basic film vs digital stuff

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retro grouchiness itt

catbus otm (gbx), Saturday, 12 May 2012 17:04 (eleven years ago) link

digital is vastly more convenient
film is vastly more reliable (under inclement conditions, especially)

catbus otm (gbx), Saturday, 12 May 2012 20:27 (eleven years ago) link

I really only shoot film now to use cameras that don't have digital equivalents (or don't have affordable ones). I'm a better digital printer than I ever was in the darkroom, it's easier to experiment with digital, etc..

Kiarostami bag (milo z), Saturday, 12 May 2012 22:17 (eleven years ago) link

love the way that pictures look on film even with a mediocre scan without messing around with them
i like grain
mistakes on film look more interesting than mistakes on digital
i like the ritual of the drive across town to drop off a roll and pick one up
cool film cameras are pretty cheap

i think i really hate the way that people think digital photos should look. i'm not sure what i mean by this but. lacking softness, often oversaturated in a really weird way, too contrasty and sort of unreal looking. hard to explain. digital photography "hobbyists" are creeps, i believe, and interested in techy stuff that doesn't have anything to do with taking cool pictures.

but i like digital cameras too, man. so i dunno.

dylannn, Sunday, 13 May 2012 02:27 (eleven years ago) link

i am with this. i guess the important thing to say here is that all of my metrics for comparison are really useless; i'm never comparing like with like, & i'm sure that whatever analogue i use could be trumped by premium digital, or that whatever argument there is for digital could be confused by some of the realities, not possibilities, of using analogue, &c. i talk about digital cameras and i'm just talking about some digital cameras. i am retro grouchy but thrown when i see gbx's hospital pics in digital black and white that looks like how i want my analogue black and white to look.

i think i really hate the way that people think digital photos should look. i'm not sure what i mean by this but. lacking softness, often oversaturated in a really weird way, too contrasty and sort of unreal looking.

i remember there being a big walkman versus ipod discussion on ilx, a while ago, some of which centred around the fact that each could actually do most of what the other could do - like you can carry a walkman around with a bunch of your fav tapes and dip in and out of all of your favourite songs on a whim, can shuffle, can listen to podcast-esque 'radio' - but become distinct on account of how they dictate what you actually, usually do. & a lot of my experience with digital is probably a negative response to what i feel like i'd usually do with a digital camera. my friend asked me to photograph some installation work recently, & i borrowed a dslr & took my OM-1 along. the om-1 necessitates triangulating film speed, exposure & aperture in a way the digital doesn't, and so every photo i took was measured. with the digital i could lean on auto, and rely on multiple takes, so i feel like even if i was taking better pictures i wouldn't have to be trying to take better pictures. &, to go back to hardware and stuff, what it was doing with light was so terrible; it was something you'd try to avoid in a photograph, to take a picture that intersected with a window or in which light bounced off a wall was a kind of interruption. light was something bright in the air instead of something landing on surfaces, absorbed. so some of this is just the obvious 'the constraints of film suit me just fine' thing.

i remember watching hannah takes the stairs, a real not-pretty DV made movie, & having to realise that even though it doesn't look pretty, it does look like now. it looks like how things look. i still flinch when digital looks like digital, but maybe some of that's a bad impulse. maybe it's appropriate. it'll look bad but ring true in thirty years i think. a lot of interesting contemporary photography has to be about hyperintensive detail & digital imagery; there is a guy who is using photoshop autocorrection to stitch together digital shots of landscapes interestingly, & so maybe it is only appropriate to use contemporary tools. there was the discussion of capability for detail in the discussion of that new leica camera, in the other thread, it maybe being analogous to a MF camera. but i can't get a hold on what that means in terms of practical application, unless the thing you're doing is totally centric around that sort of function - like unless you're almost surveying with a camera. i think this is like when i make posters using photoshop & wonder if i'm only appreciative of things that photoshop replicates the original, human practice of - use of acetates with layers, &c. is digital convenient modernisation of increasingly recondite & expensive photographic practices, or is it improvement, pushing things forward?

i like the ritual of the drive across town to drop off a roll and pick one up

film still feels pretty convenient to me. i think because taking pictures and getting pictures back are two different things. i have so much undeveloped film. but i know it's there. when i have money i can get a couple of rolls a week printed. i forget what's on them. and if i'm in a good routine i can be shooting and dropping off and picking up, like those people who have bread cooling and bread rising in their kitchen. i can't extrapolate this out to everyone should just do this!, suckers, but i feel i think that there is something sensible between this and the comfort of instant photos. digital versus film is too big to try to apply to all camera users, because so much camera use is probably improved by auto & a guarantee of legibility & efficiency. but at least for ILP people i don't know which medium is best.

blossom smulch (schlump), Monday, 14 May 2012 11:39 (eleven years ago) link

I feel like I should be preparing to move to digital eventually. Already, I worry that by using film I'm putting myself too much in a hobbyist mentality. Like if it was 1970, Eggleston would be out taking color photographs and I would be in the garage making and using my own wet plates, or in the 30s, when everyone else had moved on, I'd be making pictorialist images. Basically, I worry that I'm on the wrong side of history.
We'll all get used to the way digital looks, and I suspect that eventually most digital cameras will have more 'in camera' processing that will generally look pretty decent and many people will default to. It'll be the equivalent of giving up control when you drop off film for developing. It's people's post-processing with digital that's usually atrocious, and that same stage would have probably looked atrocious during the 'film era' if each photographer was in charge of it then too.
Digital cameras are expensive though, and I've sunk enough money into my cameras, lenses, and scanner, and have a convenient and cheap lab next to my office, so I will cling to film until I absolutely HAVE TO make the switch.

lou reed scott walker monks niagra (chinavision!), Monday, 14 May 2012 13:17 (eleven years ago) link

kind of disagree about how digital looks - Velvia was v. popular in the film days and even Provia/E100G etc were pretty saturated all told. I see as much desaturated digital, going for a gauzy/hazy look as I do hyper-real hyper-saturation.
on screen it looks 'sharper' but once you make prints, given good processing for both, the difference gets very very hard to distinguish

a lot of the ineffable qualities of film I don't get - roundness/presence/etc. feel like audiophilia to me

I'm probably also coming at it from a control freak perspective - I'm never happy with lab scans or digital JPGs, I treat everything just like I would have shooting B&W with a darkroom. Film makes that much more difficult - either editing already compromised lab scans or going through and trying to get legitimately good scans from the questionable equipment that's affordable/available now (why o why didn't I buy a Nikon medium-format scanner in 2002?! oh year because I was broke as shit). Not just on sharpness with a Plustek/Epson but neither is capable of getting the range out of negatives that the top-flight (now discontinued) film scanners could 10 years ago, much less what the film really holds. (This is primarily applicable to slide and B&W film)
There's rarely a digital file that's unsalvageable for me, but I have plenty of negatives from back in the day that won't scan well (partially because I was better at printing 'dense' negatives and usually overexposed).

Kiarostami bag (milo z), Monday, 14 May 2012 17:44 (eleven years ago) link

oh man, I feel that the transitions between in focus and out of focus parts are a big tell for digital v. film looks. stuff shot at a big aperture like f1.4 or f2 looks very different depending on if it's digital or film, at least ime

dayo, Monday, 14 May 2012 17:49 (eleven years ago) link

full-frame vs APS vs m43 will definitely give a different look to things like that, like shooting 35mm film vs medium-format
also a lot of modern lenses seem designed to give a sharp flat-field performance instead of having the corners fall off slightly in sharpness (as pretty much all lenses used to), that can definitely be a thing. It's like all the lens testing things that give lenses marks off for vignetting - I want lenses to vignette a bit!

Kiarostami bag (milo z), Monday, 14 May 2012 17:55 (eleven years ago) link

hmm I mean moreso the general look of the transitions, rather than the areas in the picture where the transitions take place

dayo, Monday, 14 May 2012 17:56 (eleven years ago) link

yes. & isn't that sort of a grain thing? like i literally don't know digital photos well enough to understand how they render in those circumstances - so, maybe just also by diffusion? - but it's like if you take a picture across a dinner table and there's that hazy interplay between each object softening around a sharper centrepoint, the whole tableaux spun from various intensities of grain

blossom smulch (schlump), Tuesday, 15 May 2012 10:26 (eleven years ago) link

I made the switch to digital late last year and I really really like it in certain ways, mainly obvious things to do with workflow...I mean, I am literally YEARS behind on negatives, just stacks and stacks of things that I need to scan which is sort of daunting since my film scanner is sucky and I never really am thrilled with the results anyway - - - whereas, like everybody else was ten years ago, I am totally wowed by being able to shoot a bunch of stuff and like, the next day, get it online. Which is really cool when it's an event or something that people are eager for photos of, a wedding or a party or whatever.

But I TOTALLY get what you're saying, schlump, because I already feel like the ease/cheapness of re-shooting things has sort of ruined me as a photographer; I'm not painstaking in the way I think I used to be, it's easy to just shoot a bunch and hope one of them is the right exposure and maybe also by luck also the exact right framing etc. Some of this is also having working autofocus lenses for the first time, too, like I used to be able to focus a goddamn camera and now I'm sort of lost without the gizmo. (Might also be getting glasses too - - has thrown off my sense of my eye pressed up to the viewfinder and what things are supposed to look like.)

As well, the biggest change is just QUANTITY. I used to, and still do to an extent, rail against people who take a billion pictures and post them all, I mean obviously photography is an art of editing, right? And yet when it's easy to SHOOT so many photos it gets really hard to throw any of them OUT. It's a lot easier to curate things when you're constrained by the cost of film and number of shots on a roll to be very choosy about what you snap in the first place. And yet at the same time there are those occasions where I would have shot a ton of pictures beforehand anyway (again, a wedding, want to be sure you get that exact right shot of the kiss or whatever), and digital really saves me from having to pay for and work through a bunch of not-right negatives to get the one image.

As for the look and feel, I'm still finding my way with Lightroom and so on. None of my shots really look exactly like they do in my head and I'm still finding the right combination of sliders to get the effect I want which is, probably, "I want this to look like I scanned it from film." But I do really, REALLY love things like the lens correction tools and the recovery/fill light sliders, there's an intuitiveness to the tools that seems intended for photographers which I never had working with Photoshop on scanned negatives.

I'd like to hope that in another year or so of working with this stuff I'll get a little more intuitive and relaxed with the technology and some of these problems will go away. Because while I do miss the christmas-morning feeling of getting negatives back, going digital really did bring back the joy to shooting, for me anyway, where I just hadn't realized that being years behind on my negatives was sort of unconsciously making me not enjoy snapping anything anymore.

Doctor Casino, Thursday, 17 May 2012 18:14 (eleven years ago) link

eek, tl;dr, sorry

Doctor Casino, Thursday, 17 May 2012 18:15 (eleven years ago) link

Not tl at all! A little sad to see you leave film behind because cos you were a bit of an inspiration with those amazing architectural sets on Flickr. But I look fwd to following yr work with the 5D2.

Michael Jones, Thursday, 17 May 2012 20:36 (eleven years ago) link

Gee, thanks! It just comes down to - - - I mean, the most current film I've posted to Flickr is India stuff from 2009; I've got two other long trips worth of film since then that haven't been touched. Whereas the China stuff from December I've been (more or less) able to keep plugging through at a sort of decent pace, although this quarter's teaching obligations have sort of put it on the back burner.

I was still taking film for specific trips/shoots, but I had almost completely stopped carrying a camera with me on a day-to-day basis, like, no sense shooting any candids of friends or little things I find along the way, by the time I even get to them I'll just be trying to get through them...and it just wasn't any fun. Maybe what I really should have done is shot less film on those last couple trips, though! I think I was sort of starting to shoot like a digital person without actually having the equipment...

Doctor Casino, Thursday, 17 May 2012 20:42 (eleven years ago) link

been thinking about the differences between digital B&W and film negative B&W

so, like, a commonly taught technique w/ film negative B&W is to meter where the shadows are, and to close down two stops. then, while developing, cut off 20% from the times so that you can control the highlights. the result is a negative where you get a ton of 'detail' in the lower regions of the picture while still having reasonable highlights.

however, w/ a digital camera, even the monochrom M, you always always always have to meter for the highlights. you can't expose for the darker portions of the scene ... you can try to 'expose to the right' but that's kind of limited I think?

I dunno, it's just that when I see digital B&W photos, I tend to see these long clean slabs of tonally bright areas, and then a really quick dropoff into shadows and black. it's a different look than film B&W.

dayo, Saturday, 19 May 2012 12:47 (eleven years ago) link

But I TOTALLY get what you're saying, schlump, because I already feel like the ease/cheapness of re-shooting things has sort of ruined me as a photographer; I'm not painstaking in the way I think I used to be, it's easy to just shoot a bunch and hope one of them is the right exposure and maybe also by luck also the exact right framing etc. Some of this is also having working autofocus lenses for the first time, too, like I used to be able to focus a goddamn camera and now I'm sort of lost without the gizmo. (Might also be getting glasses too - - has thrown off my sense of my eye pressed up to the viewfinder and what things are supposed to look like.)

yeah. I felt kinda stupid having posted here the other day, saying who needs convenience?, that you could just develop stuff whenever. but I'm forgetting so much of the other convenience of digital - being able to effectively change film stocks, rather than be stuck with the 100 speed film you still have 30 shots left of when you're indoors at someone's house in the evening, &c. my i'll just carry two cameras solution is as unwieldy and unsuitable as my i'll wait a year to get film developed solution to the economic benefits.

but all of that said: yes, I think it is totally a thing. I was out with some people a few days ago & ended up taking like a few shots of my friend, who was all nicely lit for five minutes, stretched out. & I changed up a bit between but even so it still felt like a huge indulgence to burn through three frames, so I was thinking hard & watching & figuring it out.

I think the thing about drowning in negatives is definitely a thing though. I guess it's like the convenience/context thing - ie at one end being epitomised by weddings, where you want reliability & portability of phots. I'm okay with getting around to stuff way later, & being psyched to have some kind of really old photo scanned to send to someone, but that's sort of the other end of the spectrum to having a bunch of yesterday's photos to upload. stuff like this dovetails with how to look at photos, too, I think. thumbnailed galleries of a whole bunch of photos at once, for an audience, serve a really different purpose from single photos you're 'framing' or putting in a certain place.

liked hearing you talk about stuff like lens correction; when I was saying that I couldn't really get an objective handle on what it is I'm even sceptical of wrt digital, it's because I know I'm pretty much talking about using a handheld or DSLR on auto & looking at the files you get, which is obviously a different thing from so much nice, measured digital photography I like. & about look & feel, there are things I like a lot about film, but maybe some of the hallmarks of digital - like I guess hyper detail, or, as a sorta digital analogue of the appealing-deficit of film grain, maybe the ghostly blur of some digital motion shots - will become to look as appealing in time.

blossom smulch (schlump), Friday, 25 May 2012 10:30 (eleven years ago) link

any way to get legit looking B&W shots out of a digital camera?

༼◍ྀ ౪ ◍ི ༽ (cozen), Sunday, 27 May 2012 20:40 (eleven years ago) link

w/ your X100, I up the shadows and highlights to medium-hard and use the B&W Yellow setting, for JPGs
for working with RAW files, Silver Efex Pro 2 is the best - some of the film profiles are too contrasty (either stick to APX100 or Neopan 100, or lower global contrast if you use Tri-X, etc.), and I always get rid of the grain because I don't understand the point of using it

Kiarostami bag (milo z), Sunday, 27 May 2012 21:30 (eleven years ago) link

okay, here's a thing i definitely LIKE about digital with regards to my own attempts to become a better photographer - - having a million shots of the same thing, while insane and probably not good in terms of shooting habits, DOES let me start paying attention to minutia, the whole comparing two seemingly identical negatives and going "nope nope - - - this one's slightly soft, this one's highlights are a little more blown" etc - - I mean, elementary photo class stuff but it's getting me back in the habit of paying attention to it.

Doctor Casino, Thursday, 31 May 2012 02:54 (eleven years ago) link

^ i can imagine this being v true. i think part of what you get with film, that's (maybe usefully!) eroded by digital, is a detachment from what you've made, having surrendered some control to a specific setting or an in-situ framing decision or to the developing process. having additional photos from a scene is like having a record of a thought process.

blossom smulch (schlump), Monday, 4 June 2012 11:40 (eleven years ago) link

two months pass...

followup to my last post, a pitfall that i'm really having to wean myself off of - - - HAVING lightroom's excellent exposure fiddling tools, it's easy to get into habits of automatic adjustment ("push the lights a bit, recover the highlights, add a brush of vibrance...") without really looking at the photos and thinking what you want them to be. Or things like - today I'm working on some stuff shot just after sunrise, and it's all very soft and muted, and I had to stop myself and control-Z a few steps when I realized I was unconsciously making it punchy and contrasty. Shit didn't look like that! I took the photo because I liked the way it looked!

Again, some of this is just photo 101 "breaking bad habits" type stuff...everybody who's ever played with a self portrait for MySpace knows that high-contrast, high-saturation can be seductive. It's just amazing to catch MYSELF doing it after years of railing against too-contrasty, too-vivid, HDRed-to-death pics on Flickr.

Doctor Casino, Thursday, 9 August 2012 17:26 (eleven years ago) link

Some of this may also just be me shaking stuff I did learn in Photo 101, like every print has to have a true black and a true white or else it's flat. Sometimes that's just not what the image wants to be, although I'm glad I did learn that habit, generally speaking.

Doctor Casino, Thursday, 9 August 2012 18:01 (eleven years ago) link

I've had to try and dial back on the Lightroom adjustments, when I first got it I adjusted things because I could as much as because I needed to.

michaellambert, Thursday, 9 August 2012 18:19 (eleven years ago) link

I will say tho, that having switched to RAW early this year, going back and working through all these images shot in JPEG feels like working without caffeine, or thumbs. Amazing how quickly I come to take that fuller control for granted, on white balance especially.

Doctor Casino, Thursday, 9 August 2012 20:50 (eleven years ago) link

Yeah, having good retrospective control on WB is one of the pros of RAW/Lightroom for me. I know I could take more care in camera but that involves fiddling about!

michaellambert, Thursday, 9 August 2012 21:09 (eleven years ago) link

straight out the camera - - - feel like I couldn't do much besides fuck this up, even though histogram-wise it's well clear of 'true black' and 'true white.'

Doctor Casino, Thursday, 9 August 2012 22:58 (eleven years ago) link

^ i have no idea what this is but it's rad

, Blogger (schlump), Thursday, 9 August 2012 23:04 (eleven years ago) link

Frozen lake, lotus plants. Thanks!

Doctor Casino, Thursday, 9 August 2012 23:06 (eleven years ago) link

wrt holding off on getting too into tweaking your prints, i guess i opt out of that kinda thing by just scanning & not playing with the colours, because then i have the plausible deniability of the thing i'm looking at having some arbitrary claim of authorial 'realness', in representing the photo i framed & lit & took. the problem with this is that a lot of 'tweaking' is an actual redress of how the photo should look, should have been printed or come out - how it would have looked if it had been printed in better quality, or more attentively, or w/e, so less qualifies as 'automatic adjustment'.

in terms of making alterations to purposefully work up & improve the look of a photograph, it almost just feels easier to just not, for me, to save yourself the decisions, save yourself the weird diffusion of considering what it is you're eventually looking at, albeit at the expense of your image having slightly more pop or contrast or w/e.

i thought it was some smashed up pipes/a showerhead on the sidewalk, so

, Blogger (schlump), Thursday, 9 August 2012 23:11 (eleven years ago) link

Yeah, I think that's a legit position to take, totally just "whatever I got through the lens." I think this is more difficult with digital because the process is more obviously mediated, vis-a-vis the camera having white-balance settings or automatic saturation things it does or whatever. I could still adopt a WYSIWYG position, but I don't think it'd have as much of a philosophical foundation, and meanwhile I'd be looking at the images being able to see the better image waiting to emerge from the chrysalis.

Doctor Casino, Thursday, 9 August 2012 23:19 (eleven years ago) link

oh sure. but tbh i think my philosophical foundation/vague correlation w/the "truthiness" of the photo i took is just as flawed - i don't print my own stuff, so outsource a bunch of decisions affecting how things come out, & if i did print i'd be making all of those authorial decisions -- so why feel awkward about doing it on screen?

i have no idea whether that camera that allowed you to retroactively shift focus, change DoF, &c, are going to become standard, but i guess that would be the ultimate (or an ultimate) of this sorta thing - in which shooting & refining are two p distinct stages of a process. i almost feel like there's something extra, philosophically, with digital that makes further 'negotiation' of an image different - that working with pixels means you have a different relationship w/the verisimilitude of a "source", ie with hold-it-up-to-the-light-emulsion-film that exists physically and outside of the camera.

, Blogger (schlump), Thursday, 9 August 2012 23:26 (eleven years ago) link

When I'm scanning film I tend to make minimal adjustments to the settings, mostly concentrate on cloning out dust spots etc. The temptation to adjust things comes with the digital stuff, but the amount of adjustment I do has been tempered somewhat by having worked with film a lot more over the last 9mths or so. I tend to be less happy with my straight from camera images than the film ones, though maybe shooting RAW isn't helping too much there.

michaellambert, Thursday, 9 August 2012 23:27 (eleven years ago) link

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