How necessary is learning to work with film?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by goldberg1138, Nov 24, 2010.

  1. I am new to photography. I will be taking classes on photography soon (starting January) and I have the choice of focusing on digital or film photography. The photographers whose work I very much admire (Michael Kenna, Alexey Titarenko - look them up if you aren't familiar with them) worked in b&w film. I own a digital slr. Do you feel that it's necessary, or more true to the medium as a fine art, to learn to work with, develop, etc. film? I'm not proposing a digital vs. film type of thread - I'm more interested in getting opinions on whether some techniques are only possible with one or the other. Input would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Think about painting: you learn the differente techniques and product available then decide wich one you prefer (or better wich one you prefer for your style,interest and for a given subject). Photography is the same, you should learn to use B&W, color, slide, digital, and the decide or use all the above mentioned. The opportunity to learn film (I intend developing, printing, ecc.) are limited compared to digital, because you need a darkroom, enlarger, and so on, so the opportunity to have all you need in a class fotography should not be missed.
  3. Sailors when my Dad was in the navy in WWI were still supposed to have some time on a sailing vessel. By WWII, my much older brother never saw a sail when he was in the navy, I think.
    The 'manual' characteristics of simple film cameras may actually help the person to appreciate the relative use of aperture, shutter speed, and focus. Of course, fully automatic film cameras like a Canon EOS 650 don't provide much training on those lines unless you turn the 'automatic' everything off.
    Having said that, you can, you know, turn off the auto-everything on digital cameras too. Much as "I love the smell of fixer in the evening", there's no particular virtue in learning the minutiae of film processing and the like today. You can do all that much easier and better in an image-processing application -- Ansel Adams would have killed for Photoshop on a modern computer -- he was prescient enough to foresee something of the kind a year before the Macintosh ;) :
    I give full credit to the excellent scientists and technicians involved in the photographic industry. The research, development, and design aspects, as well as production, are extraordinary. However, very few photographic manufacturing technicians comprehend photography as an art form, or understand the kinds of equipment the creative person requires. The standards are improving in some areas, however: in my opinion modern lenses approach the highest possible levels of perfection, and today's negative and printing materials are superior to anything I have known and used in the past. I am sure the next step will be the electronic image, and I hope I shall live to see it. I trust that the creative eye will continue to function, whatever technological innovations may develop.

    Ansel Adams
    1983 Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs. Little, Brown and Company. p.59
  4. I like film but I don't think there is any real reason to learn film or B&W darkroom anymore. Is there any reason to learn to ride a horse or have driving lessons in an old Model T of course not. Does shooting film make you a better photographer of course not. Is it OK to like film, prefer film or want to shoot film absolutely.
    Nothing wrong with learning film and the B&W darkroom is a very simple process. When I started in photography which was only twenty years ago the B&W darkroom was my digital. I could shoot and see the results with in a very short time of getting home that made it easier to learn and I soon realised that decent negs made it much easier to produce decent prints. I many ways it made very aware of what I was doing with the camera. But it's not like you can't do that with digital today.
  5. No, learning to process film is not essential, nor really is shooting it these days. However, shooting film is FUN, and you do get some very unique results with a minimum of hassle. With BW in particular, many feel that these results are difficult to replicate with Photoshop. As you already have a DSLR, I suggest picking up a used film camera that uses the same mount as your camera, so that you can use your existing lens/lenses with it. Then buy a few rolls of BW film such as Tr -X for that classic BW look, and have fun. Drop the rolls in the sendout film envelopes at any walmart and check the Special Requests box at the bottom, noting it is Black and White film. In a week or so you will get back BW prints for 5-6 dollars. Take your best shots to school for enlargement (scanned or using an optical enlarger). I guarantee you will have fun, and enjoy the best of both worlds. Plus, you can enjoy soem really top end film era equipment at great prices. check out before e-bay.
    Just as an example, if you shoot Sony, you could pick up the fantastic Minolta Maxxum 7, a $1200 body for around $200 in excellent shape from KEH. This gets you into Full Frame Digital (once the film is scanned) for cheap. Shoot some color negative film, and you then have RAW dynamic range up the wazoo, with no hassle. The camera was very high end, with lightning fast and accurate autofocus, matrix metering, mid roll film change, storing of full EXIF data from the last 6 rolls of film, calculated Depth of Field display, Soft Trans Focus, etc. ....A pure joy to use, and a welcome change from digital at times (go back and forth between Film and Digital).
    To to summarize, Study Digital, Practice Film with a used film camera and you existing lenses. Best of Both Wolds, and loads of fun too.
    My take, anyways.
  6. AJG


    JDM is right to a degree about the nostalgia factor--I'm sure that you can find people holding out for the methods they learned when they were starting out from any era of photography. That said, however, I still like the look of black and white prints on fiber base silver gelatin papers made from good negatives better than any digital black and white that I have seen so far. They are much better than they were ten years ago, but good silver prints still have more depth and character in my opinion. I have nothing against digital--I make my living making digital photographs, and there are many aspects of it that are much easier to work with than film is. But if you intend to have a career as an artist making prints, I would recommend that you learn about film and darkroom printing while you have the opportunity so that you can intelligently compare film and digital methods and choose what best expresses your intentions.
  7. As Diego suggests, digital sensors and film are just different tools. Digital is great for learning composition because you get rapid feedback. Putting sheet film in a view camera and mastering the swings and tilts is a completely different experience that enforces considerable discipline and opens up new imaging possibilities. You need to pick the tools that work for you. It's all good.
  8. I love the look of a fibre print from a b/w neg and never was happy with color prints from the darkroom. I love color digital prints, even wet process ones and think b/w can be extremely beautiful. I test papers now and then and recently was going through an old stack of images and came across one that was b/w and thought it was actually a darkroom print--it wasn't, but that particular paper fooled me for a minute.
    There are many things and many more variables when learning film and the printing of it, but are they crucial to learning photography--no. Would I want to lose my knowledge from shooting film over 30 years, no. Would I choose to learn film processes today, probably not.
    The secret to learning photography is to take over the decision making and then learn from the results. Consciously making decisions about aperture, shutter speed based on meter readings and the characteristics of a scene teach you how to make a photograph. With that knowledge, you can then use any program mode that can be adjusted and over ridden to streamline the process. Without the ingrained knowledge you get from making all the decisions and evaluating the results of those decisions will otherwise leave you at the mercy of the cameras automatic settings. Choosing the film route will teach all these things just as digital will, it just adds another dimension to your skills that you may or may not ever feel like using. Digital feedback, which is fairly immediate, is a better vehicle to learn composition and such IMO, as you can look at all of your work immediately and large, on screen rather than picking one or two to enlarge from a small proof sheet a week or so later.
    You'd probably be surprised at how many well known fine art photographers are actually now shooting at least some digital. I really can't think of one that isn't at least on occasion. I don't have any firm knowledge about it, but I would be surprised if Kenna isn't using it at least with some of the commercial work he is doing.
  9. I don't think it is at all necessary (and I shoot 90% or so film). It is more work than digital, but it is also more magical. In fact, when I learned to shoot, film was so inexpensive to buy in bulk that I would rattle off as many frames as I liked, in order to experiment. Now your learning curve is highly accelerated by using digital. Once you master reproducing your vision, then you may want to experiment with other camera equipment and film.
  10. I think it all depends on where you want to go with your photography. I would say in general if you want to go all old school and retro then go for film, but if you want to go modern and cutting edge then go digital. As the others have said its just a choice of tool you want to use in the end.
    Since you like Micheal Kenna and Alexey Titarenko, I would personally suggest you start with film. The stuff you learn in film will give you a good foundation to build digital skills later on if you decide to. Also at one stage you will want to make a print like MK etc and inevitably, you will want to go to the darkroom and print on some FB paper with an enlarger etc. I've personally never seen any digitally made B+W prints that rival an FB traditional print. They look different and I prefer the traditional print look. Of course you can produce good work with digital prints but you might not like the look in the end. Try to find a real life comparison nearby to decide for yourself.
    You can mimic the process that MK uses to make a print in photoshop etc and it is probably much more comfortable to do in the light with a nice cup of coffee etc rather than in the dark with smelly chemicals and a load of trial and error. With that in mind you can see why a founding in traditional darkroom work will let you progress to digital more smoothly rather than the other way round. For a nice insight to an example workflow, look at Rolfe Horn's site. He has a technique section and it gives you a little window into his workflow with film. He was an apprentice to MK or something like that so he probably picked up a few techniques from him.
    Both the guys use B+W mostly and that is where film still has the edge in my opinion. For colour, digital has a lot of advantages, especially with the decline of skilled colour darkroom users. You might find it easier to get tuition in digital workflow since its so popular now as opposed to traditional workflow so maybe now is a good chance to get some good instruction on film.
    Having said that I would recommend you check the actual course content out first and see what they cover in each course before you decide on one. It may say film or digital photography but how much of each, and in how much depth, is each covered in? To learn the basics of each is a very simple thing to do on your own so if they only teach you how to get started then you might want to skip it and learn yourself from books and the net etc later on.
    As a personal observation of people around me and people I know, many people start with digital and later go to film or start with film, go to digital, then come back to film. Film has a mystique surrounding it now and is drawing attention from curious minds and it is much more fun to shoot ;)
    Finally, if you are worrying about equipment, especially costs, don't. Very capable film cameras and lenses can be had for very cheap these days so startup cost will be quite minimal. You can learn with your DSLR for the time being to get exposure etc down before going for film and that will save you some mistakes and money in the beginning.
    I guess the final consideration is to pick the one you think you will enjoy the most.
  11. Too many courses are concentrated on digital these days and students finish the course yet know very little about the function of the camera in the image making. Understanding light is not easy, but it is easier with a fully manual camera and having to wait to see if one got it right. Regret builds character. The processing part is not that important in this day and age but do learn medium format film usage.
  12. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    It is easier to learn photography with a manual film camera than with a digital camera. There are only three settings - shutter speed, aperture and ISO setting - and they are right there on the camera body and lens in plain sight.
  13. I would strongly suggest learning film techniques, including printing. It divides the photographic discipline into discreet areas which are more easily understood than taking the subject in a single dose.
    - Leigh
  14. You don't need to, but you probably should know both. Film cameras are so cheap anyway, and if you get one you don't like it's so easy to sell it for what you paid for it. If you have full-frame lenses for your DSLR, get a camera that's compatible, or just choose some obsolete (not compatible with any currently made equipment) system and buy an old manual camera, if you really want to get some nuts and bolts experience. There's nothing better than an Olympus OM1 or Minolta SRT series (or Nikon FE or Canon A1 etc...) with a 50mm lens.
  15. Too many courses are concentrated on digital these days and students finish the course yet know very little about the function of the camera in the image making. Understanding light is not easy, but it is easier with a fully manual camera and having to wait to see if one got it right. Regret builds character. The processing part is not that important in this day and age but do learn medium format film usage.
    It's important to know the function of the camera but one can learn it with a digital camera. Digital cameras are capable of fully manual controls. I wonder how having to wait to see if one got it right helps? The processing part is an important part of film photography that's why school would teach you how to process and print film the very first week in class.​
  16. There are so few opportunities to learn the concept of photography and the way light is captured in the traditional way. Take the opportunity to do the film course first and get the basics of your impending profession right from the beginning. Digital is just another way to capture the image.
    Anyone can go and do a digital processing course...they give them away free when you buy a camera. And you can go do any one of zillions of Photoshop training courses etc if you want to.
  17. Just to chip in with my twopennyworth, Digital is excellent, however the way to getting a good result is to shoot 50 or 60 frames and choose the best one. Film teaches discipline and the ability to "see" the picture in the mind. I shoot both, and having started with film and only adopted digital when the image quality was reasonable when compared to 35mm my pictures are better for the learning process developed using film. People remark that I only take one or two exposure but they are nearly always"right" I also carry out little post processing as if it's right in the camera it only needs a little sharpening.
    I also shoot medium Format and digital does not even come close!
    The point i am tryng to make is that the methodology used to capture an image n film is different to that applied to digital but digital photographers can benfit from the skills learned through using film.
  18. Stuart Moxham - Finland [​IMG], Nov 24, 2010; 12:54 p.m.
    Stuart Moxham said: "I like film but I don't think there is any real reason to learn film or B&W darkroom anymore. Is there any reason to learn to ride a horse or have driving lessons in an old Model T of course not."
    Sure, but with a manual film camera you learn to master exposure, focusing, etc, and you know that nothing (or very little) you can do later to solve the mistake; it is like learning to drive a car with no ABS, ASR and so on, you know how to drive properly and do not rely on electronic device that solve (or you think they always solve, and it is not) your mistake. As most people today think that is possible to push the brake while turning most people think they can under/over-expose a picture because they can solve the problem later in PS.
    Once you master exposure with slide film, or you are confident in your ability to focus, to compose, without the need of instant feed-back, you will be a better photographer whatever medium you choose, film (B&W, slide, negative) or digital.
  19. Briefly I'd say this to you about B&W. These days shooting RAW (digital) and processing that colour image to a B&W offers way more flexibility than film ever could or does. I can produce twenty different B&W versions of a scene from one RAW - this just isn't possible with film. The ability to apply arbitrary colour filters ( for B&W processing ) in post processing simply makes digital an automatic choice for me. With film you had to do that when you shot and you could not change the decision afterwards.
    Fundamentally film or digital are about the same thing - capturing light. I see no advantage these days in wallowing in developer fluid and film. That won't make you a better or worse photographer, it's just not mainstream modern photography. The process of taking a shot is, at it's core, unchanged from both.
    Film is still in use commercially, but we need to place this in perspective. It's marginal and with the recent introduction of more cost effective digital medium format backs it must be clear that commercially film's days are numbered.
    Everything is done digitally now. Even with film you develop and then scan. After that it hardly matters where the image came from.
    If, in the future, you find you need to learn to use film that will mean understanding it's limitations and perhaps how to develop it. But that's not something you'll get much in-depth knowledge of anyway in a course - you'd only cover the very basics. To use film seriously would require a lot more research and you aren't loosing much at all doing that all at the same time if you have to.
    If you leave the film stuff out of your course then you will benefit form putting the time into other more commercially useful areas. In addition there's nothing to stop you reading up on film without the pressure of having course work depend on it.
    So skip the film stuff.
    I like steam trains. They're beautiful devices and ( to a non-engineering eye ) are more appealing than a modern diesel electric engine. However they were dirty and messy and don't offer a lot of features that modern engines do. Nostalgia should not interfere with planning for the future, which is what you're doing.
  20. Even with film you develop and then scan.​
    You might, I don't.
  21. I would go digital, but also learn B&W film and darkroom techniques. For me, I get great results with color digital that is too difficult to develop in a darkroom. But B&W is great on film and a darkroom is easy to set up in a bathroom. I can get amazing B&W film based photos that I can never reproduce in digital, likewise I can get great color digital photos that I can never get with a home darkroom. I wonder if there are digital B&W photographers that can match the quality of traditional film based photos. Would Ansel Adams do digital B&W?
  22. It depends on the cameras that you have available. Full frame digital is better than 4/3. Top of the line lenses on film are better than low end digital. Think of it this way: They are two different formats and since you are unfamiliar with both learn both and make your decision then.
  23. I think there is so much to learn about digital, at least there has been for me, when you consider doing your own processing that you should start there. Eight years ago when I converted from film to digital after doing film weddings and working for a newspaper with film I thought learning digital would be easy. It is not when you consider how advanced and complex photoshop and lightroom are not to mention the continuing rapid advances in camera technology. I am an old pilot and I used to think that every pilot should learn to fly airplanes with a tail wheel and round piston engines. I no longer believe that even though though as an old timer I think a lot of the macho of manually flying those old beasts is gone from aviation. I do not believe you should waste time with all there is to learn about digital in trying to learn a fading technology first. I do agree that the first thing one should learn is about how light is processed and how it has an effect on pictures as the first and fundamental segment of photography.
  24. BTW I have taught digital beginners classes in which I start by saying this is the hole that light goes through. The amount of light striking the sensor is determined by the size of the hole and the time that that hole stays open. This can be influenced by the amount of gain applied to sensor and that is called ISO etc. I teach the real terms later but I really spend some time very fundametal stuff. It is very important to understand these principles but it does not require a film camera to do it, IMO.
  25. Why does a manual film camera make you master anything you could not master witha DSLR in manual mode. You either master photography or you don't. I guess you can't master photography with an F5 either. And please if you wan't to quote me quote the whole text not just a part of it to prove your point.
  26. Too much verbiage in this thread. This is the 21st century-- learn on digital. In a few years, if you have a specific reason, try out a film camera. (And incidentally, I'm a 100% film shooter.)
  27. I grew up on film cameras. I now have a dslr. Both are just tools to produce an image. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
    While a fully manual film camera can allow you to learn the basics about light and exposure, so can a digital camera in full manual mode. The last of the good film cameras often had automatic modes that approached what is now common on digital cameras. I have a Pentax ZX-60, which wasn't even the best that Pentax made, and it has auto-focus and several programmed exposure modes. It can be used as a simple point and shoot, with everything automated and requiring no thought on the part of the photographer. In that mode, it isn't much good for learning anything, but it takes nice pictures.
    My son has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, with a major in Illustration. He works as a graphics artist, designing visual user interfaces for a software company. In college, even though his major was illustration, he was required to take courses in pencil drawing, watercolor, oil painting, sculpture and woodworking. My point is that, like those disciplines, film and digital are two different media for producing images. You can learn things from either one that will help in the other. You may find a personal preference one or the other.
    There are woodworkers today who have every power tool ever made, and produce some fantastic works of art. Then there are those who don't even own a power saw and do everything with hand tools. Some even specialize in antique hand tools. Is one a better artist than the other? No, not in my opinion. They're just different. Like photography, though, the ones who wish to make a living producing utilitarian pieces, usually use modern techniques. The ones using older, "obsolete" techniques are producing hand-crafted products, in smaller quantities, at higher prices, for those who appreciate the special qualities of the medium.
    Film is no longer the medium of choice for most photographers. Digital offers workflow enhancements and speed that are better for someone who wants to produce high-quality images quickly and deliver them electronically. Film has become a niche market for the hand-crafted approach. Virtually no one uses film for commercial work, such as weddings or advertising any more, but it still has a place in the photographic world.
    I think that learning the basics is more a matter of self-discipline, than technology. I admit that it is easier to stay disciplined, if the technology doesn't allow you to get lazy. But, if you have the self-discpline to put your dslr in manual mode and actually think about the resulting image, before you trip the shutter, then you can and will learn. If you simply "spray and pray", with either film or digital, you won't learn anything. There were a lot of crappy pictures taken on film, because the photographer didn't bother to think before pushing the shutter button. Likewise, the best digital images usually result from a knowledgeable photographer who planned the resulting image in his/her mind first. Its more about the user than the technology.
  28. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    With an old film camera lens, one can hold the aperture pin, turn the aperture ring and actually see the aperture opening get smaller and larger. the full aperture stops are on the aperture ring. To open up one stop one simply goes from f/11 to f/8. When looking at an LCD what is one stop more than f/6.3? One can open the back of the camera, fire the shutter at various speeds and actually see the shutter movement. An old Speed Graphic is the ideal tool to show how a focal plane shutter works. Its shutter curtain always moves at the same speed; it is just the opening size of the various slits that regulates the amount of light that passes over the film. Can fighting through the various menus on the LCD panel of a digital camera really be easier than this? Everything one needs to know is right there:
  29. This is a philosophical answer, but I think there's something artistically questionable--or at least disingenuous--about imitating film effects if you have never used film. In that case, it is simply one medium slavishly faking another. The unfortunate artistic aspect of digital is that so often this starts to approach parody.
  30. If the film course are taught by a well-regarded professor, a film class will add depth and dimension to your knowledge of photography. You can learn about digital techniques anywhere, including online, but where can you learn about the zone system, film exposure, and the darkroom "hands on" these days?
    Shooting film requires discipline, because you can't see your results instantly. How can this discipline not improve your photography?
    Think about it this way: Is it necessary to learn Latin in order to be well-educated? There is little practical use for Latin today (outside of biology and teaching Latin). You can't go to Rome or the Rive Gauche in Paris or the Latin Quarter of New Orleans and speak Latin on vacation. No one speaks it anymore. But given Latin's importance in the history of Western language, history, and thought, how could a scholar fail to benefit from the exercise of learning it?
    Despite the analogy, film photography has more practical utility than dead languages do. I'm not implying that film is dead. Rather, I'm trying to convey the idea that a subject that may not be directly applicable to your goals can still be beneficial to your education. This highlights the difference between education and training. Training teaches you the things that you need to do. Education teaches you things that enhance your understanding of what you do.
  31. David, as others have mentioned, let's forget for a moment the type of medium one uses for photography and concentrate on what YOU envision you want photography to do for you. What emotion do you want your images to convey? Do you want your images in a gallery, somebody's wedding scrapbook, or do you want them to permanently reside in a drawer or as electrons on a hard drive somewhere?
    People like to choose their medium and then support their choice by claiming how easier it now makes their lives, or how a certain look could only be achieved through specific and well developed means. Don't get caught up with all that. Simply focus on the fundamentals of photography as they are analogous to each other regardless of medium. The technical fundamental techniques remain the same whether you use a camera from 1953, or one from 2010.
    1. Learn the idiosyncrasies of your preferred tool to get a good exposure. Notice I did not use the words "Correct," or "Best" as these are merely subjective. A good exposure is one YOU are happy with conveying, not what others say, and certainly not what some blinking parts of an image in some software image processor say.
    2. Learn how artists and others use composition and light and learn how to use it with your vision of what YOU want to produce.
    3. Learn the techniques to get YOUR vision on to a medium where you can share it, whether it's print or some other electronic means.
    A lot of people get caught up with the technical means of producing an image; exposure, cameras used, film used, sensor formats, Lens MTF numbers, number of exterior controls, how a camera feels, or how much more money they have compared to you, but less is really spoken about how an image pops out at you and the emotional response it creates within you. The reason is, it's a lot easier to become good at learning the technicalities of photography, then to actually make something that's expressive or communicative.
    It's a lot harder to create wonderful images and it is a skill that could only be learned by trial and error. You just have to be able to go out there and shoot and experiment. In your photography classes, you'll learn to master the technical aspect of photography, but at the end it's still up to you how your images end up, regardless of the medium. I don't believe you'll be missing out if you take either a film or digital approach to photography as I mentioned earlier, the fundamentals are the same. The medium you want to focus on will ultimately depend on your resources. A good investment would be general Art classes where you can learn about composition, shading and even color.
    Things to think about. Real artists or people who love art in general will not look at an image they like in a gallery and ask what camera it was made on; (Only gear junkies obsess about these things) anymore then a person reading a good book will ask whether it was written with a pen, typed on a typewriter, or computer. It's always about the content, the technicalities like grammar are only there to help you create your vision.
  32. The above painting is beautiful, but I can't check its EXIF information. With that size, I wonder how many megapixels were required to make it, how many colors the artist was actually used to paint it and what is the size of the smallest dot he could make
  33. I also question the whole concept that "you have to get a college degree to do anything" syndrome that seems to be permeating the US educational system. Next thing there will be a degree in lawn mowing. It just dumbs down recognition of the rest of the valuable degrees one can do.
    Photography is not like Law or Medicine, where one needs formal qualifications to practice ones vocation. Entry positions into a photography career are not won by waving a piece of paper at an employer. They are won by showing skill and good craft....things that you only learn by actually doing it. And thats the beauty of this industry. You can be any age, have any background and can start at any time. Its your output that matters.
    We have a 30% stake in one of Sydney's better know commercial photography studios. We have never hired anyone who knocked on the door waving a degree, but we have hired a number of gifted young photographers who, after spending time with us learning film before progressing to digital, have gone on to be successful freelancers. One of our most valuable photographer employees is a single mum, 55 years old, who came to us after her divorce to be a receptionist. She showed a great interest in what we did in the studio and we did some training on the weekends for her. She showed a natural eye for portraits and composition. She is now one of our three professional photographers. She shoots MF film and scans to digital. (Hint to the OP!!).
    When one looks at the costs of degrees etc, I think that money would be better spent on industry-run specific courses which are plentiful. What are you going to get more benefit from: Sitting in a classroom having some unknown telling you about the physics of light, or spending a week on location, learning first hand from the likes of a Michael Reichmann or Moose Peterson? Talk about instant knowledge transfer! I know where my money would go.
    It might be different down here, but thankfully we place more emphasis on what you can do that is verifyable by example or with a simple phone call, than what a piece of paper says you can do.
  34. I also question the whole concept that "you have to get a college degree to do anything" syndrome that seems to be permeating the US educational system.​
    I agree (although I am in the UK, not the US). I am an electronic and mechanical design engineer and I do not have a degree.
  35. After reading some of the posts on why you don't need to learn film, I understand why anybody starting out
    needs to learn on film. (With an actual manual camera.) You'll thank me later.
  36. Steve...
    That right. Its like that here...Having a degree is not a right of passage here at all, as it seems to be in the US. Before I got into this business I spent 20+ years in IT and running divisions of 3 international vendors. I also don't have a degree and in the half dozen or so jobs I have had at very senior level, I have never been asked if I do.
    See in Australia, we also don't have this intermedite level of tertiary education called "college". We have school>>>technical apprenticeship training or University...and I mean fair dinkum university with 30,000 students and degrees like medicine etc. University is not a trivial pursuit. You have to get into the high 90% range in your final high school exams to get to just apply. So 3/4 of students don't go to university and get a degree. They either do a trade or get an internship with bags of on the job training.
    And we forget, some people have to be blue collar workers...but guess what?...All those jobs have gone to China, and we have 25% unemployment in the 18-25 age group. All the world hears that we are the wonder country, untouched by the recession and with 5% unemployment. This is bullshit. We have the highest interest rates in the western world, hidden structural unemployment, unaffordable housing and a farming sector that has been decimated, first by a 10 year drought and now floods. Its a nightmare.
    Its a huge issue here...water...You are in the UK...Imagine if the Thames dried up dry as the Sahara....well thats what happened here to our biggest river. It stopped flowing and they had to seal up the entrance so the ocean would not reverse the flow inland with salt water. I could go on...Off topic. But I am passionate about helping young people into good careers and the factors affecting that are as we have discussed above.
    My middle son just wasted 4 years doing a communications and marketing degree which cost he and I a lot of money. What's he doing now? Joining the Navy to do Hydrography.
    Here we encourage students to have a gap year after high school finishes...Go out, get a job (any kind, if they can), do some traveling and get a better idea of what they might want to do, before they waste time and money doing the wrong or unnecessary thing.
  37. Let's say that 20 years ago, you were starting like this, and you had the choice between using a 35mm film camera, or a high-end Polaroid with full manual exposure controls (yes, there were such cameras) and an endless supply of film packs for it (wouldn't have happened in reality because of the cost per picture with Polaroid).
    Which one do you think you would learn photography fastest with, the one with instant feedback, or the one where you had to wait a significant amount of time until you could see the results?
    Either way, go with one, and then most of it is transferable to the other, and you can then experiment with it on your own. Many photographers who used film were self-taught anyway. Making high quality fine art prints in a darkroom requires a lot of practice and skill, but making ordinary prints and developing the film itself is not exactly rocket science. You just follow the directions and pay attention to the temperatures and times, basically. The real photography is in the subjects, the light and the composition... makes no difference if the camera is digital or has film in it.
  38. Do you feel that it's necessary, or more true to the medium as a fine art, to learn to work with, develop, etc. film?​
    In a word, no.
    It's all about light.
    That's all we ever photograph. It's all that any camera, digital or chemical, can record.
    It may be that some things are easier with one or the other, but in the grand scheme of learning how to pull a compelling image out of the world that you see, it makes so little difference as to be irrelevant.
    You're at the stage where you should be concentrating on how light behaves. Later (MUCH later) there may be artistic or commercial reasons to use one or the other. But understanding light will help you understand why you'd need (or really want) one or the other, and it will help you effectively use whichever one you choose.
    Digital imaging offers a superb way to learn photography. There will be plenty of time and (perhaps) reasons to explore film after you've mastered the basics.
  39. You have nothing to lose learning both mediums. If you enjoy a hands on approach you will love the darkroom. Even if its just for a hobby. IMHO you cannot beat a B&W print on fibre based paper. And with that comes a whole plethora of different toning techniques and alternative printing processes. Kind regards
  40. Digital it seems is the future of photography. However if you go into any of the many photo galleries in Carmel or Monterey Calif the fine art pictues will all be film based and most of them B/W. However I just do not know what a person should do. For myself as a hobbyist I am going to shoot B/W film and have fun with it.
  41. Oh there is no doubt that digital will be the way to go. And you don't lose anything by having a good grounding in film as a learning exercise.
    Most of the fine art gallery prints are from film....especially panoramas, sometimes large format and then scanned. Learning to take the shots on film and then processing the negative or slide through a scanner to deliver a digital image to your post software....this is how its still done and you have to know your film craft very well too. It combines both. And its relatively cheap. You can buy a Hassy or even a Horseman kit for less than $1200. Add a scanner and a good A3 printer...another $1200 and you are in business for the cost of a new D300. Its a no brainer. You will be producing 100mb Velvia images to play with. Yes, there are negative developing costs, but thats peanuts. Costco will even do you a deal and do a high res scan to CD of your slides or negatives for about $8.
    I do much more film than I do digital, but I'm about to invest in the new Epson V600 scanner and a new printer and combine both disciplines. If only to do my own prints at least.
  42. digital will teach you how to 'upgrade' your equipment - at great expense - every month, or so. that's its big plus.
  43. The fundamental concepts are the same - quantity and quality of light hitting your film/sensor, composition, "capturing the moment", etc. So, if you want to learn the absolute fundamentals, the choice of medium doesn't matter a lot. But, regardless of medium, please do yourself a favour and learn basic things like depth-of-field and how to manipulate it, and also how to estimate exposure without your camera's meter (eg, the "sunny 16" rule and it's variants).
    After the basics, I would say that each medium is unique. You can manipulate a lot of variables when shooting RAW with digital, but on the other hand each film is designed to capture the light and/or colour in a specific way, so if you want a specific look you can choose a specific film from the outset (as a starting point - exposure and post-processing can be unique to each person). Sensors and film also have different "dynamic range" characteristics (and it's also different among films themselves, such as slide films vs. colour neg or B&W), so they do tend to respond to the lighting in a particular scene a bit differently. As well, while the digital tech improves, some people (like myself) don't like the high-ISO noise that digital produces, and prefer the film grain that high-ISO films produce instead.
    Finally, as has been mentioned, if you want to shoot in formats larger than 35mm, film cameras and film itself is still a fair bit cheaper than the equivalent digital capture for the same size. This may not matter to a beginner, but it's a nice option to have. Many argue larger formats force you to slow down, which may improve your photography overall, as well as (arguably) increased enlargement and potential resolution (this is much debated - not interested in revisiting this here, but it is one of the "usual reasons").
  44. David, lots of wonderful insights - I especially enjoyed "Regret builds character." So far as your choice is concerned it
    depends on what the course is for. If it is to teach you the art of photography, composition, movements in photography
    etc etc it might not matter that you are not being taught film photography. You could consider either option,
    supposedly. But being given the option of one or the other leaves me stumped. It's all photography. If they are going to
    teach you 'digital photography' as in how to drive a digital reflex camera and use software and digital printing then
    that's great. A film photographer might want two at least out of those three also. Meanwhile, if you are so interested in
    photography as to do a course in it (for what purpose, I cannot guess) then regardless of the benefits to your
    understanding of photography practice or even just history, I would be amazed if you could actually resist getting into
    film, at least a little. But the choice of one or the other.....To understand the genesis of that component of what is on
    offer might not be inspiring. Most of us did not do a course, but many of us did not ever improve so quickly as when
    we joined a forum like this. The others in the course will be one of the most important contributors to what you'll learn,
    if they are good, and the course is good. Of the young people I know, my daughter and her friends just finished
    school, I know what stream they'd be in. Film. And they also lament their dads do not have manual cars for them to
    learn to drive in.
  45. That's a lot of discussion of a topic with no single answer. Some people can really benefit from having some of the discipline of film enforced upon them, while others benefit far more from the instant feedback and low-marginal-cost encouragement to experiment from digital.
    I will say that absolute statements probably don't advance the discussion. Not to pick on Ross, but "...if you go into any of the many photo galleries in Carmel or Monterey Calif the fine art pictues will all be film based and most of them B/W" -- well, when you say that *all* of anything will be from one side, it begs people to undermine the whole argument. (The cover image on the Weston Gallery site is one of William Neill's digital creations, and it doesn't make his older 4x5 work any less beautiful.)
  46. David, without knowing your goals or the courses in mind it's hard to be more specific but I don't think this needs to be such a huge commitment. I should think it would be interesting and character-building to take at least one class in developing & printing film. After that experience, you'll be much better prepared to answer further questions yourself.
  47. I wouldn't get too emotional with this right now. I have now been working and learning digital for about 21 months after many years of film. I am as tied to film as anybody but I think go digital for now and learn the film later as things progress. Personally I use Nikon Digital equipment and Hasselblad film equipment. All that really happened for me was in Feb 2009 I said OK, no more 35mm film, I'm done. I packed it up and just bought two Nikon D bodies to fit my old lenses and installed an old version of PSE 6 I had laying around and the Nikon software. I never gave it another thought, it's just a medium to work in, tools. 35mm out, digi in. Does it give me what my 35mm did, yep, I think better in many ways. Does it give Hasselblad black and white, nope, not really so that's not changing. If you decide to mess with film later, go for at least medium format if not learn 4x5, I see no real reason to bother with 35mm film unless it's something you urge to do like play with the Leicas or Contax/Zeiss glass and all that stuff.
  48. I think digital has a lot more to offer than just endless upgrades. After all, learning composition and balance is learning composition and balance. Gelatin and silver don't necessarily help that. Immediate feedback helps that a lot in my mind.
    Granted, I don't own a digital camera, and all of my hobby is with traditional materials. So while I do understand them far better than I do the digital stuff, I'm not blind to the fact that the digital stuff works.
    As someone else said, you don't have to learn to ride a horse to before you can drive a car. You might *WANT* to learn to ride a horse, but it isn't necessary unless you're trying to go somewhere the car cannot take you but the horse can.
    That said, traditional materials can take you a lot of places digital can only simulate. However digital can open doors that are either tremendously difficult or completely impossible with silver based methods.
    I've said for years that the dichotomy between digital and chemical isn't that one is better than the other, but that they are different from one another. We should learn to exploit the strengths of each.
    For a more Zen approach, begin where you are. Since you have a DSLR now, use it to its fullest. And see where you go from there. If you cannot get what you want, and like the results the artists you called out got with film, then prepare for that journey.
  49. Once film is learned, digital is very easy to pick up but to go the other way is not as easy. I highly recommend the film route!

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