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Only “Real” Photographers Shoot with Film (and other bogus statements)

real photographers shoot with film

Only “Real” Photographers Shoot with Film (and other bogus statements)


If you keep up with photography blogs, you’ll see a topic come along that goes something like this:

“168,434 reasons why I shoot with film – AND YOU SHOULD TOO!”

The author will tout how amazing they are for shooting in film and make you believe that only a real photographer shoots film.

Barf, right?

However, this makes for an interesting argument. Hipsters and poseur photographers aren’t the only ones that use film. There are professional photographers who shoot exclusively in film. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was shot with Kodak. (Side note: if you want a truly interesting debate, ask John about Han in the end of the film).

Why? Why do people use something that seems archaic and outdated to non-photographers?

Film’s quality is unprecedented. It is superior to digital in so many ways. The detail that can be captured with film is unmatched because it has more latitude, the resolution is higher, and it is hard to over-expose. Film can be manipulated by chemical processing in a way that digital cannot. Ansel Adams would have had a hard time creating those iconic images using digital methods.

Digital cameras try to parallel themselves with film, but it falls short.  Digital is limited in pixel count and has a harder time capturing the minuscule details that film can easily capture. You can’t recover or add information that is lost in over-exposing and under-exposing digital images.

Shooting with film makes for better photographers. It requires a complete understanding of light and its relationship to the environment/subject. A film photographer can calculate in their head where light falls and changes over distance in relationship to natural light to artificial light to strobe lighting. Digital trained photographers have a harder path to excellence because they lack this practical experience.

If film is so great, why don’t we use it?

If John had his way, we would use a hybrid of film and digital for shoots that require tremendous detail (i.e. architecture and fine art). We do not use it because there isn’t a demand for it. Clients are used to instant delivery, and film processing takes too much time. Marketing departments are working within a budget and a surcharge for film and processing is unnecessary.

Digital photography allows our clients to have complete creative control if they need it. Instant review gives both the photographer and client a chance to see their images in real time and give feedback.  Most of our clients are not professional photographers and love to have the opportunity to collaborate with John to get the perfect image.

Using film in photography is not essential to being an elite photographer or creating stunning images. It isn’t the act of shooting with film that makes a photographer great.  It is the understanding of how film photography works that makes a photographer great. Saying only real photographers use film is like saying only real surgeons cut open every patient.

It’s a garbage statement.