate and to the point.
    Thank you for sharing!
    Kendall Adams

  3. It’s interesting, I almost completely agree. There’s no sense in holding on to past technologies for the sake of being hip, or different, or thinking that one is superior to another. Digital is, for all intents and purposes, better. It was the reason that lead me to buy my first DSLR instead of a film one some 8 years ago (not that long really!) because although the initial investment was higher, there were far fewer limitations. I’ve shot nearly 20,000 frames on that particular camera (again, not that many really) and I very much doubt I’d have shot as many frames of film.

    That said, however, I recently got hold of a Pentax K1000 and a few other old film SLRs. On the first day of shooting film properly, I felt like I learned more about light, about exposure, and about composition than I had from the last 8 years of digital. It forces you to think differently; it’s less disposable. Less instant. Now, I’ve applied this technique of taking my time a bit more, and being very deliberate to my digital photography and it’s improved also. It took film to get me to try and think differently, and that’s worth it in my opinion. Also, the pictures have a certain quality, a smoothness, gentle grain, slightly muted colours. There’s something very attractive about analogue photography. To me, my experiments in film recently have been something of a creative renaissance. It’s reawakened a passion for photography in me, and rekindled a spark that the instantaneousness of digital had somewhat dulled.

    You can easily recreate it now, digitally – I’d love Lightroom and the VCSO packs especially (can’t afford it…doh!) and that is just as legitimate a creative endeavour as shooting film, large format, digital, disposable camera, Holga, Instagram…no technique is better, more legitimate or “purer” than another. It really is what you choose to create with it that matters. And like you say, nobody will be looking at photographs from today’s greats in a hundred years and wondering which model of 5D they took it on. I have no idea what cameras Ansel Adams used – no doubt he’d have created similarly spectacular images with a 5D or whatever!

  4. Scott, I see that, for you, the finished product is your goal. That’s fine, for you, but not everyone is like that. For me (I prefer film and doing my own processing) it’s the process that counts. I’m not “artistic”, and I don’t even own a beanie, but I enjoy the manual process of film photography. That doesn’t mean much to you, but it does to me, and it’s pretty arrogant for you to say that I’m ” probably not making great images anyway.”

    It may be somewhat like the process of travel: whenever possible, I prefer to drive rather than fly. For local travel, I would rather use my bicycle than the car. You might say that the arrival is more important than the trip, and that the ride doesn’t matter, but for some people the destination is simply an excuse for the ride.

    • Dan I have no intention of insulting you but my experience (which is all I have to go on) tells me that if you’re a process guy – then you’re not making photos that matter. Good luck.

  5. Agree 100%!! It bugs me to hear people complain of noise at iso 6400. Only a fool would use above iso 800 in the old days and it was as grainy as the beach.

    I will admit, I do still appreciate a bit of grain sometimes, but it’s an artistic choice.

  6. Reblogged this on Bailey Cooper BLOG and commented:
    So true… It’s the image that matters, not how you get it. I’ve shot thousands of rolls of film, and sometimes I think I miss the ‘good old days’, then I slap myself in the face and tell myself not to be stupid! We’ve never had it so good!

  7. Been There, Done That. Thank you Scott.

  8. I will get a DSLR eventually. But since my wife thinks it’ll be the last camera that I buy, I at least want a prosumer model instead of an entry level model. Right now, I’m still using my Canon A-1 that I bought new about 32-33 years ago.

    Since this DSLR purchase will be the “last” (possibly) that I buy, I want the the most that I can afford. Yea, I know I need a new investment in lenses since the Canon FD lenses don’t work on EOS cameras. My wife wanted to buy me a DSLR for Christmas two years ago, but when I found that her budget was a Canon T3i, I talked her out of it; first, I thought about the Canon 60D, but after more research, I settled on the 7D.

    I am not a beanie-wearing “ARTISTES” and I’m too old to be a hipster, though I could’ve been a hippy in the 70’s. I don’t make my living with photography, but computer programming has been my career since the mid 70’s.

    I haven’t found any problems with grain on Kodak Ektar 100 or Portra 400. But I shot a concert using Kodak TMAX 3200 pushed two stops to 12800, which my A-1 tops out at. Yes, the grain was evident; in one photo, it basically exploded.

    I do use Lightroom for my film photography; I have the lab scan the images to CD. One of the “Show and Tell” monthly themes of the local camera club was creating panoramas. I was originally going to leave the project to the DSLR and Photoshop guys, but I thought why not try? I don’t have Photoshop, but I found that Corel Paint Shop Pro can create panoramas. I created two panoramas and one of my panoramas was included in the monthly newsletter.

    Of HDR, I don’t mind if it is subtle, but I’ve seen a lot of images where the photographer goes “hog wild” in processing and creates an image that is not possible in nature. It’s just my opinion, but the over-processed HDR images are fugly.

  9. Absolutely couldn’t agree more! very well written article. I had a couple of years with film before the digital age really got going, and now I use film for fun and nostalgic reasons, and not because I think it will make my images better.

  10. Totally agree and well done. I first heard of digital capture in 1969, saw the first concrete results at a Kodak (remember them) seminar in 1988 and couldn’t wait to get my hands on a digital camera. That took another 10 years and then really couldn’t get rid of my darkroom quick enough. I’m fed up as well hearing about film, but I suppose that there will still be people eulogising it in 20 years time

  11. Well said! I didn’t get the whole”film was better because it was harder thingee” either.And as a novice DSLR shooter, I disagree anyway. Digital and everything that goes with it is pretty damn hard! For me anyway and I suspect others. Thanks, Scott.

  12. I know on paper digital has more dynamic range.

    But one of the most difficult shooting condition is inside large cathedrals, which may have these huge cavernous domes with light sources streaming through windows high above the floor.

    You get the bloom around these windows, which may be stained glass or may have some other ornate detail you want to capture.

    But then the walls which aren’t directly lit by the daylight coming through the windows come in too dark. To top it off, you’re not allowed to use a tripod most of the time at these venues so you have to do handheld shots at much higher than base ISO.

    So it’s difficult to do HDR and you get noise and blooming.

    My recollection is that film worked better in these conditions. I will admit though that I never made large prints, probably kept everything as slides. There was certainly no bloom and I don’t recall dark areas. There may have been grain if I looked with a magnifying glass.

  13. I don’t shoot professionally, and love working in my darkroom. If I did shoot pro though, I would hate film. Glad I don’t. Nicely written and agree!

  14. It’s fun to shoot digital and “develop” in PS. Fun to shoot and develop film too. Doesn’t have to be either or. Shoot film, scan the neg, reverse in ps print on huge acitate contact print and do alternate process. Slip between the two worlds of analog and digital for a lotta fun times.

  15. Very well stated. I don’t know of a single assistant who waxed poetically about loading film holders in their hotel bathroom at 2AM or for that matter sitting in a studio doing final exposures until all hours of the night. And, just like you said, we can only hope that 100 years from now they are still looking at your pictures.

  16. Hi there,

    the part that made me chuckle the most was

    ‘If I’m lucky enough that 100 years from now, my images are still in circulation, and people are still talking about them, nobody will look at my work – either digital or film – and say “I wonder if that was Tri-X?”’.

    It’s funny because you assume that your digital images will be around in 100 years. I am pretty sure that 99% of all digital work by individuals will be utterly lost in 100 years. Hard drives do not last that long. DVDs, CDs, tapes etc. do not last that long. There are no established services to archive digital files that are designed to store digital work for the broad masses over decades. There is a reason all museums on this planet archive images on film(!!). Even if you shoot digital, if you want your work to survive time, you need to archive on film. Ironic, huh?

    So sorry to destroy your illusions, but in 100 years from now, if you’re lucky, someone might stumble across boxes of film rolls and negatives of yours, but there won’t be any working hard drives in those boxes by then. There will always be the hidden work of Vivian Maiers to be discovered in the future, but there won’t be hidden digital discoveries from the digital age. Your digital work will be lost, with bits and pieces floating around on whatever kind of Internet there will be in 100 years from now, but your master files, your image library (Lightroom, Aperture, whatever…) will be lost FOREVER.

    You also spoke about results and how those matter. Film and the associated print process still offer results that cannot be achieved with a digital image to print workflow. An inkjet or laser print (insert any printing method which produces perfect copies on paper) will never compete with a true black & white film paper development in the fine art market. For museum exhibitions, the most significant work is still developed from film on paper. On the fine art market, buyers prefer pieces which are unique. An inkjet or laser print is not unique. A print from a black & white negative, manually produced in the lab and different from every other print of the same negative is unique and will create higher prices on the fine art markets.

    And talking about enlargements – it’s clear that you only refer to 35mm film (or smaller) when you claim that digital produces better enlargements than film now. Given the right film (there are so many high resolving films now) and the right format (medium format or larger), film still runs circles around most digital camera setups in circulation.

    Talking about grain versus noise. Does anybody seriously think, that grain is associated with the same dislikes that are tied to digital noise?! If that was the case, there wouldn’t be all these expensive post processing add-ons in the digital workflow that try to emulate film grain. I never heard about someone adding digital noise on purpose while with film grain it is very common.

    Film is far from dead. It is transitioning and consolidating. Ordinary consumers will not use film anymore. But the interested amateurs, studio professionals and professional fine artists will still use it, for all of the reasons stated above.

    Personally, I embrace both. I noticed that I get amazing image quality from my professional analog gear (Konica Hexar AF, Contax G2 with Zeiss glass) that I couldn’t afford easily with a digital camera (I’m not buying a Leica M 240 and matching glass anytime soon…). I enjoy the slower workflow with film. I enjoy the face that with just 36 images on a roll I get the same amount of keepers while having the certainty that those keepers will survive the stray EMP blasts from an atomic World War III that will rid the earth of all things digital. My analog work will be around for others to enjoy in 100 years.

    • Tobias you must think you’re a rebel (and cool) because you’re in the minority. I bet you wear a beanie too right? Do you have ANY evidence to support any of the silly claims you make? Didn’t think so.

  17. […] Stop Romanticizing About The Good Old Film Days – They Weren’t That Good […]

  18. I’m a very passionate film and darkroom user. Don’t even own a digital camera. But I agree with you that all we do between exposure and finished prints are just intermediaries and tools to achieve what we’d like to achieve.
    I think a lot of people using film are tremendously sad to see their beloved materials vanish left and right, so when somebody makes remarks that is not in favor of what they love, it’s interpreted very personally. That’s no excuse to get rude and defensive on our part, however, but possibly an explanation.
    I quote Neil Gaiman: ‘Make good art!’
    The rest is not important.

  19. absolutely right on..when the medium becomes the message, that’s not a good thing…

  20. This is not about romanticizing. Many times I don’t care if a photograph is digital or analog. The thing is that your opinion it’s just what it is: your opinion. In what you wrote you are neglecting the fact that some, many prints based on analog alternative processes owe their beauty (if we can still use the word “beauty in this world) in big part to the process itself.

    You say silver is frustrating and risky. I say that’s life. I say that can be a very good thing. You say, the image is what counts. I say I enjoy the process.

    It’s just in the diatribe between digital and analog that I have understood that at the very moment you voice your firm and rigid opinion in something, automatically something gets thrown in your face to prove it wrong.
    The only wrong thing in all this is to think that your opinions are axioms. They are not. They are only your opinions and there are as many opinions as there are people.

    • Domenico I pointed out that I was expressing my opinion. I pointed out that some people have a different opinion. Not sure what you’re trying to say. But you are expressing opinions as well – and they are no more axions than mine.

      You say that some prints based on film owe their beauty to the process. That is merely an opinion and not fact.

      You mis-characterize what I said about silver (which is a sure sign you are on the wrong side of the argument.) I didn’t say it was frustrating. I didn’t say it was risky. I said the EPA has determined that it DOES harm and CONTINUES to harm the environment. You think “that’s life?” WTF?

      There is no war (or diatribe) between film and digital. Digital won. You can stomp your feet, cross your arms, plug your ears and scream otherwise all you want, but it’s just the way it is. And I do have a firm and rigid opinion. So what? Mine is based on 40 years of experience and seems to be one that more people give weight to than yours. I guess that’s what you’re really mad about? All opinions are not created equal.

      Oh and I bet you too have a beanie right?

      • Scott,

        Nobody won. Photography is. In all its forms it’s beautiful. It makes no sense to tout one form of it as superior when they are so different. You said it yourself. They are just tools.

        As far as the environment goes: check out how much harmful pollution is let into our atmosphere when they manufacture and destroy all microchips, boards, sensors, and parts for digital cameras, computers, printers, ink cartridges, etc. there is no environmentally friendly form of photography.

        I respect your opinion, and am humble in front of those passionate about digital photography. I hope that I will be repaid with the same favor.

        Thanks, and keep up the good work in your writings.

        • Thomas your reply misses the point. Digital photography makes up 92% of the market. You can pretend that makes no difference but you’re just pretending.

  21. LOL!!!! I LOVE this Post!!! Well Said!!!!

  22. I love both film and digital. I shoot mostly digital, but I still shoot film as well. Digital is fantastic, and the things you can do make it much more versatile. But I still like to shoot a roll of film every once in a while. It reminds me to think about what I’m doing. I can’t just shoot off 20 frames and chose the best one. And it’s great for learning. I still think film is fun, but I use digital for most things.

  23. I am stating facts. It’s well known that

    * there is no long term archive system that is based on digital media
    * all museums store their image artwork on archive film, because it’s the only established way to store images over a long time
    * film lasts decades if not hundreds of years if properly stored
    * a developed print on paper is unique while a print from a digital file is not
    * the price of artwork is based on exclusitivity to a great degree, see recent news on the lawsuit against William Eggleston [], the court’s decision upholds the idea of the exclusitity of the analog prints not being infringed upon by digital prints
    * nobody in their right mind values the character of digital noise
    * film grain is considered pleasant by enough people for a whole digital fake grain industry to thrive on this (NIK/Google, Instagram etc.). If film sucks, why is the trend to emulate it in digital so strong?

    For example, since you think your digital work is going to be around in 100 years, how do you plan to achieve this?

    Or you might share your experience in selling limited fine art photography and comment on whether your digital prints achieve the same value on the market as analog prints might make.

    • Tobias if these are well-known facts then cite sources…

      There is long term archivability of digital prints – Wilhelm’s tests have been used in courts of law and accepted. Sorry you are just making stuff up.

      And you need to get pedantic – resulting to using museums as a standard that I do not accept. Millions of photographs still exist outside of museums and always will.

      Film fades, decays and is prone to damage from moisture, sunlight, etc.

      Your argument assumes that the digital shooter is an idiot. Sorry – not so. Digital files will not ever fade but the storage medium might degrade over time. So people with valuable libraries like me, will be smart and make sure that processes are in place to keep the digital files moving forward as new storage mediums developed. The federal government has hired hundreds of digital archive specialists to preserve important documents not on film, but on digital media. There is not one shred of fact or truth to your comments. They are utter bunk made to support your position.

      And nowhere in my article did I talk about the price of artwork. It’s not relevant to the discussion. I sell fine art prints that will last as long (or probably longer) than any silver print. And I’m pretty sure I’m making more money now than I ever did doing it. And I won’t be destroying the environment by burying heavy metals into the water system of my town.

      Nobody said film sucks. You made that up. You keep moving the goal posts, changing your stance, avoiding the facts in the post, all signs that you are on the wrong side of the argument.

      You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. You’ve been given a chance to share your opinion here. I get it. You don’t like my post. Oh well. I have a right to my opinions too. We’ll let the audience decide from here.

  24. This is awesome! For me as a photographer — I greatly admire film photographers because oh my goodness did they have to be amazing to get a good shot and you couldn’t chimp your screen to see if you got one. To me, photography can be difficult now, but it is nowhere near as difficult as it was back in the film days (again, just my opinion).

    So, for me, when I meet a film photographer from the old days, I typically give them the admiration that I believe they are due and then continue learning on my digital art form.

    I’m grateful for what Digital Film Photographers brought to the industry to create the awesome cameras and great artistry we now have :) But dang am I grateful we have digital cameras!

  25. The one thing I worry about digital is that Mr Everyday User will just delete every dull, boring, seen it everyday shot. These are just the type of gems that enlighten our view of history. My gran used to have a shoebox of pictures that were too dull to make the picture frames or album, but they are the most atmospheric pictures I have on my hard drive. With film most people didn’t have the choice to leave pictures on the roll the local chemist just processed everything. I’m not a Luddite I’ve just bought a copy of lightroom and an olympus pen camera to learn the new photography but I am missing the physical satisfaction of loading a 35mm cassette of Kodachrome and winding on …

  26. I have worked in the computer industry for nearly forty years. I have seen storage media change and file formats change over the years. Who is to say that the RAW file format standard or JPEG, or TIFF format standard a hundred years from now be backward compatible with the file formats of today?

    Are photographers going to move their terabytes of digital images from one storage media to another when it becomes obsolete? Who will be responsible for keeping digital archives of photographers a hundred years after they’re gone?

    Looking at a CDROM or a disk drive, it is not possible to see images are on the storage media without a computer program. However, with film, it is possible to see what is on the film with the naked eye; 110mm film may be a little bit difficult.

  27. Excellent post, Scott. I have been a film photographer for more years than digital also – I trained on plate cameras when I started, and my first year of apprenticeship was spent entirely in the darkroom. And I absolutely love digital! I teach, I exhibit and I still shoot commercially after more than 45 years in the business and not a day goes by when I hanker to shoot film. As for Thomas’ comments, they are absolute bunkum on all points – one of my clients is a state art gallery for whom I consult on the DIGITISATION of all their artworks, and I have a large base of well known fine artists for whom I provide DIGITISATION and ARCHIVING services. Thomas, if you love using film, just say so. And good luck to you.

  28. And as for film photography being non environmentally friendly………..
    Consider the all the plastic junk that goes hand in hand with digital cameras, inkjet printers etc…… most of which ends up in the skip couple years later. My 30yr old Devere enlarger, and cameras up to 100yrs old are still treasured and working beautifully.
    When it comes to chemicals, fixer is the only naughty one and this can be recycled and the silver reclaimed.

    ”Digital photography is like virtual sex…. you never actually touch the real thing or get your hands dirty”

  29. the picture editors who commission me still want me to shoot on film; and they pay all my film expenses; the labs in London are doing a great trade. i guess us Brits are just old fashioned.

  30. Film is what occurs when you don’t brush your teeth.

  31. Just been to Ian Ruhter ‘silver and light’ show, will anyone tell that to Ian? Everything has its time and place, it is a craft to use film. Digital is fast and anyone is a Professional with s dslr as they claim! I enjoyed both media as a tools of choice! Does water paint makes better painting than oil paint?

  32. Nail on the head. Literally!

  33. Being an artist makes you an artist. Do you tell people who use oils to paint that they’re being hipsters because they don’t use a digital pad? Who fuckin cares man, I shoot film because I enjoy the fuck out of it, am I gonna walk into a tech company to shoot stock with it? No it’s not the 80’s…this article is him defending digital and saying he’s shot more film than those he mentions in it. So? I’m 29 of course you have shot more film than me, do I care? No. I will use film til the day it goes away because it is for ME, my art my medium. There’s still a process in digital it just less tangible and the second you realize it’s all a pissing match that’s when you can focus on your images. I shoot what I shoot you shoot whatever you want let me worry about how much hard work I want to do and I’ll let you do whatever it is you do because personally who cares? I don’t walk into a gallery and start asking the photographer being shown what lens he used If I’m there looking that’s good enough for me. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go give blood to pay for some Portra.

  34. I use both. I love both. They are different mediums. I don’t know why it has to be a battle. This is as idiotic as saying drawing is done now that we have wacom tablets. Why do people have to waste time fighting over this? You had to use film in one way – ostensibly under pressure and deadline to pay your bills which made you resent it. Not everyone uses it in this context and it is a very different thing to them.

    If you’re not able to find joy in the process (yes, the process, the experience of making the photograph regardless if the photo comes out or not) than I am sorry to think that you have lost many potential hours of purpose and pleasure over the years. This article is petty and shortsighted. It’s just your opinion yea, but man, have you been missing out.

  35. As a working photojournalist with more than 50 years in the craft, I think I can probably provide some balance here. I too enjoyed this article and agree with it wholeheartedly. I haven’t the slightest nostalgia for film or the darkroom. Tobias W’s assertion that institutions such as museums will have nothing to do with digital photography is not borne out with any evidence. I regularly see prints in museums that have been made from digital sources.

    As far as I can ascertain, the controversial, Andreas Gursky’s Rhein II was shot on film, but it is a fact that the source of the final 12 foot wide print, only exists as a digital Photoshopped file. No matter your opinion of this picture (I hate it BTW) someone decided it was worth $4.3 million. Hardly an indication of a lack of faith in digital reproduction on the part of that collector.

    Both film and digital files are infinitely reproducible mediums, but the idea that film is a more stable basis for photography is entirely delusional. Because I have been involved in photography for more than half a century, I am beginning to discover that many of my early negatives (though processed carefully and caefully stored) are beginning to degrade. So much for the argument of film surviving for centuries. If your work is on color negative then too bad. At one point Kodak would not guarantee the stability of color negative beyond a dozen or so years.

    As for that red herrimg about digital files becoming obsolescent through changes in technology, let me give you a few instances that refute this: A few years ago I sold some work to the Australian National Library photo collection, the national archive. They were content to accept either prints or digital files, so I asked the curator whether they were confident of being able to maintain digital files in into the future. The response was, “Absolutely”.

    I think the preservation of music is a reasonable analogy here. I have a small collection of 78rpm records, I have a 78 record player which no doubt will break down one day and I might have a hard time replacing it. The thing is that I’ve made digital copies of my favorites and can play them on every digital device in the house from the Apple TV to my iPad. I can listen to digital files online that go back to the wax cyclinder recordings of the bugle player that played the “Charge” for the Light Brigade (Google it).

    As far as maintaining a pictorial archive, if my house were to burn down, my negatives and prints, other than those in collections, would be lost forever. On the other hand my digital files, exist on servers in the US, in Britain, Spain and India. Their chances of survival are far higher than any analogue images I may possess.

    And finally, it is hardly likely that people like Bill Gates (Corbis) and organisations like Getty Images are going to allow their massive investments in digital photography to be destroyed, just because of a change in hardware or a new digital picture algorithm.

    No, I embrace digital technology for what it is…and the other night I actually had a nightmare: in my dream I was on an fast-breaking assignment and the film in both my 35mm cameras were at around 30 exposures. The dilemma: use the last few frames or reload, something I would often gamble on when I used to shoot film. I decided to reload and of course I was using Leicas. In fumbling to reload I missed the shot. If you think this is purely a hypothetical situation because it was a dream, ask David Burnett.

  36. I use digital SLRs at work all day long — I work at a newspaper, where digital photography has been a godsend both in our production processes and in dramatically dropping the overhead costs of doing what we do. That’s especially good in the challenging times our industry finds itself in these days. But…when I get home, it’s pretty much all film for me. I love the old cameras, the feel, the heft, the simple mechanics of them and, yes, I love the constraints of film versus digital because it doesn’t let me get away with substituting quantity for the plain old understanding of how light works. The laws of light apply to any device that is used to record an image, though postproduction has allowed a way around some of the real knowledge there for all photographers. The thing that saddens me is the same thing that saddened me as a graphic artist in the past — the technology has made the true art of photography somewhat lost in the mass of mediocrity. There will always be good photographers who do good work with whatever gear suits them; they just have to work a lot harder to rise above the vast majority who believe the technology is the end, and not the means.

  37. I caught several people (from the UK) using the same IP address so I assume it’s the same person trying to spam these comments with pro film remarks. Lame.

  38. @Bill Spears your argument is a red herring. First of all – the silver from 100 years of film processing that was NOT recycled (i.e. almost all of it) will harm our planet forever. You make the argument that film processing silver can be recycled. So can batteries, and all the tools of digital. Additionally – you think all those film cameras still don’t use plastics, batteries, etc.? Rubbish. The EPA has rated photo chemicals as a bio-hazzard on the level of nuclear waste. No such rule on the digital film tools. So you’re merely deflecting and poorly at that.

  39. Ralph Hightower the answer is yes and I am living proof. I have three copies (on different mediums) of every salable digital image I have ever made. I have hired an archiving specialist to make sure that going forward, my data is moved from one format to the next since my digital library contains licensed images that will produce income for me and my heirs in perpetuity. Why would you assume someone smart enough to master digital tools couldn’t figure out how to migrate data going forward? That is insulting.

  40. for me I dont care if a certain person uses film or what.
    but when he brags, “sorry I only shoot in film” or, look at me i process my own film do it too” and boasts as if its the only great thing to do, then I simply feel sorry for them.

    Also some people say that film has made them more think about composition,light and be more critical & etc, I say, can’t you just promise to yourself that you will be critical with every pictures that you will make? even though you are using a digital cam? do you really need film just to practice yourself being more aware to light,composition, framing etc? It needs to start from within you. whether its a film cam,a dslr, a point and shoot, or even phone~

  41. I love the smell of Dektol in the morning, it smells like …., well I forget. Haven’t smelled it since I went digital. Like you Scott, I shot film longer than digital. I don’t want to go back. Shooting high school football games with Tri-X in bad stadium lighting, hoping the flash would carry far enough to get something the newspaper could use. Not something I want to experience again.

    Some say that film makes you a better photographer since you can’t see the results right away. Well, turn off the LCD and don’t chimp. Same experience except you have all the metadata to help with what you did right and wrong.

  42. I think there are a few things wrong with digital photography. I guess I am coming from more of “photography as an art” perspective, rather than as a commercial endeavour.

    1. Most cameras are not full frame and are way too expensive at medium format sensor sizes. The depth of field on film 35mm, medium format and large format have such a beautiful quality to them which is not matched on most digital cameras. Just look at any portrait from a mamiya 6×7 those shots have such a softness to them because of the technical aspects of the lens, film size and yes the artisan themselves.

    2. Its too clean, too clinical, people complained loudly about the Star Wars prequels for their digital effects, watching one episode the other day, the digital effects were just way off, too clean, too clinical, the lighting was unnatural etc… Some film critics argue that the old days of miniature models are more effective in transporting viewers to another world than these “almost real, but not quite” worlds. Film is hard to beat for a more natural, real world feel. You’ll get the indoor lighting wrong, you’ll get blur, focus mistakes, maybe a light leak, its not perfect which for me is much more interesting than perfection.

    3. Chromatic aberration, there is just too much purple fringing and other “smudging” in most digital, I haven’t tried any digital fixes which might help.

    4. Yes digital noise is so ugly, all those stupid red dots all over the place. Film noise again has a nice natural quality to it, almost beautiful. I too want to find a filter that will replicate film grain.

    5. I can’t remember what the technical term is, but film is better at capturing detail in light and shade. The shift between light and dark again is more natural, softer.

    6. Its too easy, too many auto functions, which kills most creativity.

    7. Shooting with digital is so boring, the photo fix is satiated immediately. The pain and pleasure of taking photos is removed. Take a photo, look at the back and review your shot, either delete it or give yourself a high five. Thats where the fun ends. With film I was in Tokyo recently and enjoyed shooting with film so much more, take the shot then move on, then wait for a month before I actually see the shots, the anticipation of waiting is all part of the fun. Then checking your prints sometimes I just want to give up, other times I get such a high from my little wins.

    I guess at the end of the day its the best tool for the job.

    I love the look of medium format and large format, I love photography that errs on the side of art so yeah film is for me. Though I keep hunting for a digital camera that will provide a similar look and even more hopeful a similar experience (albeit cheaper to process) to film.

  43. Man this has been fun. The film fanboys can’t tolerate someone saying something that doesn’t sound like a marching band endorsement of film. If you read what I wrote carefully – you’ll see that my main thesis is that if you are shooting film because you think THAT makes you an artist – you have it wrong. Those of you who have turned this into a film v. digital missed that point and again – the marketplace has spoken. The film busines is one percent of what it used to be. It’s not a big deal.

  44. Lee I disagree with just about everything you said. But that’s your right. Believe what you want. I think it’s silly. Your thesis is that if it’s hard – it’s art is really sad.

  45. I care not about the process of developing so I send it to good labs but I would rather spend the extra money and shoot with film over digital anyday. I don’t hate digital as it was my first experience but I have come to see the results film gives me, and how I shoot so I will continue to use film until the sad day of its end. I can’t say if I will continue to shoot after that but I will always prefer the look. Digital will always be easier/quicker but that has increased the lack of editing down your great shots, and increased the amount of crap images out there!

  46. Digital is fine for amateurs, and for all the reasons you mentioned; photoshop, HDR etc. I started getting into photography fairly recently and was exposed only to digital, which was great. And than on a whim I went to my local library and found books on photography, they were all old and featured images of a quality I had not seen before. I was so impressed I ditched my digital and have spent the last few years shooting film only. Yes digital can take shots at ISO 6400 and you can fix a digital images inherent flaws in photoshop, but why not just get it right the first time? And that in essence is the true difference between the two mediums, one is for techno-geeks who like to press buttons and compare MFT charts and one is for photographers. Long live film!

    • Barry LOL did you even read the post? It’s not about film v. digital it’s about people with the attitude you have that film makes them a pro. Silly. Really. Silly. Oh and should I un-cash all those checks I’ve received since 1995 when I went digital? I am (by your definition) an amateur :)

  47. I simply cannot believe we’re still having this hoary old chestnut of a discussion in 2013 – film vs digital?? Hullo? Why does it have to be anything vs anything? You want to use film, use film! Good luck! Old farts like myself, Scott and a few others on this thread have been there, done that, many, many more times than most if not all of you film fanboys. And we don’t give a shit what you shoot on or why. Just don’t have the attitude (and this is the point of Scott’s post) that shooting film somehow makes your work better, or more artistic, or somehow more worthy than anything shot on digital. And sadly, that IS precisely the attitude some of you are taking, proving Scott’s original point. He never stated that digital was necessarily better than film, just that he (like many of us) prefer shooting digital these days. As he said, the image is what matters, not the process. That’s all. So calm down, take a deep breath and enjoy your darkroom.

  48. […] Stop Romanticizing About The Good Old Film Days – They Weren’t That Good –> read it here […]

  49. […] film shooters went nuts when I said I preferred digital. They loudly proclaimed that REAL photographers use film and anyone who doesn’t can’t […]

  50. […] Érdekes írás jelent meg a photofocuson arról, hogy a filmes idők nem is voltak olyan jók és, hogy Scott Bourne nem érti miért vannak olyanok, akik ezt romantikusnak találják… Mivel ezen a blogon mostanában főleg kémia eljárásokkal készült fotók vannak, gondoltam válaszolok a szerzőnek. (Szinte biztos, hogy nem fog egy szót sem érteni belőle:) […]

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