Film Vs Digital (not the usual question)

Started Sep 4, 2013 | Discussions thread
ragmanjin Contributing Member • Posts: 959
Re: Film Vs Digital (not the usual question)

I think the whole overprocessing fad might just be the result of under-exaggerating cameras compared to the average photo in the film days. Sounds weird, but hear me out.

A lot of digital filters these days in Photoshop or Instagram or whatever try to replicate different types of colour films (not all, but many). Back then, having a ridiculously saturated, contrasty look was totally fine for certain brand or line of film. These days, cameras get a bad rep in reviews and magazines when the colour accuracy of their sensor is even a tiny little bit off. I think that's the biggest difference between the two media in the context you're talking about: If you want a certain look with digital but don't want to do any post-processing, every photo is going to look the same, totally colour-accurate and within the parameters of your specific camera's specific sensor and jpg oven. In the film days, if you were going for a certain look you could just buy a roll of Superia rather than your usual Portra, no extra work necessary.

A couple examples:

With Superia, this is what you start with. Zero post-processing. For film, that's totally OK, but if you want this look with a digital camera, you'll have to find the filter that probably exists somewhere on instagram or camerabag or something.

This is Portra, again scanned straight in and unprocessed. Even when what you're taking a picture of is weirder, the colours are more balanced, more natural looking. Yet softer than we'd allow from our digital cameras if this is what they gave us all the time.

This is your starting point with digital, a Canon point and shoot (my wife's SX40) shot in jpg and unprocessed at all. The colours are real, not exaggerated or even special. It's a good starting point, and works for snapshots of my avocado-loving family, but if you want something similar to the look of the other two, post-processing is pretty much the only way.

All that said, you can do a little post-processing with out it looking insane or surreal. This one was shot jpg, too, but with just a touch of vibrance added and a shadow or two lifted slightly:

Just enough to make it "pop" a little more than that last photo. This is from a Canon P&S jpg as well

Post-processing really has been used for as long as film has, and even more doors have opened up with the digital darkroom via film scanners. But it does seem a little ironic that people are using post now to get looks they would have gotten by shooting with whatever type of film.

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