Film revival?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by JDMvW, Jan 27, 2018.

  1. I see what you're saying. I know photo teachers working today who insist that students set everything on their cameras to manual. I understand the logic. But they're doing it because when "we" were starting we used Pentax K100s and other cameras that forced you to work that way. I don't even teach film photography that way, but that's another post. My point is that manual focus is very hard to get right with small sensor digital cameras and kit lenses. The viewfinders tend to be tunnels, you've got nothing like a split finder to help and the focus rings are terribly loose. Sunny/16 doesn't work as well if you're shooting jpgs, either. There's no going back, it's true.

    What I know about myself is that having taken 36 pictures in an entire outing, having worked slow, learned about hyperfocal lengths and the rest has contributed to how I use and more importantly understand digital cameras. And I agree entirely. Photography, as Cartier Bresson said, is about the eye, mind and heart, not shutter speeds, apertures and iso. I guess we bring what we have to new technologies. I certainly did not mean to imply that NOT having worked with film is any sort of handicap.
  2. There's a case to be made that digital can also make you a better film photographer. Freedom to experiment with long exposures, strange framing and the rest is a lot easier when you can see what works and doesn't work without sending your film off to a lab. And simple repetition - taking a few hundred pictures a day vs 36 or 72 - can't make anyone a worse shooter :D
    tholte likes this.
  3. Being able to experiment is a big deal!
    john_sevigny|2 likes this.
  4. Working with old film cameras over the last 18 months has made me a better photographer, but it's not all about film. A lot of it's the lack of automation. When the camera is not picking the exposure for you, there's some stuff you need to learn to get it right. That's not a film thing. There are some pretty sophisticated film cameras that will take care of everything for you too.

    What film does do, especially now that costs have gone up and 1 hour photo places have mostly disappeared, is to make people think a little more before pressing the shutter button.

    But digital has helped me too. As I've said, I've become a better photographer over the last 18 months. During that time I've also employed digital cameras in my learning process because as others have mentioned, it's much easier to experiment and immediately see the results.

    For me it's not digital vs film. It's digital and film..
  5. I’m in a bit the opposite position. My background in philosophy makes me a pretty thoughtful guy, sometimes too thoughtful, which is kind of why photography has become my answer to those big life questions that philosophy can really stress over. So, while I am known to sometimes put a lot of thought into a shot, one of my goals has been to be more spontaneous and shoot a little more instinctually. I still think about photography a lot, in the shower in the morning, on the bus, when my head hits the pillow at night. But when I’m out shooting I’m trying, and succeeding more and more, to be guided by things other than thoughtfulness. I shoot digitally and that doesn’t lead to my taking more shots because of a lack of cost. I’ve always taken few shots. For me, it’s not about the quantity of shots but rather about how free my shooting is regarding the shots I do take. For me, thoughtfulness away from the camera often yields a kind of liberation when I’ve got my camera in hand.

    Tom, I agree with you about auto stuff. I started shooting seriously only with digital and was advised by a trusted photographer friend to learn to shoot manually even though my camera could automate things so easily. He warned that I’d miss shots at the beginning because of this but that one learns a lot through mistakes. To this day, I shoot manually and enjoy and appreciate doing so, especially when it allows me to break from the more generically pleasing assumptions cameras are programmed to make on my behalf when in full auto mode.
    john_sevigny|2 likes this.
  6. My favorite local haunt actually waged a bit of a war back in the fall with one of the local high school teachers.

    In general, they push AE-1s and AE-1Ps as student cameras. They sell them with a 50mm 1.8 for $100 OTD, warranty them(including the battery) for the duration of the course, and will buy them back at the end of the year.

    One particular teacher in the fall, though, insisted that her students not have cameras with any kind of auto exposure mode. She really wanted them to go out and buy a new FM10(terrible advice in general, and that was also about the time Nikon officially discontinued it) but considered the FM and FM2 "acceptable." My local shop doesn't generally sell a lot of Nikons as student cameras as they've held their value better and are consequently more expensive, but got cleaned out of FMs and 50mm 1.8s. They FINALLY convinced the teacher to allow relent on Nikon-only and started selling K1000s, FTbs, and pretty much any other all manual camera they could turn up. I even saw a handful of Nikkormats pass across the counter
    john_sevigny|2 likes this.
  7. PapaTango

    PapaTango Itinerant Philosopher

    Film was fun until it wasn't. Then it was neat playing with it for a bit again. But in the end, it was what I had for 40 or so years. Now there are different technologies that let me do things I could not even envision--no less accomplish--when I had a full darkroom and thousands of dollars worth of photo gear.

    Yeah, the millennial and younger trendies are excited. I saw it coming around in the late 90s and early 2000s when the first major wave of hipsters broke on the urban shores. Clothes we tossed out 20-30 years before, fixed speed balloon tire bikes from the 50s, and a host of other copycat things. They, like their current progeny thought they were being original...

    I hope they enjoy themselves! At least the current crop are not boorishly ironic.
  8. A little on the cynical side but I agree with most of it.
  9. AJG


    @ Ben--I teach a beginning photo class that is film based since our photo program is in the art department of a college. I can't imagine insisting on a particular brand or model of camera for a class like that. All that we ask for is the ability to turn off automation on a camera so that exposure and DOF can be controlled manually when that makes sense for an assignment. The cameras that are difficult for students to use, ironically, are the "soccer mom" auto everything SLRs from the 90's that come with slow kit zooms and nasty pentamirror viewfinders, along with little or no manual control possible. Fortunately, those cameras seem to be disappearing.
    john_sevigny|2 likes this.
  10. I don't know what the story on this particular teacher was. It was a high school teacher, and if I had to guess it was so that she only had to teach one model of camera. The FM, FM2(n), and FM10 all basically operate the same way with their three LED display. Still, though, most manual focus SLRs from the era basically operate the same way in terms of controls. The only difference is in the meter display, but most of the cameras we're talking about use one of three methods-center the needle, match-needle, or light the center LED(I actually find the Canon A series cameras-AT-1 excepted-difficult to use in manual mode since you can't see the aperture set in the viewfinder).

    Funny enough with your mention of slow kit zooms-had parents listened to the teacher and bought a new FM10, that's exactly what was supplied with it.

    Also, I don't know why but this particular seemed to carry some sort of grudge against the used camera shop in town. She told her students to "be careful" because they do things like "recharge old batteries and sell them to you." Even if that was possible and they did do that, it would be kind of a pointless complaint since the school-year warranty they offer includes the batteries. Of course, you're probably not going to kill the batteries in an FM in a year unless you leave it turned on for a few days, but then the shop isn't going to quibble over 25¢ worth of batteries if that happens.
  11. AJG


    Ben-my current class is using mostly Pentax K 1000s that the school rents for $10 for the semester, but I do have a student with a vintage black Nikkormat Ftn and another with a Contax IIIa from the 1950's. Both so far are doing good work, proving once again that newer cameras aren't necessary for good photography. It is convenient to have the vast majority of students using the same make/model of camera so that various minor differences in film loading, ASA/ISO setting, meter read out, etc. aren't an issue, but past classes with a greater variety of cameras certainly weren't that hard to deal with.
  12. I'd guess that the educational "richness" is greater with a variety of cameras. I'd guess that a lot of students get their eyes opened a bit by seeing someone get good results with gear that they might have otherwise thought was somehow insufficient.

    In my view, identical equipment is good if you want to "train" a group of people, as opposed to "educate" them. If it is even possible for a teacher to cause them to become educated. Speaking as a non-educator, so take this with a grain of salt.
    john_sevigny|2 likes this.
  13. Hopefully, most students haven’t yet become indoctrinated into the gear-obsessed side of photography, or as I prefer to call it, camera collection. I hope most students are more in tune with what they and others are seeing and producing than with what they’re using to do that with.
  14. Fred, I think you're just being dismissive of people who seem to focus on the "craft" and its associated hardware. I would not be surprised if a lot of people here think that's all there is to me.

    I personally only post (mainly) on hardware or process, etc., because this is the only thing, in my opinion, worth trying to teach via text over the internet. I can describe certain aspects of the craft that someone is having trouble with, and they can (often) try it out themselves to see if it is true or not. After they have certain fundamental aspects of the craft under their belt, then they can try putting their own artistic sense, or whatever it is, to use. I'm not gonna try to critique that 'cuz it's their sense, not mine. But if they say, "hey, I'm trying to get a certain effect, or mood," then I might say, "try such and such a technique, or lens, or lighting."

    Personally I have had an obsession with photography since, well, at least pre-teens, and made a full-time time living at it since about 1970ish. The huge majority of my experience is in tech areas, lab production and studio system design, etc., although I have personally shot portraits of around 40 to 50 thousand people (that's roughly enough to fill a major league baseball stadium). But I can't teach people how, in text, to work with a subject, make some sort of connection, and get good expressions. It's not even worth trying, the photography wizards of photonet all weigh in with how they know better and why that doesn't work. And since, on the internet, no one really knows who you are, etc., the interested photog doesn't know who to listen to.

    Let me give an example of something "not teachable" via text - a disappearing coin trick. Ok, here's how: hold the coin up between the fingers so everyone can see it. Now, PRETEND to put it in the other hand. Say abracadabra and open the empty hand to show that the coin has "vanished." Now you know right away that this won't fool.anyone you know, so likely you don't even try. But... if you see someone who is really good at this, you'll think, how did they do that? After this, now you're ready to listen. But BEFORE YOU SAW IT, not so much.

    Anyway, this is my take on things. Don't be so hard on people - you probably don't really know what's beneath their online presence.
    john_sevigny|2 likes this.
  15. And I don't believe I claimed to know anything about you beneath the surface of your online presence. I talked about my hopes for students. I think photography, at least in online discussions, seems often to invite an emphasis on gear (as does advertising and marketing by camera companies) and I do hope (and think it's probably the case) that most young students aren't that busy looking at other students' equipment in comparing results. I hope they're looking at the results. To say that is not to claim to know what's beneath your online presence. It's to respond directly to your online words.

    I'm skeptical of your claim about not being able to address the art of making portraits in an online forum. While you may not be able to or want to do so, it can be done effectively. No kind of teaching is going to substitute for innate talent and gut instinct, of course. But that doesn't mean photographers can't teach each other, let alone discuss, more aesthetic or non-technical aspects of photography than how many pixels can dance on the head of a sensor, whether film is better than digital, or what company produces sharper "glass."
  16. You are making my point - you don't believe me. Unless you do, I wouldn't have any hope of teaching you. You might listen, but you wouldn't try hard enough. Because you wouldn't really believe me.

    I'll go into a little more detail later, if you're interested.
  17. Again, you misunderstood me. I DO believe you. I’m skeptical that your personal inability or lack of desire to discuss the aesthetics of making a portrait translates to what OTHERS can do. You keep thinking I’m talking about you personally, and I’m not. I’m talking about my observations of how photography forums often proceed and my own personal more successful experience in talking and hearing others talk about the aesthetics of photography on line.
  18. IMO, teaching has many shades and end goals. Teaching about aesthetics and philosophy is not the same as teaching about equipment and craft, but both can be done. They just have different goals and purposes. One deals with helping to open someone's eyes where the vision is already dormant, while the other deals with delivering knowledge and experience and in some cases recipe to do things. One can give step by step instructions to someone to reproduce something and that can be considered teaching, with the hope that the student can follow instructions to master the craft himself at a later date. In other fields, teaching can be the means of thinking, expanding one's vision. As I stated earlier, I think both can be done, as long as the correct expectations are set. However in most areas of teaching, I think, a certain amount of skepticism towards the teacher helps. It not only facilitates the student to internalize the teaching, but helps the teacher to be on the edge and strive for perfection, and at the end benefits other students too. If a teacher requires that I believe in him/her as a precondition for teaching, thats actually a serious ground for skepticism, ironically.
    john_sevigny|2 likes this.
  19. Fred, please stop dancing around with the words. If you believed me, you would not say you're skeptical. Also, please don't worry about my reaction; I'm not taking it personally as I understand that there is no basis for believing me, other than possibly just out of politeness.

    I'm plenty happy to "discuss the aesthetics of making a portrait" if anyone here wanted to hear, which from past experience, they don't seem to (Fred, don't take this personally, I'm talking about the forum in general). But all the talking in the world from me is not gonna "teach" anyone how to take portraits.

    I'm starting to think we mean different things by "portrait." I'm speaking mainly of the sort that the subject (or family) wants to own, and they come to you to have it done. And when you're done, if you've made a good "portrait," the subject's mother, or sister, or spouse or kids will say, "oh, that's YOU!! He/she caught you perfectly. There's that sly little twinkle in your eye, or that smug little smirk you get when you're right."

    This is what I consider good portraiture. And the way you get it is that you make some sort of connection with the subject. You interact, cajole, even manipulate (they know you're doing it) until you have gotten past their self consciousness and they begin to show their real personality. They need to develop a trust in you, that you're only gonna show their best side; you're not gonna snap a shot when they're looking goofy, or yawning, etc. They have to feel a confidence in you that you know what you're doing, and know that you're not gonna let them sit there and pose with a crooked collar or funny wrinkles in their clothes.

    Now this is what I say that I cannot teach you in words. Every one is different (although in ways they are surprisingly the same). You have to talk, probe, react to what they say, and maybe manipulate accordingly to get what you want.

    Yes, but you don't tell them that you require it. But if they (the novice photographer) don't trust/believe you, they're not gonna be willing to "put themselves out there." And if they try, it'll be a half-hearted effort that will probably fail.

    So how do they get to believe in you? Well, I have a sense that you've spent a lot of time in school, so I think that you probably figure your instructors had to be decently qualified in their field to have been hired. And you figure that whatever textbooks have been adequately vetted, so you mostly believe in them.

    One way that you, as a fledgling portrait photographer (?) might come to "believe in" the know how of a portrait photographer is if you, or perhaps some of your photographer friends, are trying to do some difficult portraits (perhaps the subject is putting on their fake "here's my picture look, cheeeeese" and you cannot get past it). Then you ask "the other photographer" to step in, and inside of a couple of minutes they are getting nice, relaxed shots of the "difficult" subject. Now, I've seen enough of your posts that I doubt you would be convinced - I suspect that this might have to happen to you a half dozen times or so before you start to think, "this can't be just luck, maybe that other photographer really does know what they're doing. You and I are not in that place so it would be silly of me to presume that I could lecture you on such things.

    Anyway that is my take on things.
  20. Yes, I would. Because I'm not skeptical about what you're claiming are your teaching capabilities and limitations. I believe you have those limitations. I'm skeptical about applying your limitations with language to others. I think others can teach portraiture with words, to the extent, at least, that anyone can teach anything. If you can't get that simple concept and the difference between my believing you about yourself but being skeptical of applying that to others then you shouldn't be teaching anyone anything. You should be studying logic and critical thinking.

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