How dull! Another film vs. Digital argument! Actually, that’s not what this is. Instead, this is intended as an argument against the argument, because seriously, I’m so bored of the argument, I can’t bear it anymore. As much as anything else I just need something to link to when it comes up…
This isn’t going to be of one of my usual long meandering posts (not too much at least) – even arguing against the whole argument feels like a bit of a dull thing to do. As such, I’m just going to highlight a few of the common arguments and note a few of my thoughts on them. Just beware if you’re sensitive to this sort of thing, I turned down my swearing filter a little, and have gone a bit full-rant here… enjoy!
Film/Digital has more Resolution
The resolution argument drives me mad! Mostly because it’s largely completely irrelevant in real terms! Folks seem to take on one stance or the other, either claiming that digital is higher resolving, or film is. Most people don’t seem to have a bloody clue what they are talking about within the argument anyway, and even those who seem to also seem to understand what resolution is, often seem to have missed the glaringly obvious point that it doesn’t matter anyway, not really…
For a start – genuinely – when was the last time you judged a photo on its resolution alone?
“The other day I was walking around a Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition, and if there was one thing I was struck by in the 6×9 prints hanging on the walls, it was their resolution”.
Can you imagine anyone saying that? Ok, Bresson isn’t a photographer famed for use of resolution, but even photographers who take advantage of high resolution, don’t solely rely on it. Not the good ones at least. If the image resolution is the only one thing that stands out as a specifically obvious attribute, I’d suggest the photo is probably pretty shit!
The technical answer to the question is that, per square area of light-sensitive surface, film probably(!) does have has more potential for resolving power – it is after all analogue. But, you’re gonna need to be shooting fine grained film, drum scanning it, or printing it pretty bloody massive before any single possible discernible advantage is even remotely likely to rear its head – and even then, for the reasons in the last paragraph – seriously, who gives an actual shit? What real terms gain is there when it comes down to that tiny level of difference? Nothing of any importance!
Why would I shoot film when I can make digital look like film?
This question is another that drives me up the wall. There are so many technical arguments outside of the resolution one – none of them interesting enough to talk about in any real depth. the various merits of dynamic range, latitude, tonality, high ISO capability all come up when this question (and a few others) are posed. But the fact is, given the right circumstances digital can be made to look very similar to film, and indeed some films can look very similar digital – which is a fact that never seems to be talked about. (I talked about it in my RNI review here.)
The thing that confuses and frustrates me is that rather than simply thinking about creating an aesthetic, we seem to be obsessed with the idea of one thing simulating the other. Take the medium out of the equation and we’re just left with the desire to create a particular aesthetic. Processing digital in a way that looks like film, needn’t be about creating a facsimile, it should just be about making a photo that looks the way the photographer desires.
The aesthetic – and not the process – is the thing that is appreciated by the end observer of the image, and a very large percentage of the time, the end observer should know and care little or nothing about how or even why that aesthetic was achieved, but instead what that aesthetic evokes in them.
The point of me mentioning this is to highlight that the process – and indeed the understanding of how to take advantage of the various technical advantages of each medium – is something that belongs to the photographer, and is basically completely irrelevant to the end image – at least in the eyes of the third party observer of it.
The process is the photographers choice, and the choices the photographer makes in this context come down to said photographers enjoyment of, and level of experience with the various processes and technical attributes of the different media.
As such the answer to the question “Why would I shoot film when I can make digital look the same?”, is a simple one! At least to the person that is asking the question, the answer is “you wouldn’t!” If you’re asking that question, film obviously is not the media for you… and therefore the question is moot!
It’s not even that I don’t understand the anti-film perspective that many people who hold this view tout. Film is more expensive, it can be more time consuming (especially if you aren’t used to shooting it), it is possibly more open to more chance of failure (especially if you aren’t used to shooting it), etc. So why would anyone bother to shoot film?
Well, taking into account the previous few paragraphs, surely it’s obvious? Anyone who shoots film is likely doing so because it helps them create the aesthetic they are after in a way that suits them! Through their experiences and accrued know-how, they are able to harness certain technical attributes in a path toward creating the aesthetic they desire.
That being said, it might also just be down to the fact that they like doing it that way. Just like shooting digital and post-processing might suit one person, to the next, the process of shooting film might simply be more enjoyable. In this context, it’s as simple as ‘different strokes, for different folks’! Is that really that difficult a concept to grasp?? If we liked doing the same thing, the world would be a pretty bloody dull place!
The process of film photography is more pure, it’s more real and more hands on
I’ve said this myself, but in my defence, I usually reprimand myself for it later. “Get over yourself”, I say to myself. “How’s the view from up there on your high horse?” “What’s that? ‘superiority complex’? That’s a funny name for a horse!
Cynicism aside, I get it. I like stuff that feels like it’s done properly. Proper cider made by proper farmers in Herefordshire, proper single malt, real leather camera straps, analogue hifi. I love all that shit, but it doesn’t mean I don’t also like cheap Whisky from Aldi, my Mytek Dac that streams MQA through Tidal, and my iPhone. Life is a rich tapestry of options, variables and experiences! Why limit yourself with some sort of blinkered dedication to one thing or another?
Was Daido Moriyama any shitter as a photographer when he started using a digital point and shoot? No, of course he wasn’t! It’s stupid to even think of it!
Shoot film because it helps keeps the medium alive!
Right! … Wait, what … ok yeah, I agree with this! So many of the joys we have in life come from the options open to us. Not all options are a joy I admit, 27 verities of the same brand of toothpaste pisses me off no end, but its the price we pay for the real choices we have. Those who have these choices should feel enormously thankful for them, and should do what’s in their power to retain them for themselves and those around them. Shoot film, because you can, shoot film because if you don’t our children might not be able to. That is a very fair argument for the use of film in my mind!
Get over it. Stop with the arguments. They. Are. Pointless!
The reality is, no one who’s opinion matters when it comes to observing an image will be worried about the medium that created it. You’re not gonna get marked down because you’ve decided the digital route is actually easier, or indeed that film gets you the results you want quicker. Anyone who does mark you down needs to be asking themselves some serious questions about what photography is for!
The only question should be, is the photo good? Within that there might be a discussions about whether or not it is aesthetically pleasing, its tonality, colour, grain, composition, use of depth of field, how shutter speed was used, light, where the photographer was standing and why, narrative, lack of narrative, the fact that the photographer only has one arm, moral questions, questions about what’s outside the frame, the photographers intent, etc etc etc … all of these things are much more interesting and more important than whether or not it was taken with film or digital… so seriously! Get over it! Pick up a camera – any camera – and go and point it at some stuff!