Film, I Just Don’t Get It

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  • Stephane Bosman
    Stephane Bosman
    Participant
    Posts: 32
    Film, I Just Don’t Get It
    on: September 16, 2023 at 2:29 am

    those that say film has a different look than digital are note skilled enough in their post processing skills to know how to make digital look like film. Sorry to say, it’s really easy when you know how.

    😎

    Maybe it could be said that some lack the competence to see the difference between a fake and the real thing?

    Jeff Schewe
    Jeff Schewe
    Gold Member
    Posts: 136
    Re: Film, I Just Don’t Get It
    Reply #1 on: September 16, 2023 at 1:05 pm

    those that say film has a different look than digital are note skilled enough in their post processing skills to know how to make digital look like film. Sorry to say, it’s really easy when you know how.

    😎

    Maybe it could be said that some lack the competence to see the difference between a fake and the real thing?

    Define fake? You talking AI or do you only think film based images are real photographs?

    Eric Brody
    Eric Brody
    Participant
    Posts: 69
    Re: Film, I Just Don’t Get It
    Reply #2 on: September 16, 2023 at 2:27 pm

    I don’t get it either. I spent 40 years doing analog darkroom photography and now, with digital techniques, I am happier with my images than I ever was in the analog darkroom.

    I’ll state up front that each of us should do what we wish. As my mentor Charlie Cramer says, “It’s art, there are no wrong answers.” If darkroom work makes you happy, and you’re not taking time and money away from more important things like family, and children, go for it. But…

    I think the reason people scan their negatives is that so few people make prints. Unless scanned, there’s not much one can do with a negative except print it and as we all know, very few people print anymore, especially in the darkroom. Once scanned, the image can be easily shared on social media. I am one of those, along with Kevin, who believes it’s not a photograph unless it’s on paper. I print a couple of times every week. I spend as much or more time with a file as I ever did with a negative and now, almost always get a lovely print in one or two tries. In the darkroom, it took many, many tries and then… what does one do with the “almost” prints. I still have boxes of them.

    Our paper choices for inkjet pigment prints are almost overwhelming. I confess to “wasting” paper just to see how a photo will look on a couple of different papers. It’s just so much fun now and I can stop any time to have dinner, run an errand, whatever. When I mixed a gallon of developer, stop, and fix, I felt compelled to use it, which meant a commitment of many hours. It all took so much time. Ironically now that I am a retired bum, I do seem to have lots of time for my photography but feel it is better spent making photographs and processing them on the computer than waiting for images to come up in the developer, placing them in the stop bath and then waiting for them to fix sufficiently so that I might turn on the light to try to view a wet print with eyes that have been in the dark for a while.

    We are in a golden age in so many ways; we should all enjoy it however it makes us happy.

    Mark Lindquist
    Mark Lindquist
    Participant
    Posts: 9
    Re: Film, I Just Don’t Get It
    Reply #3 on: September 17, 2023 at 7:47 am

    As an artist (sculptor) working in New England in the 60’s through 80’s, I look back on the most incredible time of color 8×10 chromes and the professional film studio. A photographer in Manchester, NH had a massive studio above a restaurant he owned in one of the buildings on the river – an old brick mill building. Each sculpture carefully placed in the designated spot on the CYC, huge Chimera soft boxes nearly floor to ceiling, then sock-footed making careful adjustments. Sit in this chair Mark, let me work. Jane, how about sending down for an order of cappuccino and croissants. Big 8×10 view camera on rolling studio stand. Glowing modeling lights, reflectors and flags – kack. Enjoying coffee, sitting in a rolling wingback chair, an 8×10 color polaroid was handed to me and all of our eyes grew wide. The magic and mystique of film, the ambience and lure of the studio. The utter crushing brilliance of an image flattering it’s subject. Rush off down two floors to the custom color lab, where eventually came back the chromes – 8×10 color film transparencies lit up by the light table.

    Film. Mystique. Romance.

    Film era. Bygone time. Film is dead… no, wait. I don’t want to be back in our black and white darkroom listening to vinyl albums washing prints in Fred Picker’s Zone VI archival film washer, only to have to hang those prints to dry then eventually press them to flatten. Process. Steps requiring fastidiousness all along the way. But… those prints still hold fast today, just as when printed nearly 50 years ago.

    But now, really? Nah. Been there, done that. Phooey.

    Photography

    Film | Digital

    Live | Let live

     

     

     

    Stephane Bosman
    Stephane Bosman
    Participant
    Posts: 32
    Re: Film, I Just Don’t Get It
    Reply #4 on: September 18, 2023 at 7:03 am

    Define fake? You talking AI or do you only think film based images are real photographs?

    Neither.

    Digital photography is photography, no doubt in my mind. I find generative AI utterly uninteresting and denoise AI a great achievement.

    On the other hand, making digital look like film is, by definition, faking film.

    It is all a matter of intent.

    If one wants to use the most efficient and flexible process that gives the best technical quality, no question that is digital.

    I don’t know anyone who misses printing in the darkroom. I am sure there are, but they must be rare and I am not one of them.

    For me film and digital printing are not mutually exclusive. Actually Kodak Ektar 100, Portra 160 and 400 were made for scanning. When Kodak released them, the digital revolution was done.

    I use like 90% digital and 10% film. I have been using Lightroom since the first public beta, Photoshop since 2003. At the time there was no question for me to use a digital camera, it was either too expensive or markedly inferior to what I used then. I have read and re-read Jeff’s wonderful books, among others. Lots of respect there!

    Are there objective, rational advantages to using film? None that I can think of.

    The seduction comes more from the cameras than the film itself. When one takes photos only for pleasure, like I do, efficiency and ease can take a second seat and one can enjoy the old ways. Of simply the view in a 6×7 viewfinder, or the sound, or the process, or whatever. Besides, I like developing my B&W films. I like to discover the pictures when I hang them to dry.

    Indeed, I don’t know how to make digital look like B&W film in PhotoShop, with or without Silver Efex. Probably a lack of skills, more probably a lack of interest in doing so. Why use one process to try to imitate another? B&W digital is beautiful in its own way. I don’t know how to make digital look like Portra either. There are presets, profiles, I’ve tried some, no cigar. Besides, knowing it is an imitation kills the pleasure for me.

    And the negative is something material, an object I actually created. It is not virtual. And that is probably what the youth find attractive about it. They were born in a world where everything is digital, immaterial. Maybe they aspire to actual objects they can touch.

     

    Stephane Bosman
    Stephane Bosman
    Participant
    Posts: 32
    Re: Film, I Just Don’t Get It
    Reply #5 on: September 18, 2023 at 7:12 am

    Regarding the price of film:

    In 1975 a 36 exp. rolls of Ektaghrome cost $4.25. Adjusted for inflation, that is $24.25.

    My supplier in Belgium offers the 36 exp. roll of Ektachrome E100 for 26.10€, but that includes a sales tax of 21%.

    So, we pay today roughly the same price as 50 years ago for Ektachrome. Besides, thanks to digital, using film is a choice and will rarely be done in comparable volumes.

    Chris Kern
    Chris Kern
    Participant
    Posts: 59
    Re: Film, I Just Don’t Get It
    Reply #6 on: September 18, 2023 at 2:00 pm

    those that say film has a different look than digital are not skilled enough in their post processing skills to know how to make digital look like film. Sorry to say, it’s really easy when you know how.

    What about making film look like film  (sic)?  After using a software tool based on machine-learning to repair surface defects from scanning analog media—e.g., after a round-trip from Lightroom to Photoshop to run the latter’s Photo Restoration neural filter on a scan of an old black-and-white negative—I typically use Lightroom’s Texture tool to increase edge acuity and its Grain tool to compensate for the softening and smoothing that resulted from the “AI” transformation.  Any other tricks you can offer to bring back the film-like appearance?

    ───────────────────────
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/chriskernpix/albums/72177720314899467

    John Reed
    John Reed
    Participant
    Posts: 4
    Re: Film, I Just Don’t Get It
    Reply #7 on: September 19, 2023 at 1:32 pm

    About ten years ago I was immersed in Sebastiao Salgado’s remarkable Genesis exhibition in London when I was dragged back into the shuffling reality by two young photographers earnestly and loudly extolling the unique nature of the film look. It was all about the subtle tones and the impact….  Film was so true to the subject even though it was black and white etc. Tri-X of course. They obviously had not read the the introduction to the exhibition where the great man discussed his change to digital cameras – several years earlier. He liked the strong contrast of his earlier black and white prints and had his printer go for that style with his latest digital work for the exhibition.

    I’m sure someone will get great pleasure from discovering which potato variety gives the best starch grains for autochrome colours, so that they can re-create authentic original colour photographs. Film? A mere bit of trickery, an historical blip, giving faux substandard collodion to the masses!

    Most of us can be more than content with the amazing fidelity and creative possibilities of our digital cameras.

    Lance Lewin
    Lance Lewin
    Participant
    Posts: 44
    Re: Film, I Just Don’t Get It
    Reply #8 on: September 20, 2023 at 10:08 am

    As I mentioned, if you are a film photographer, then that is great as long as you are happy. No matter what, in the end, that is what counts. In my studio at the Indy Art Center, there is a large teaching and a fully functional wet darkroom. In my opinion, if you carry your whole workflow through in analog, then I think that is great. I don’t get the shooting on film and then switching over to a digital workflow after the negative is scanned. In art and photography, no one can be a judge of what work is and how it is done. As long as the artist is happy. However, in our field of enjoyment there are a lot of critics. Go for it if you are having fun.

    [/quote]
    Hi Kevin! This is a very interesting discussion, indeed. So, the purpose I scan my negatives is to be able to create digital files for sending to friends, family and perhaps clients, or often, examples of my work requested via “call for artists” at galleries, for one example. However, I also take my B&W images into PSCC and Silver Efex Pro-3 to review the image for cropping options and exposure adjustments. Also, in Silver Efex Pro-3 I always add custom toning. Only if a film-based B&W image includes the actual negative in the print (as part of the “compositional structure”) then cropping is not an option; and why, in most of my work, I try to crop through viewfinder, especially with film, and to a lesser degree with digital.

    Warm regards, Kevin.

    Lance A. Lewin

    Jeremy Roussak
    Jeremy Roussak
    Gold Member
    Posts: 1042
    Re: Film, I Just Don’t Get It
    Reply #9 on: September 21, 2023 at 10:37 am

    Hi Kevin! This is a very interesting discussion, indeed. So, the purpose I scan my negatives is to be able to create digital files for sending to friends, family and perhaps clients, or often, examples of my work requested via “call for artists” at galleries, for one example. However, I also take my B&W images into PSCC and Silver Efex Pro-3 to review the image for cropping options and exposure adjustments. Also, in Silver Efex Pro-3 I always add custom toning. Only if a film-based B&W image includes the actual negative in the print (as part of the “compositional structure”) then cropping is not an option; and why, in most of my work, I try to crop through viewfinder, especially with film, and to a lesser degree with digital.

    Lance, do you do make prints directly from your negatives, or scan them and then print from the digital files? I think that was Kevin’s point.

    Jeremy

    Lance Lewin
    Lance Lewin
    Participant
    Posts: 44
    Re: Film, I Just Don’t Get It
    Reply #10 on: September 25, 2023 at 10:31 am

    Jeremy, of course, if editing the scanned image file the print is made from it. Alternatively, in rare cases, if I see no benefit in editing the scanned image file, may proceed to use the negative for printing. But there is no significant compromise to print from the edited (or non-edited) scanned image file of a film based composition.

    The registered “photographic event” (on film or digital sensor) imbues all the characteristics of the subject, and those imposed via camera dynamics (e.g., aperture, ISO, type of lens used, position …etc.), and scanning film negatives does not alter this very fact. So, those who shoot film and then scan negatives, and from there edit (or not) , thereafter printing from (this) image file, has absolutely no bearing on ones choice to shoot film as apposed to shooting digitally. As Kevin pointed out, we enjoy the aesthetics of film, and (these) visual nuances do not diminish with (well) scanned negatives.

    Summary: the choice to shoot film is purely aesthetic, and obviously not directed by a particular workflow, as we can see from my description, is more involved than shooting a digital image. It is important to realize, for all practical purposes, scanning a film negative does not diminish the nuances registered during the original photographic event  – through the lens and onto a piece of film, and thus the action of scanning is purely for easily editing the image as opposed to a darkroom workflow.

     

    Thank you.

    Lance A. Lewin

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