Thursday, September 13, 2012

Why it's film only from now on.


I'm disillusioned with digital. That's it in a nutshell. After shooting mostly digital for around eight years, I just found I wasn't getting any real satisfaction from it. I missed film and the darkroom. It's all very well saying that I could combine the two but, in reality, it doesn't work like that: the sheer convenience of digital is too hard to resist most of the time. That's why I took the decision around a year ago to give up digital (apart from using it for stock photography) and return to film. I've never looked back.

I started another website - - so that I could write about film-based topics. Some of you have sidled over to this website but many more haven't and probably aren't even aware of its existence. That's my fault. I should have written something ages ago to encourage you to make the switch. Still, better late than never, so please feel encouraged to drop by The Online Darkroom.

I'm having some darkroom problems which are documented on the website so most of the pics I post are negative scans instead of print scans as I had intended. They are mostly taken on my Rolleiflex SL66E, Rollei TLRs, a small Contax SLR outfit I have and the Konica Hexar AF.

Other than some product-type shots of cameras, I haven't used a digital camera for months. My D700 and K10D have been sitting gathering dust. It's approaching crunch time when I'll need to decide to keep them or sell them on and maybe buy a 5x4 camera or another couple of lenses for the SL66E.

In one of my early posts at The Online Darkroom, I tried to explain what I felt was the difference between film and digital photography. It's difficult putting such concepts into words but here's what I wrote

When I was shooting regularly with my Nikon D700 there were few occasions when I first formed the image in my mind's eye. Usually, I would be attracted to a particular line or form in the landscape or a quaint juxtaposition of elements. Out would come the camera, a judgement would be made about the lens likely to be needed and then I'd start shooting on program, dialling in whatever exposure compensation the histogram suggested would be beneficial.

Often it would take quite a few exposures before I arrived at one that was satisfying. I used to think of it as "working the scene". Now, I'm not so sure it's as noble a pursuit as all that. (I'm not knocking digital here because I've taken a lot of good photographs with the D700, some of which I probably wouldn't have got with a medium format film camera - such as hand-held low light pictures or those requiring especially wide or long tele lenses).

But, having spent the last few weeks shooting only film, I'm beginning to "see" the image in my head again before I commit the exposure to film. That's internal visualisation and is, ultimately, more creatively satisfying than digital's scatter gun approach. Of course, I could be on my own here. Maybe digital shooters do visualise things before they click the shutter but I somehow doubt it. Why would you when you can see the scene in 2D in a moment's time?

It's a good place to be as a photographer - comfortable with my equipment, happy working out all the nuts and bolts of focus, compensation and exposure and doing what artists do best - visualising their creations.

Since then, I've shot lots of 35mm and 120 film. If you visit The Online Darkroom, you'll see that I've just cobbled together a 5x4 camera and will be having a go with that in the next few weeks as well. It would be great if those of you who weren't aware of the film blog felt like visiting it as regularly as you did this one. However, I appreciate that film isn't for everyone and there will be no hard feelings if you decide to go elsewhere. If that's the case then many thanks for your past interest and good luck with your digital pursuits.

Those of you who decide to bookmark The Online Darkroom can expect to see more pics in the style of the ones in this post so if you like them you're onto a winner! Hope to see you there.


  1. Great article, looking forward to reading up on your new blog. I'm also feeling a bit of fatigue, but for me I think it's due to the images I'm producing, not the way that they're being produced. I think I need to get better at working the scene, slowing down, directing my models or subjects, etc. I also didn't grow up developing film (as I assume you did). My film use was mostly prior to my love of photography, so it was mostly take snaps, get prints back, put prints in drawer. Though I will admit that I've had some desires to give the analogue darkroom a try :) Thanks for the postings!

  2. Life's too short to wonder about things, Alan. Get that darkroom up and running! Seriously, though, if you're not into black and white then I don't think there's the same argument in favour of film. If I didn't shoot black and white I'd still be using my D700. If you do fancy monochrome, then please get into the darkroom. You wont regret it.


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