What is it about film?

13 01 2010

Spanish Wedding, Holga, Fujifim, by Rory O'Toole

What is it about film? What differentiates it from digital? Can we put a finger on its quality? Is it tangible?

Robert Benson put the question to eleven professional photographers (including Dubliner Simon Watson) who still use film for their work. The result is a great interview with each photographer responding thoughtfully to ten questions regarding their use of film.

Everyone has their own way of describing how film is different than digital, and looks special. How would you describe the “magic of film?”
Simon Watson: There is a grit to it. The colors and shadows are richer and more sophisticated. Even though modern film is less grainy now, it is the grain that gives the film a grittiness (even if you can’t see it) it affects the whole image. Digital has this milky slick look. It’s flat too. And needs tons of work.
Paolo Marchesi: Again, the “magic of film” in my opinion comes with the process of shooting film. Digital is too sharp, too perfect but if you want you can make digital look like film.  I think…
Jeff Lipsky: Film produces a much “creamier” skin tone.
Finn O’Hara: I really think the ‘magic of film’ comes down to the commitment to the image. You can’t ’spray’ with a medium format camera, like you can with a DSLR. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the slower pace of shooting film is just so enjoyable. I need more analog in my life, and film gives me that pleasure.
José Mandojana: It’s rich.
Michael Sugrue: Grain, depth, and subtle shifts of color.  It really feels like you can step into the image, or seeing exactly what the photographer saw through the viewfinder.  To me, it’s especially apparent in street photography and landscapes, which are often overly manipulated digitally.  I was going to mention some photographers I admire, but I realized that, while they shoot film, it’s their talent and style that separates them and not simply using film. It’s an important distinction that shouldn’t be considered in any “film vs. digital” debate.  It’s personal, not an argument to win.
Brian Finke: I love the grain, texture and depth of film.  If they same look and technique can be achieved with digital, please let me know, I would be very interested in checking it out.
Chad Holder: Film is softer, and digi can be too sharp and begin to look plastic.  you can save the highlights better with color neg without it looking too funky.
Bryce Duffy: It’s like listening to a vinyl record on a turntable through a macintosh tube amp through good speakers versus listening to a high quality MP3 on your ipod through a pair of expensive headphones.

Click here to read more.

– Rory

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