I recently talked to a young man who I discovered was very interested in photography (he did not know anything about my own ‘Special Effect’ photography), and having told me that it was his main hobby, I was intrigued, and very surprised, when he explained that he far preferred to use film rather than digital imaging. Even though it is so difficult and expensive to buy film these days. I wrongly presumed he was referring to Black and White photography, but soon realised he was buying colour films.
All new cameras, even mobile phones, are digital. Also, there are only a few small laboratories that will process colour film, and home processing although possible, is not easy. Yet he told me there are groups of photographers, like him, preferring to use film and their numbers are growing.
I have looked on the Internet and there are indeed lots of discussions on the advantages, or disadvantages, of using film in comparison with digital.
The majority claim that in using film, because of the need to be far more selective (taking far less photographs due to the high costs), has trained them to become far better photographers.
Another claim was that good digital cameras are expensive and need to be replaced every four, or five years, as they are upgraded so frequently. Yet buying a second-hand film camera will be cheaper, last a lifetime and will hold its value, even though film cameras are far bulkier and heavier.
Lastly, old transparencies and negatives can, and will always be, easily viewed, but who knows, as digital technology changes so quickly, if it will be possible to view digital images in the future.
I was amazed to learn this, because of the incredible possibilities of digital photography, that now exist. The cameras not only make it easier to control the image and exposure, in so many ways, that were much more complicated before with film. There is the advantage of seeing the digital result immediately. But even after having taken the picture, with the aid of software, the options available now to manipulate digital photographs are just fantastic!
This made me reflect on why I had favoured using colour reversal film (for my own creative transparencies) rather than negative film in the 1960’s, before anyone had computers. I enjoyed most viewing the large projected image, far more than a print, even though there was no option to alter the picture once taken, yet I was using it for my own ‘special effects’. But having to wait at least a week, to see the transparencies, was frustrating.
I preferred transparencies to negatives because I found it extremely hard to master colour printing, as an amateur, so I always relied on professional processing laboratories to make my prints.
My ‘Special Effects’ pictures were imaginative (nothing like the usual photographs) and I soon found that it was nearly impossible, when they made prints from my negatives, for them to know how to get the colour balance that I really wanted. The advantage of transparencies was that I could simply instruct them to match the colour balance of the transparency that they could see.
My favourite film was the Kodak ‘Kodachrome 25’ that sadly is no longer available. Transparencies were so much more vibrant than any of the prints and so I concentrated on what I could do with Kodachrome. By always using this film I soon got to know, how best to control it, even with my own ‘Special Effects’.
These days I am excited by the digital option, rather than film. However, using my own invented ‘Painting with light’ technique that involves photographing projected images, I can create some effects that would be exceedingly difficult to achieve with digital software.
My own views have always been that the most important aspect of photography is the resulting picture, the composition, the quality and the choice of subject. Not the questions of the technique, or make of camera, lens used, or film etc. It is only the resulting picture that really matters; however, it was created!