Shooting Real Film - Dead Serious

2000_032_23.jpgI have had a lot of conversations via email and even a couple over the phone/skype regarding my relatively recent push for people to shoot film. I wanted to share some of the thoughts that I have had and some realizations regarding those conversations. The very first thought and clarification is that I love digital - I really really do but I do not think that digital capture is the only way to go. In fact I really think that for most people it is not the way to go, at least not all the time.

Digital is a huge deal when it comes to actually making things. Making things like fantastic video or other projected presentation of your photographs. Making things like really nice books - nice and inexpensive - way more inexpensive than custom prints from the chemical output age. If you want to spend some money on your best stuff after refining and editing and refining your concept some more you can get books make that will blow your mind in terms of quality level. I am not talking about blurb or any of the HP Indigo stuff. Hit me up if you want some companies that I have seen output from. And when it comes to printing the quality, size, and materials that you can make at home or have made for you is absolutely amazing - color or black and white.

Digital is great for actually making things - things with quality that you could not even dream of affording 20 years ago. Forget $30,000 for a capture device that has nothing to do with making really nice stuff. 20 years ago you couldn't afford the equipment or the services to actually make something out of your photographs that were amazing - that is the real revolution here. The gigantic equalizer is digital output and making really cool stuff. Want to make a magazine - try - if it take off and is great get a better printer and up the quality of output. This has absolutely nothing to do with your capture device.

It really saddens me that so many people do not actually make things with their photographs - not even albums of 4x6 machine prints like they did just a short while ago. Instead they are all caught up thinking that they need an $8,000 camera or a $30,000 camera to compete or stay up to date or produce fantastic quality. This is ridiculous. I assure you that a nice $2000 or even $500 medium format kit with 100 speed slide film or actually just about any film with a decent scan will put you miles ahead of the $8000 camera and on par with the $30,000 camera. If you are commercial photographer and the savings in labor, film, processing, turnaround, whatever are actually going to pay for itself inside a couple of months and make you more expense efficient or tangibly more competitive - sure go for it. It is probably a small part of your studios budget anyway. If you shoot for a news service sure go for it.

If you do this for the love of it and want to up your quality game substantially get some film and some fantastic film gear for cheap - the same stuff that was blowing the minds of people 10 years ago for virtually nothing and actually make some really really cool stuff via digital hybrid process that there is no way you could have afforded 10 years ago. I am dead serious. This is why I sold my D3 cameras and have not replaced them yet. Do I use digital cameras - sure, I probably always will but I also use film cameras. I haven't shot 35mm film in a while but I am going to because I really really like using my M series and want to see if it makes any sense at all to plunk down $7,000 on one that had digital output. I have always shot medium format film - not constantly but for some jobs and some personal stuff I never stopped. I have also shot medium format digital, I only purchased one digital back for my medium format kit and it is long obsolete, I have rented them occasionally but until it makes any sense at all for either my volume or some yet to occur project needs I will probably not buy one again. That does not mean I do not think that some of the latest stuff is not fantastic, it is. Just not applicable for any of my current needs.

I guess the bottom line is digital is great in a lot of ways - mostly in making stuff - as in final product. Digital capture on the other hand is usually not the best way to go unless there is a really really good reason. If all you want to make are email images and a web gallery or two film makes no sense - neither does a D3X or a Lieca M9. If you want to make fantastic stuff, figure out what you want to make and grab your self tools that will do the job. Most likely that will probably be what you already have or if you want to up the quality level - a level of film gear that you could never have afforded 10 years ago.

Quick story - my mom. My mom is not a good photographer but she does have a good eye. Every once in a while she makes an amazing image on her Nikon digital point and shoot. Not just from her point of view but my very critical eye as well. Usually when this happens she wants me to make a print for her. With out fail I say to myself NOT - I wish she had more megapixels in her point and shoot, NOT I wish she had a D3x. To be honest I think to myself - I wish she would have shot this on her olympus stylus on film (a camera I gave her like 10 years ago), fantastic little camera, great 2.8 lens, and if she would have had it loaded with like Kodak Ektar 100 or whatever 100 speed film the walmart was selling it would go from really great image - too bad it looks like shit blown up to 11x14 - wow fantastic print.

No shit - I am serious. She doesn't care but I do.

Just want to leave you with this link - A real honest to goodness photojournalist that still uses film today - film and digital but definitely film. Here is Alan Chin's site. I will post more of these as I run across these guys.


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