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Remind me why I'm learning on film?

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Though I've been taking pictures since a young kid, I'm just in last

few years trying to really learn the technical stuff instead of

shooting in full auto. I'm reading, watching, practicing and

spending lots on film and processing but getting better slowly. My

final goal to do professional wedding photography and baby /

children photography. It is often suggested that I invest in a

digital. (I've been tempted as with digital I'd be more inclined to

take on some small jobs, but afraid I would start to rely on the

viewfinder and never really keep learning) I was a second shooter

last wedding season and took pretty good pictures, but when I shoot

with film, my results are inconsistent (I guess because I am

practicing with diff settings)


When I first joined PN almost a year ago, I was encouraged to learn

on film. Now that I've been practicing so much, it gets frustrating

and I am trying to remember why I am doing this on film? Can someone

just refresh my memory and keep me on the film track?


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> My final goal to do professional wedding photography and ...


The workflow of professionals has been driven to digital. Not sure why people advised you to start with film. (Flame away, film buffs.)


Digital gives you rapid feedback, lower cost if you shoot a lot of frames, and much needed practice with image manipulation and other computer tasks. It's probably time to put your money into a digital SLR system instead of film development.

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Well, because you don't have to learn about the bits and bytes and 1000 different settings on todays digital slr cameras. By using film, you don't have to learn all this and you can focus on the essential stuff; composition, iso, shutter speed, f/stop and depth of field matters.
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"The workflow of professionals has been driven to digital." Yes, but Lauren says that her final goal is "to do professional wedding photography". I am sure she'd be far better off by using Kodak or Fuji professional print film that is actually designed for wedding stuff, than by using digital. black=black, white=white in its all in the photo without blown out whites or underexposed blacks. Try that with digital.
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I would say that most wedding photography is medium format on print film...and this because there are industry standard processes and expected result styles.


The digital result and process workflow for wedding photography would be particular to each photography studio...but of course digital wedding photography is developing.


In more general terms the best reason to use film is to have both the slide and the digital image. The slide is a high quality image straight out of the tank and can be displayed to dozens of people at a time. Of course the slide can also be scanned to a digital image for computer use...

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Sorry, Zane, no flame from me even though I shoot 95% film. You can learn a lot about exposure with a digital SLR. But it's more about being methodical and evaluating your work than a film vs. digital debate. Even in program mode you can learn to understand what your meter "sees" and what compensation may be necessay. You can also use built-in spot metering and take more of the decision making away from the camera.


So yes, Lauren, a DSLR might make a lot of sense. And you could just buy a 50mm lens if you use an APS-sized sensor as it will behave just like a short telephoto on a full-sized sensor.

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Buy a low- to mid-range digital SLR. Canon Digital Rebel (or Rebel XT) or Nikon D70. Many photographers get wonderful results with film, but it's the slow, hard way to learn. Just because something is hard and more expensive doesn't make it an intrinsically superior way. Don't get tangled up in RAW vs. JPG, monitor calibration, etc. All it will do is confuse you at this point. As you grow more comfortable with digital you can start to learn about "advanced concepts." And once you have figured out what you are trying to do, things like color management etc start to fall into place logically.<br><br>Honestly, which would you rather do? Spend a few bucks on film and processing, send them out for someone else to perform black magic upon them (which is what labs do if you are not processing your own black and white film) and hope the pictures came out right? Or take as many pictures as you want for free, discarding the hopeless losers two minutes after you take them and being able to see in the EXIF info exactly what settings you used for the picture - shutter speed, ISO, aperture. If anything, a digital SLR makes the mechanics of picture taking *more* transparent than a film camera. And, after the initial investment in the camera, it is cheaper.
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If you don't know why you shoot film, or it makes no difference to you if you shoot digital or film, or if it looks the same to you as long as its a sharp image with good colors, then by all means shoot digital


If you simply can't live without grain, color casts in shadows, and that rugged look of film, then shoot film. If you don't feel all of the above, film is simply too expensive for just getting images of any kind.

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I learned on film, but then it was the only game back in 1973. If I was starting all over again, and could somehow have all the knowledge I've accumulated over the past 30 some years..........I would shoot digital for color, and film for black & white. That however is slowly changing and foresee in the near future that digital is going to figgure out b&w. Epson took the first step with their K3 printers....it won't be long before the camera manufacturs figure out there is a market for B&W digital out here.


back to my split of learning........in film color you have next to zero control. film is developed exactly the same way all the time. In B&W you have a variety of methods of development that all give you slightly different results depending on what you need. Color digital has RAW and RAW converters that are just simply amazing in what they can do.


In my opinion that is the best of both worlds right now, and also the best learning conditions for each. B&W film AND you develop yourself.........Color in RAW and you convert it yourself.

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Anything that slows you down (e.g. film, manual focus, fixed focal lengths, manual exposure, meterless cameras, handheld meters, and tripods) and makes you think more about what you're doing, can make you a better photographer. Large format users especially try to make every shot count.<p>


Using film helps improve your previsualisation.<p>


Digital does nothing to help improve compositional skills because you can just hold the shutter down until the card fills up and pick the frames you like in the editing process. Then there is the temptation to chimp. Digital camcorder users have it even better since they have moving pictures and are able to make stills.

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By all means digital is a better way to learn. First, you get instant feedback--you can play back the image on the LCD, look at the histogram, and see flashing the area that are too light or dark to be recorded properly. Second, you can practice for virtually nothing.


As of today, I think there are real advantages to film, mostly having to do with print film's ability to hold details in both very bright and very dark areas. Few if any digital cameras can do that as well as film--I have a current DSLR, and it doesn't come close to good print film in this regard. Also, I am not convinced that for B&W, digital can match film's tonality and the qualities of a fiber-based print, especially if medium (or large) format film is used.


So as of now, I shoot mostly digital, and would break out the MF camera where I knew I wanted B&W and didn't expect to need the more extensive editing capability digital can give or if I wanted really big, detailed prints (like group portraits). So for, say, a wedding, medium format film still arguably has a place. For now. But digital keeps getting better, and the areas where film is superior get fewer and fewer every year.

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I know it must be funny to the users of digital equipment, but the instant feedback is one of the reasons I don't like digital in the first place.

Film is like when you are unwraping christmas presents. You go to the lab to pick it up after processing, and you can't wait to get home to view your chromes, instead you take the film out every few minutes on your way back and take a look at it against the sky. You just can't wait till home. And then when you examine it at home, it always suprizes you in some way.

While exposing film, the nature is making the image inside the camera,

you have partial control, so you can't always know how it will come out, sure you can be 100% sure that it WILL come out if you are skilled enough, but it always has some sort of a flavour you couldn't predict, unless you used the same film in the same situation before.


I don't want my images to look like I thought they would look, that's boring, and that's what digital is all about.


Film always looks better than I expected


I want to wait and see


Digital is sooo boring to me, and thats how it looks too to me: linear and boring.

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I think you have a point, Edgar. Although I have done a wedding with my dslr, I enjoy shooting with film also. I like to experiment with different films, both color and b/w.


Having shot a wedding, I understand completely why so many pros have moved to digital. There's just so much difference between shooting for fun and shooting as a job.

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I hear you Edgar, and agree that the unexpected little surprises one gets with film is part of the fun. But shooting a wedding isn't about fun for the photographer, it's about minimizing risk for the wedding couple. Digital, with its histograms and instant feedback, is a good way to take some of the variability out of shooting those important pics, in a hurry, under tremendous pressure.
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I shoot digital at NASCAR events, since the agency I shoot for needs the speed to make deadlines for newspapers and web. For open wheel, I shoot film, because the magazine I shoot for appreciates the quallity.


That being said, I used to moonlight in a "wedding & portrait" pro lab (until Thanksgiving); and I can tell you that, from the trenches, not only was the best work from the medium format film shooters, but also the digital shooters always seemed to have "problems." You name it, I saw it.


Most of the time, it centered around either (1) exposure, (2) dynamic range, (3) white balance, or (4) in-camera JPEG processing:


1) Digital is like shooting chromes: In fact, the exposure tolerance is even closer!


2) Related to that is the dynamic range, i.e. can you still capture the details in the groom's tux along with the bridal gown lace and gentle folds? The digital crowd talks a good game, but the proof is in the pudding.


MAJOR EXCEPTION -- BUT WITH BIG-TIME CAVEAT: The Fuji S3 Pro, with its "Soper CCD" technology with "R" and "S" pixels, is the only camera that can competently handle weddings, since it has a legitimate 10 stop range. The Major League Caveat is that you MUST shoot RAW .AND. in "High" mode to record all the data seen by all the pixels: This means you'll be writing 25 megabytes to your CF card each time you release the shutter; and even with an 80x card, you're limited to one shot every 12 seconds after filling the 5 shot frame buffer... And more time between shots if the card is slower. Fuji has this technology locked up tightly in patents, and in fact, not even a $30,000 PhaseOne or Leaf digital back can match the dynamic range of the S3 Pro!;


4) White balance is an abortion with dSLR in-camera processing: You're pretty much forced to shoot RAW. This will be especially apparent when you shoot in the banquet hall, under a mixed bag of fluorescent and incandescent light... Good luck!


What you'll find, when you actually put a digital workflow into production for wedding/Bar Mitzvah work, is that you'll be longing for the "forgiveness" of 160NC or Pro160S/NPS.




If you plan on shooting digital, I strongly suggest you "tag along" with another photog for 3-4 events to "back up" her work -- In other words, everything you shoot is a "bonus;" but, in return for your services you get to compare your work with the other photographer's.


Oh, and by the way, I've been shooting digital for five years now, including my current S2 Pro. That being said, in the last six months I've invested many thousands of $$$ in two Mamiya 645AFd bodies and lots of glass: The results confirmed my contention that medium format film still blows digital out of the water in terms of overall quality.


Been there, done that... Have the T-shirt.

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Zane wrote, before I hit SEND, "it's about minimizing risk for the wedding couple."


...And Zane exactly ratified my point!


For the bride, her wedding is the most important day of her life: This is why photographers often send alternating film rolls to different labs.


In the studio, under controlled lighting conditions, digital is just fine. On the other hand, the "forgiveness" of color print film -- When coupled with scanning and digital post-processing -- can compensate for all sorts of exposure "issues."


When the bride & groom are running out of the chapel in a hail of rice, you don't have time to f**k around with blinking histograms: Like an auto race, the action is gone in a blink of an eye. Color print film -- Especially when overexposed by 1/2 to 1 stop -- gives you the **real** freedom to "shoot first, and ask questions (of the camera metering) later; where it's "don't worry, the lab will fix it."


In a perfect world, where a Fuji S3 Pro can write a RAW-High frame every second, digital is OK for weddings.


Short of that, I'll take a 32 shot burst with my Mamiya 645AFd; then pop open the film back and slam in a new cassette in about 4 seconds.


Been there; done that; have the T-Shirt.

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<p>Before getting around to try to <i>help</i> you, lauren, let me give you my opinion too! Film has been optimised over decades to <i>make people look good</i> - when the time comes that digi does NPH the same as NPH [reala, NC, et al, etc.], I will be in like Flynn. It isn't even close, yet.


Now - please humour us with the details: what are your specific problems? what 'settings' are you experimenting with? and the big one: what is you find <i>less than great</i> about your images?</p>


<p>If you are not using a medium format camera, get one, pretty much any of them, but use one with a decent built-in meter. Shoot NPH at 250, learn light readings well, pick an aperture suitable to either deep or shallow depth of field, know how steady you are with slow shutter speeds, and let the moment arrive...you will need to master flash at some stage also, a big subject in itself. BTW digi needs all the above and more, so learning is largely not media-specific.</p>


<blockquote>Epson took the first step with their K3 printers....it won't be long before the camera manufacturs figure out there is a market for B&W digital out here.</blockquote>

<p>They <i>know</i> there is a market, and have been trying oh, so hard for so many years now! Remember all that talk of how great the Cone inksets were on 1280s, way better than anything that came before - that was 5 years ago...just like then, some prefer dig B&W, others see plenty of difference. I like both but 'see' in colour. </p>

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Well, this has devolved into another pointless digital-vs-film debate. Weddings weren't the only things Lauren was interested in.


I don't question that medium format film is better for the staged shots of the bride and groom with black tux and white dress - TODAY. But the weddings I've attended the last two years have had Hasselblads AND dSLRs snapping away. Learning today with dSLRs will help all wedding work she does-now and later.


So, getting back to the original issue, what should Lauren do? I still don't see any point in shooting 35mm film. Medium format film? Sure, if she wants to and develops her own film, as was suggested. But in X years, MF is going to get swallowed by (new & improved!) digital and the time she spends now learning the digital workflow will continue to benefit her. (I'd be willing to bet that X is around 5, certainly less than 10.)

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This is NOT a "film vs digital" debate per se...


Zane wrote: "I don't question that medium format film is better for the staged shots of the

bride and groom with black tux and white dress - TODAY. But the weddings I've attended the last two years have had Hasselblads AND dSLRs snapping away. Learning today with dSLRs will help all wedding work she does-now and later."


Maybe those stringers you see at weddings with dSLR's are there learning, with the heavy lifting still being done with the Hassy's on film? :,)


I agree with Zane that NO professional should shoot a wedding with a 35mm camera!


One thing that hasn't been brought up is the optics: 35mm SLR's still suffer from, in many cases, entry-level optics (Leica's excepted)... And these carry through to the dSLR bodies that get these lenses screwed into them.


So tell me, Zane: Did these dSLR shooters you saw at weddings use a Tamron 28-300 lens?!


And, do tell me, Zane: Have you actually seen the shots from these weddings, where you can see if a given shot is on film or digital?! Seeing a photographer shoot a picture, and seeing the finished product, are two wholly different things!





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Okay, settle everybody. I should have put a smiley on my "flame away, film buffs" comment, for that I apologize. I like film. I really like old mechanical cameras. Heck, I even use a box camera once in a while just for grins. I'll probably ask to be cremated with my Pentax MX.


All this debate about film vs. digital in the context of shooting a wedding is (IMO) off the track a bit. Lauren reports she's "spending lots" on film development, slowly improving but getting inconsistent results, and wonders if she should go digital. I replied yes, since:


1. she will get immediate feedback

2. she will save money in the long run

3. it will familiarize her with a workflow that is consistent with her stated goals (weddings, baby/children photography, and "small jobs").


I never said film was bad, digital was always better, or that time spent on film was wasted. Sure, there are established individuals still shooting exclusively with film, but is that how you would advise someone starting out and looking to improve their skills?


And Dan - you makin' fun of my 28-200 Tamron? It's okay, I don't take it personally. It's the new version, and I've been pleasantly surprised by it. A very reasonable choice if you want to pack only a single travel lens and want lotsa zoom. Not an appropriate choice for a wedding, obviously.


I secretly lust after the Pentax Limiteds, though. They give Leica a run for its money, I hear!

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Whoa! Thanks for all the answers! A bit overwhelming! I guess I should have mentioned what I have now are NikonN55 and N80 and a 50mm1.4 (a few weeks old), 28-80 f3.3-5.6 and 70-300 f4-5.6 and drum roll... one sb28 Oh, and a couple filters I hardly use.

I also should have mentioned that when I joined PN, I had no clue what aperture and shutter speed meant so that gives you an idea of what you're dealing with here.

I posted in this "film and processing" forum thinking I wouldn't get the film vs digital debate that I would have in the wedding forum. I know if I aim to do wedding photography (or prob even kids babies) I will prob end up on digital someday and I don't look forward to learning all the computer junk that goes along with that fact but it seems a fact in the business except for maybe B&W (either that or I could be one of the only film photographers around and really stand out, but since I am not skilled enough yet to really see the diff in the final product, most likely most clients don't either and won't care about film)

Some of you have answered my question whcih was "why should I learn on film"

Had my question been "should I keep trying to learn on film" others of you may have swayed me toward saying, "no".

So now I'm REALLY confused.

If I switch to digital to keep learning on, am I ever going to achieve the skills it takes to take gorgeous pictures like so many top wedding photographers I see? Or am I going to get caught up in "hey, I can do this" and snap away and be a mediocre photographer, being able to get good enough pics to charge people to do a wedding, but never really getting to the next level?

Other questions semi unrelated are...are digital files going to last as long as film negatives (which if they've been preserved properly can still produce beautiful prints today) or will they have to be worked on in years to come? (I'm a genealogy and archive assistant by day)

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