Saturday, May 21, 2011


What does the quoted title of this blog mean to you? Does it mean you as a photographer don’t really want to do photographs digitally, but do? Does it mean photographers using digital photography don’t understand what digital means? Or does it mean you need to buy a product that makes digital photography look like film photography?

Today digital photography is primarily color imaging, so I must ask another question. Did film photographers of the past using color films really understand the color photography process, or was it done for them without their attention? I think for many the latter is true. If that is the case it’s because photographers used labs to process and print color photographs, so rarely did processing and printing themselves and the result was they did not understand the color photography process. So with digital and a computer photographers have access to the color reproduction process yet few understand how it works. And to some extent because their photographs are on their computer’s they feel they must deal with them. But if they do not understand either the film color photo process or its digital correlate, they want someone to make it easy without having to learn anything. Am I guessing right or wrong?

I am a professional and was taught how both the black and white and color photographic reproduction process works. But honestly after getting out of photo school I did not process my color film, nor did I make my own color prints because it was very difficult, time consuming and required experts doing that work every day to get good results. Although there were exceptions most of my colleagues used one of many pro color labs in my city during the film era. So maybe many of those who did not get a photography education in the days of film may be a bit short on understanding how the photographic process works. However, the basic principles of the photographic process are fairly simple and have not changed because we moved from film to a digital sensor, so why not learn what was missed?

When the first affordable color monitors became available I got a new PC as I had been using a computer on loan from my magazine company. So I was already a bit computer literate in ’89 when I started to explore and understand color imaging with a computer paint program. I gradually learned that digital imaging is simple and predictable because it is all numerical and logical. That was so unlike the complicated endless variables of the film photography world when each make and model of film reproduced reality differently, and each film emulsion batch too; and even though pro labs were good they would also vary on some days and if someone had a bad hangover it was a goof-up time you couldn’t get done over.

So why anyone would prefer the old film world photography and want to avoid digital makes no sense to me at all.  Computer editing has made photography for me so much easier, simpler and predictable. I enjoy the art and craft of making photographs so much more since I began doing it digitally because I now get the image I intended and hoped for but often missed at least by a bit on film. Now I can fix that, and find I am a better photographer than I thought I was in the past. 

1 comment:

  1. David - I can only add one thing. I shoot film - because I love it. It may not make sense to you, but it does to me, especially with medium format and large format cameras.

    A scanned medium format film will take a 40 megapixel digital camera to equal it. A 4x5 piece of film - puts that figure over 150 mp. But that is not the purpose of my comment. I am not here to argue pixels mega or otherwise.

    It's about choice. My choice, and as such gives me pleasure in my photographic efforts. When everyone stampedes in one direction, it gives me pause to look in the other direction.


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