With the popularity of film finding its way into photographer’s hands, headlines are still reading, Why Film is Better than Digital and Comparing Film vs Digital.
Isn’t the Debate Over?
At the starting point of digital photography, people once thought that film was going to be a dying art. A movie quote instantly comes to mind: — spoken from a man whom is brought out to be piled onto a wagon carrying dead bodies to be disposed of in the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Film is far from dead and isn’t exactly going to go away it seems… in fact, I think that its getting better! (If you haven’t seen the movie, please… please watch it and join the many who have watched one of history’s most ridiculously funny/stupid movies.) Thankfully, I haven’t heard much recent kickback from the communities about answers to those questions.
But Isn’t There A Huge Difference?
I suggest that those who think of it all as a comparison between mediums to think of it as a unity of both worlds. The digital world is highly enhanced by the feeling and character that film emulation is able to add in images, and the film world is also getting immortalized by being brought into the digital world through the available technology of scanners.
The comparison should really quit, and regardless of tech specs, resolve numbers, and other useless information that doesn’t really matter, people should enjoy what each medium has to offer. Those die-hard film shooters can stay precise snipers of their subjects, and those spray-and-pray shooters of the digital world can also continue to make sure that they have the shot. But now, film shooters can be up to date in the digital world should they choose to, and the digital shooters can take on some of the characteristics of film if they choose to as well. That choice is what’s awesome and new.
Unifying Film and Digital
There are two different and distinct ways to get the awesome characteristics of film today in digital formats.
Option 1: Shoot and Use Film.
Film still has qualities that aren’t found readily in the digital age at an affordable price. Film is often found to be more forgiving when it comes to blowing out highlights in a picture and retaining detail in the shadows, which is due to its broad dynamic range. The point is that the dynamic range enhance the images and portray more character, feel and life– and we want that to be found in our images.
Another quality is the color rendition and specific image quality that comes from film. Each series of film has a specific characteristic, and often times, those characteristics can be altered either intentionally or unintentionally to produce unique effects from each roll of film.
Given that it does take a bit more time and money to really experience how to shoot film and how to get exactly what you want, I found the investment to be well worth it– even though I personally haven’t developed a roll of film by my own hands for about 3 years. Modern labs such as, The Find Lab, help aid new film photographers by developing the film, scanning the film, and providing feedback to the shooter via e-mail to help create better images on film. It’s quite handy and nice to get that service from a person.
If you’ve got a stash of negatives developed already, you can choose to get those negatives scanned by a professional lab or choose to do it yourself. There’s a great review of a scanner that Mark Morrow did here on Photofocus found here: Jumbl. And there’s a couple iPhone film scanners out there that are gaining popularity with the college/hipster crowd. After you’ve scanned it, you can then clean it up and remove dust and do all the fun post processing things, then enjoy the characteristics of film.
Option 2: Digital Shots + Post Processing
Shots straight out of the digital camera would be the best… If only there was a camera that had in camera film processing based off of popular films… Ha, oh yeah, the Fujifilm X-T1 and other X-Series cameras have that. People can take advantage of the color rendition that Fujifilm has implemented into their cameras from their popular films and have them applied directly in camera. Super great stuff with great tonality and great quality. Can’t get easier than that!
If you don’t have a Fujifilm camera, there are companies that specialize in recreating the film feeling albeit through post processing. While they’re not all same, they all get pretty close and does give the image some character. I personally use Lightroom CC to manage my pictures, and it is readily supported by the film-emulating-specialists.
Ones that I’ve been working with lately are, in no specific order, VSCO (Visual Supply Company), Replichrome, and Exposure 7 which is much more than just a film emulation preset. All the companies have a host of different options for their film emulations, and one, VSCO, even has an iPhone app that does similar edits for you mobile photographers out there. These are all pretty simple to use and really easy to tweak to your liking through either a pack of presets or an external editor!
I’ve got a couple comparison shots to take a look at. Each company processes their emulation differently, so it is normal for variances to exist, even if they are utilizing the same film. There’s also scanners and other random variables that affect the overall image and processing. Overall though, it gets you a look that wasn’t there before– and all for relatively cheap. These were just one click adjustments and without any tweaking.
I love Kodak’s Portra 160. It’s one of my favorite films. I even named my cat after it. You can see that there’s a tiny difference between the companies, some are a little bit cooler and some have a bit more contrast. Overall, consistent though.
This is a Fuji 400H comparison
And lastly, this is a Kodak Tri-X 400 Comparison
I can’t go and say that one is better than the other– it’s something that is subjective at this point. These companies have done some amazing things to help enhance the photography community and keep film in remembrance. I do use several of the different presets from the various companies and have also found my favorites from each company. All three of the companies have great products and great support for all ranges of cameras, so I don’t have a problem referring you to any of them. You really can’t go wrong with any of them!