These days I don’t shoot much film and have a few film cameras that I don’t plan on getting rid of any time soon. I still enjoy shooting with my Hasselblad XPan and Leica M6 TTL and even my gold-trimmed Seagull TLR because these days film seems to be more about having fun. (Read what I have to say about shooting film in my Shutterbug article “7 Trends That Will Change Photography Next Year.”) And f6un is why we all got into photography in the first place, didn’t we?
While I enjoy making images using digital cameras, there are still a few things that I miss about shooting film.
Surprise. The first phase of a Photographer’s Three Phases of Development” occurs immediately after a new shooter purchases their first camera and discover photography’s potential for fun and creativity. During this time, novice shooters are fearless and enthusiastically exploring their world creating images that look so much better than they could have ever imagined. You still get that with film but with digital you get to see the images, right away. It may satisfy our urge for instant gratification but I’ll leave it up to you if you think that’s a good or bad thing.
The Total Travel Experience. When traveling, in addition to all the normal photo stuff, I’ll also take a laptop and blank CDs to make back-up images while on the road. That’s just more gear to lug and I hate having to lug extra stuff around. When Mary and I went to Las Vegas recently to celebrate our wedding anniversary all I took was a digital point-and-shoot camera. Laptops are just one more airport hassle and I’ve spent far too many nights, while on the road sorting and backing up images when I should have been out soaking up the local culture.
Time. Digital imaging takes a lot of time. In the old days I’d drop film off at the lab and come back in a day or whatever and pick up slides, proofs or proof sheets. If it didn’t look good, I’d yell at the lab and make them do it over. Nowadays we’re the lab and it doesn’t look good then all I have to yell at is myself. And consequently more time is spent learning new digital darkroom techniques. A long ago at the MacWorld trade show, a guy once told me, “I remember when I used to be a photographer, now I spend all my time learning new software.”
Would I trade all this and go back to shooting film exclusively? No. After all there’s no reason I can’t just shoot film and have my film scanned at services such as ScanMyPhotos.com’s and stay firmly in the digital realm as far as post-production goes. Years ago I labored many hours in the wet darkroom to produce a composite image showing what an historic statue would look like if it was moved to a different location. Digital imaging software would have let me do a better job in less than an hour and I wouldn’t have to spend all that time working in the dark with smelly chemicals. The “I love Genie” is out of the barrel and while I’ve traded a lot to get here, I’ve also gotten more control than I ever did with film.