Digital isn’t Real Photography!   

What about Film

The medium of photography has become very accessible for everyone. There was a time when photographers had to be an engineer, a chemist, and to be successful, serious practitioners needed to spend time educating themselves. Photographers actually had to understand the combinations of shutter and aperture for a properly exposed image, and worried about camera shake and, of course, film choice.

With modern technology, today’s supercharged cameras with their machine-gun-like shutters, and seemingly speed of light focusing, and amazing low light capability, many photographers are able to make great photos without any knowledge whatsoever of photography.

This week I talked to a woman that pulled her 1980’s film camera out of a well-worn canvas bag saying, “Digital isn’t real photography!” (I remember writing about another person upset with digital almost exactly a year ago.)

I let her rant for a while about how inferior digital is, and how one can’t get a good picture unless they used film. However, because I wasn’t in a mood to get into an argument I knew wouldn’t win, I just nodded and said that I do like the tactile quality one can get with a properly printed picture. And to smooth things out I mentioned that I have several enlargements hanging on the wall in my shop that I took with film years ago.

That conversation is becoming rather infrequent these days, but it still is kind of humorous when someone wants to complain about modern photographers and the high tech equipment available. Unfortunately, the argument is one-sided and not really worth getting into because any opinion but theirs is going to be ignored.

There are still a few people intent on complaining that with the end of film comes the end of photography. That’s just silly. Personally, I don’t think film is going away any time soon. Film is just one of many ways to make a photograph.

The big box outlets here in Canada may not carry it much longer, but there are lots of specialty items artists use that are only available in specialty stores, and I think there are still plenty of camera shops that handle film. And going to a store that specializes in photography makes the chances of getting the correct advice from the person behind the counter more likely.

It seems like everyone is taking pictures nowadays. (Another thing that lady complained about) But I think that’s a good thing and not something to complain about.

There are lots of excellent photographs being taken. People just want visual memories and the multitude of cameras that are available these days are perfect for that. Who cares what kind of camera or how the image is captured.

I think I might stop by and talk to that woman again. She has a small store down the street from mine. My conversation won’t really be to talk her out of film and into digital, She hasn’t used her camera in a while and I’d like her to start taking pictures again instead of complaining about young people with their digital cameras.

I hope she will start having fun with that old 35mm film camera. It doesn’t matter what camera she uses, film or digital, as long as she is happy with the photographs she makes. I’ll be sure to help her out, and with a bit of subversive work, I might get her using a digital camera after all.

Your comments? Thanks, John


15 responses to “Digital isn’t Real Photography!   

  1. Please keep us posted on how future visits go with Ms Anti-Digital. I’d sure be cautious about much communication with one who refuses to consider any opinions but their own, mental health being the tenuous thing that it is and so many people tipping the scales into the danger zone when refusing to even attempt a balance, but you seem to be aware of how to approach such folk, so all the best to you!


  2. I think the difficulty your neighbour might be having is that she is equating photography with the technology used to create an image.

    Artist’s have had their fights over this – instead of a brush, use a spatula to layer paint onto a canvas. If the result is an interesting way of interpreting the subject, then the artist’s goal has been achieved, even in the face of complaints about the non-standard tool being used.

    The same can be said about photography (look up the roots of the word! – “drawing with light”). It is the impact of the image that counts, not the technology used to get it. Otherwise we’d still be using 19th century methods in the 21st century, wouldn’t we?


  3. I think that the whole world is evolving extremely rapidly and most of the changes tend to deal with technology. We are so busy doing so many things every day, so much more is required from us than from for example our grand-parents a few decades ago, we have to save some time somewhere and bring some lightness back into our lives. For this reason we now have digital dishwashers, “thinking” washing machines and digital photography, we can video-talk to anyone practically anywhere on the planet with our phones… You just do not have to spend hours in your laboratory using toxic substances for the environment to develop your photographs. We all have to adapt to these changes and I think that seeing the big picture is key here.
    Thank you for your post. I hope you had a nice week-end.


  4. Is it the journey or the destination? Are results all that matter or is the process part of the experience? This past year I shot a bit of film for the first time in a decade or two and as I was shooting it, I was much more mindful of the subjects and the process. I think my mental state and approach were somehow different when I was shooting film. Are the results any better? Probably they are not, and viewers won’t know the difference. However, sometimes I embed a bit of myself in an image as I try to capture a sense of the moment. When I look at some of my images, I can’t separate them from my memories of the experience of shooting them and I find that is often more true of my film images than of my digital ones.


    • You’re entirely correct Mike – the process is, for the photographer, always embedded in his or her subsequent appreciation of the image. That’s another reminder that we should slow down and absorb everything about the moment before we press the shutter button.


      • I do agree with your words Derek, “we should slow down and absorb everything about the moment before we press the shutter button.” I am sure many modern photographers are so excited with the process of being a photographer that they don’t do that. However, I would like to think that those that do, have that “subsequent appreciation of the image”. Thanks.


    • I like your words Mike, “Is it the journey or the destination?” I expect that is up to each person that picks up a camera and releases that shutter. The famous scenic photographer, Ansel Adams during the time film was king wrote, “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.
      I think might fit within you “journey” and “destination”. Thanks again.


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