Remember the days when you had to load a roll of film into a camera? You would meticulously meter your light, focus and frame your shot? Then take your film to a local store and wait for it to be developed to see the results? Many of us today view this as an obsolete art form given that digital is much more convenient and requires less patience. Recently it has been discovered that film is making a come-back. Why is this?
Why are many photographers literally taking a step back in a technological sense. Many digital photographers, ourselves included, try to emulate the look that film provides. There are many digital filters on the market today that are directly marketed towards achieving certain film looks.
The image on the left is a shot taken with Kodak Portra 160 film by photographer Christoph Zoubek. The photo on the right is a digital image that has a Kodak Portra 160 filter. In comparison these two images are not too far off. The green values are very similar and the skin tones are very close. The biggest difference is how the highlights are registered. One of the biggest advantages of film is how it handles the highlights. When digital highlights reach a certain value it peaks and the result is pure white. This can result in an image that is not very appealing. Film can also be over exposed in this way but the manner in which highlights are blown out give a much more clean and dreamy look instead of a "technical error" look. The highlights in these two images are not peaking, but there is a noticeable difference in how the light in the film image is more soft than that of the digital.
Film Portra Vs. Digital Portra
There is something about the process of film photography that makes for a much more intimate and enjoyable experience. It's a much more disciplined art form than digital in that you are only given one chance to get it right. As digital photographers we all have been guilty of the "spray and pray" technique; holding down the shutter button in hopes that out of the hundreds of shots taken, one will have captured a desirable moment. Digital also allows us the take test shots in order to get correct exposures. You simply dial in settings and take a shot... look on the back of the camera and adjust the settings based on the image preview. There isn't a trial and error process with film, this employs you to make more conscientious decisions before pressing the shutter and ultimately trains you to become more selective as well as creative. If these practices are carried over to the digital world, it may save you the headache of sorting through thousands of photos and deleting blurry underexposed images. Training ourselves to make each shot count can open the door to the next level of photography.
There is much to be said about our ability to capture light and freeze a moment out of time. Undoubtably, digital photography is an impressive accomplishment that derives everything it knows from its predecessor, but the true magic is the chemical process of capturing light... the process of film.
Rescued Film Project
In light of this post, here is a something noteworthy to check out