Any reason to shoot film nowadays?

Started Apr 12, 2013 | Discussions thread
MiraShootsNikon
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The Chimp and the Scholar
In reply to Mahmoud Mousef, Apr 15, 2013

Mahmoud Mousef wrote:

* Taking out a roll after you've done a few shots? How practical is this to capture precious moments without fiddling with the camera? Kids running around. Animals. What do you shoot?

* Not being able to see how things turned out after the shot; after setting up lighting, or checking if a shot is blurred with a long telephoto or low light or high speed? How practical is this with film?

If you're really looking for insight into why anyone would still use film, Mahmoud, much of the answer is in the unpacking of these two statements.

I'm going to start with the second, which basically boils down to "with film you can't chimp."   Have you ever wondered why checking your DSLR screen became known as "chimping?"

The gist of it is that film shooters don't need to see "how things turned out" after the shot.   They already know.  I don't mean that in the elitist tone you're likely to read it--I mean that they've studied the *hell* out of what they're doing and they've planned ahead very, very carefully.  They know the rules, knowledge which is sadly being lost in the digital era.   Stuff like the zone system and common color / situation equivalents for each segment; like the 3-stop print difference between highlights and shadows; like common metering equivalents for 12% grey; like the difference between leaf and focal plane shutter hand-hold speeds; like trap focus techniques; like how to "walk the set" with an incident meter and translate strobe ratios into a finished look.

Call me an elitist if you like for thinking all of that matters, but it's why I say that film shooters tend to have a better idea of what they're doing.  They have to!   Shooting film well is a craft that requires patience, study, experience and, in the field, confidence.   And we're not even talking, yet, about the post production routine.  So, to do it, you have to be really, really invested in the art.   You've got to care about it.   And if you really care about photography, this concentration of interest, knowledge, and personal investment naturally makes the film-shooting community a much more intriguing and vital place to be.

Does that make it an "elitist" practice?  No. The resources, labs, cameras, materials, and knowledge is all out there and, as Dave has pointed out, most of it is staggeringly inexpensive on the used market.   So the barrier to entry isn't financial; no, it's a pure self-selection.  To shoot film well, you have to study, you have to be patient, and you have to care.   Not everyone's that into it.

And it's why I *do* look down my nose at most digital "photographers."  Because they haven't studied, they don't care, and they produce work that reflects it.   For them, photography is shoot-and-chimp, not plan, plan, plan, study, study, plan, shoot-and-know.

Which gets me to your second point: how practical is film for catching precious moments?  Not very, unless you've had a ton of practice and you've devoted yourself to knowing how to do it.   (I actually do a ton of family and lifestyle portrait work with a Mamiya RZ67, and that only gives me ten frames per roll.)

Photography is a big tent.  More power to the snap shooters out there.  But do I want their casual needs to dictate what's relevant to folks like me who've put the time in to know what we're doing?  Hell no.  Come on, that's not such a terrible stand, right?

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