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?”
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.