Film vs. Digital what does it matter?

People ask me all the time which is better film or digital?  The question is a valid one but really has no correct answer. I could get all technical and describe pixel counts and all sorts of other  photographer jargon but that would be really boring and your eyes would glaze over.

The fact of the matter is that neither is better or worse. Each have advantages and disadvantages.

Digital is faster, easier to work with and allows you to experiment more without extra cost. It can help make a new photographer get good faster because once you buy in to a camera system your costs are minimal.

All you have to do is shoot and keep shooting. This can be advantageous.In order to master any subject you really have to put in about 10,000 hours. If  you took your digital camera and shot for three hours a day you could master photography in 9 years. Of course you could get really good way before that but you get the gist. The reality is that if you were shooting even 1 roll of film per day that would cost over $26,000 over the same time period.  The case for using a digital system is pretty overwhelming from a cost perspective.

Film is pretty. You can capture things on film that just don’t compare in the digital universe. Film is pure. It requires skill to use and takes much longer to become proficient at learning the technical aspects.  There is something to be said for the patience required to shoot film. When shooting film you always have to have more thought about what you are going to shoot. It costs money to buy film and process it so each shot is more carefully executed. If you choose to shoot large format then the cost is exponential.

There are rules to photography that any shooter regardless of the medium  need to learn. Bracketing, depth of field, rule of thirds etc. The rules exist as a base point. Learn them, apply them, practice them and then break them all.

Photography should be fun, thought provoking, interesting, well lit, well composed and well thought out.

Next time you take out your digital camera for a day of shooting slow it down. Take a little extra time and thought to ask the following. If I were shooting film would this picture be worthy of wasting a frame? If the answer is no don’t shoot it.

You can shoot thousands of photographs in a day but you still have to edit them, look through them and decide which ones are good and not so good. If you just shoot without editing in camera then you will have a lot of work to do on the back end. You will also waste a lot of time sifting through the images hoping to find a diamond in the rough. Instead why not create the shot you want and shoot it, bracket so you don’t have to do any photoshop manipulation and print it. In my opinion, once you can achieve great results without having to rely on photoshop to “fix the image” then you can call yourself a photographer.

When I started as a photographer the retouching option did not exist except on the professional level. Shoot it right in camera, learn how to take good photos through patience and it won’t matter if you use film or digital. A great photo is a great photo. What matters is the person behind the lens and the decisions you make.

Photographer Bill Brady