Freelance Photography: Digital vs. Film Case Study
Last week, the British Journal of Photography helped spread the news that Kodak will stop producing digital products as part of their ongoing strategic review? What is Kodak going to do? Refocus on good, old fashioned film.
At first, this sounded like brand suicide to me. But then I read on…
The news comes as Kodak is undergoing a wide-ranging strategic review of its businesses with the “commitment to drive sustainable profitability through its most valuable business lines.” But Kodak is quick to point out that the move won’t mean the end for Kodak-branded digital cameras. Instead, the firm plans to license its brand to third-party manufacturer – a move that mirrors Polaroid’s action in the years leading to and following its own bankruptcy. —bjp-online
Film has a core niche market. There are still photographers out there who use it, and use it religiously. Jonathan Canlas, a popular photographer based in Utah, recently came out with a book titled “Film is Not Dead: A Digital Photographer’s Guide to Shooting Film”. He also leads FIND (Film is Not Dead) workshops across the U.S. (which Kodak helps sponsor). There are about 65 testimonials about the workshop on Canlas’s blog, from photographers all over the place. Some of them are so jazzed about the workshop they’re writing testimonials before they have even attended!
Canlas shoots ONLY in film, and his business hasn’t suffered from the trend towards digital photography in the least. In fact, I’d argue his business has grown from sticking to his chosen niche.
Stacey Hedman, a New England-based photographer, has been using film again for about a year. She started noticing that the photographers she most admired were using film, and she stared to pull out her family’s old cameras to play around with. In addition of going to film, Hedman and her fellow photographers are using manual light meters and cameras that haven’t been manufactured in over 20 years. “With film I feel more connected to the process—there’s more soul and art behind it,” she says.
Hedman suggests two reasons why photographers may prefer film over digital: the richness and creaminess of the photos themselves and the film’s ability to retain highlights. “What I mean by that is that digital may blow out the white in a wedding gown, to where you don’t see any detail at all,” Hedman explains. “With film, you can go really bright, overexposed even, and in the photo you will still see every piece of lace in the dress. Together these things can create an incredible color palate and tangible softness.”
Digital photography has created photographers who spend a heck of a lot of time using editing software like Adobe Photoshop to edit and correct for exposure or mistakes. “With film, you need to be more thoughtful and truly understand your situation before clicking the shutter,” Hedman says. “When my film comes back, it’s almost completely “done” editing wise, meaning less time in front of the computer editing thousands of images.” When Hedman uses film, she finds herself taking less photos because she’s being more thoughtful and money conscious—it costs her up to $30 to develop one roll. But the lack of necessity of retouching before sending them to her clients is worth the time spent behind the camera in the first place.
When photographers send their film to a film lab to be processed, they typically scan your negatives immediately for a digital file. “The fact that I shoot film doesn’t mean that my clients can’t still enjoy an online gallery of their images with the ability to post to Facebook or share them on a DVD,” Hedman says. Some of her favorite photo labs on the west coast include Richard Photo Lab, Pro Photo Irvine, and Indie Film Lab. On the east coast she likes Chelsea Photographic in New York City and Old School Photo Lab in New Hampshire, near where she lives.
I know a slue of photographers who credit digital cameras with the rise in semi-professional photographers flooding the market—especially the wedding photography market. Just because someone has a nice camera, doesn’t mean they really know how to use it. They may have no idea what an aperture or an f-stop is, or bother to use manual settings on any occasion.
“The important thing to remember is that film doesn’t mean digital is bad, and digital doesn’t mean film is bad,” Hedman says. She personally considers her approach to photography to be a hybrid, because she prefers to use digital camera in the evening, or when an editorial client is on deadline. “Each medium truly excels for what it does, and it’s my job to know how and when to use my various tools.”
We’d love to hear from you freelance photographers out there about what you think of this “trend” back to film. Which do you prefer to use and why?