Funny how things come back in style. Recently several young photographers I know have really gotten fired up about shooting film. They talk about the look that film gives them, how you can’t recreate that in Photoshop, they love the manual guesswork involved in exposures.
Kodak Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Two recent events brought film back into my consciousness. Three actually. First, the fact that Kodak recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy made me reflect on the tens of thousands of Kodak images in my archive. A once great and dominant company was unable to make the transition from film to digital. I was a very loyal Kodak film user for many years. While my “real” photography career didn’t begin until 1996, I still had the opportunity to shoot some Kodachrome film, along with the more modern Ektachrome transparency film. I shot mostly color transparency film for many years, including Kodak Ektachrome E100, E100S and E100SW. I did occasionally mix in C41 negative film, but I much preferred the immediacy and visual feedback of transparency film. Fuji Velvia was all the rage in the late 1990’s because of its saturation, but I stuck mostly with Kodak film stocks. I just liked the warm look and preferred supporting an American company. Eventually I began developing my own film, primarily to save money on film development costs. I was shooting 10-20 rolls per week, plus a dozen or more rolls of 120 film in my Mamiya RZ-67 each month, plus a box or two of 4″x5″ sheet film in my view camera. I currently have over 100,000 pictures in my film archive so that is a lot of money savings in developing my own film!
Second, I have been working to go back and digitize all my old film images for cataloging and archiving. I try to scan at least one sheet of 20-slide images per day and catalog them in Adobe Lightroom. These are not final scans, just preliminary scans for cataloging purposes. My film images are pretty well organized by subject matter, but with SO many images in my filing cabinets, I have found I forget about some excellent work that sits in the dark. My goal is to get low res scans of all my film images scanned into Lightroom, keyworded and cataloged for easy searching. This way if I see an image I need, I can quickly find and pull the original slide and make a final scan for processing.
What I find entertaining is all these new film aficionados don’t understand the work that is involved in shooting film. I have hear some young photographers comment “it is less work, I just shoot the roll, drop it at the lab, they develop and scan it and send me back the finals.” That all sounds good until you need to pull up images from 10 years past and find your images are not organized or cataloged and you have a hard time remembering what you shot. Even if the lab does give you final scans, you still have to keyword all those images and file the film. Plus if you really want the best quality image for your clients, you need to do a custom scan so that YOU control the quality, not some nameless person in a lab. My experience shooting over 100,000 film images and now over 100,000 digital images is there is NO WAY film is less work than digital. If you properly keyword and caption your images, both jobs are a lot of work but digital is much LESS work, especially if you process and scan your own images.
Shooting My 4″x5″ Toyo View Camera
The third event – well not really an event, but a wish – is that I am really wanting to get back to shooting my 4″x5″ view camera again. I have tried film adapters that allow me to mount my Nikon to my view camera, but that just doesn’t work all that well. The cost of a digital back for a 4″x5″ camera is cost prohibitive for my type of work. So I just have to buckle down and shoot film, have it processed and then scan the images. I don’t have a scanner right now that does 4″x5″ negatives but plan on purchasing an Epson V750 soon that can handle this film.
So if you REALLY feel you need film for your projects, I can handle that for you. Been there and done that. Over 100,000 images to prove it. But I much prefer to shoot digital in today’s world. The workflow and control it gives the photographer I feel is much improved from years past – despite what the new “young guns” think. Check their opinions again after they have shot 100K film images!