I may be a bit (or a lot) biased when it comes to this topic because I love the way film looks and feels, but I am a firm believer in the fact that you cannot truly learn a craft without first understanding how it originated, not to go without mentioning that digital cameras out-date themselves within two years while my forty year old Canon AE-1 is still going strong. The reason I decided to write about it this week is simple: the conversation seems to be EVERYWHERE. The reason being is because it is deciding the future of learning film in the photography curriculum.
A LinkedIn web group, Photography Professionals, recently had a thread going strong on the topic and some very sound responses were too good not to share.
Group member Ivan Bassols Rodenas says, “The thing is simple: If you want to be a photographer, you must to know how use and work with both, film and digital. If you want to study painting or sculpture or others you need to know (at least know) the different techniques, and then, you will use all that you want or prefer, that’s your choice, but your choice will be based on your knowledge of the different techniques. In photography is the same, especially when film and digital lives together and there is a little market that wants photography in film, call them nostalgic or vintage, it doesn’t matter. I’m sure that film will coexist for a long time with new techniques, maybe as “an art”, but If you want to be a photographer you must know all techniques to photography, maybe you don’t use never, but if in your work someday one client ask you about film you will be able to talk him with knowledge as a professional. A controversial topic that I have noticed trending these past few months is the debate of whether or not to continue teaching film in photography curriculum. We live in a digital world, so it seems that teaching digital photography instead of film would make more sense. However, if you look closely at the differences between the instruction and way of learning on each tool, its quite obvious to me that film is the necessary one to learn on.”
Personally, I think that digital can not teach the patience that film has taught me. I learned on a film camera, a little Vivitar SLR, and then quickly began using digital. When I resumed using film it really blew my mind how lazy I had gotten by relying on my digital camera to automatically correct and to be able to “fix” things in post processing. Using film, I am forced to be able to calculate settings in my head quickly, not worry about looking at the back of my camera after every shot but yet instead focusing on the present and what is through my lens, and it also taught me to not “waste” a frame. Removing film classes from the photo curriculum would be photography blasphemy. It really surprises me that so many older photography professors are choosing to go strictly digital.
Film is expensive (and the prices are climbing) but as someone once said, film teaches you how to quickly stop making the same mistakes. Once you make mistakes on a roll that cost you $20+ to process, chances are you won’t make those mistakes again. As for those saying that film is unprofitable due to rising processing costs, there is a growing niche market for wedding photographers who use only film. There are still people in this world who can differentiate between film photos and digital photos and I don’t plan on forsaking them anytime soon.
A photographer and teacher named Paul Gadd from Kuala Lumpur, uses nothing but film. He believes that teaching film is the only way to truly learn. “What we teach here is history, we teach them how to make a pinhole camera. So we get the guys to make theirs and then they go out to shoot just to get used to the cameras and they process the film. And then they go out again. I get people to shoot people because personally I’m a portrait photographer so I always get them to face people.”
“It is the whole process of taking a shot, sit in with the subjects rather than photographing from afar and once you have done that it is going into the process with the chemicals and the smell. When you photograph something from pressing the shutter until going into the darkroom and actually coming out with print it is much more rewarding than sitting in front of the computer screen for eight to 10 hours trying to correct everything you screwed up in the first place.”
“With film as well, you tend to be more careful about how you shoot. You think about exposure, you think about composition because film is not cheap. And this is the good thing about film. It makes you think. Because with digital you don’t need to think, you just shoot a thousand frames and you can delete and choose one. So with digital there is no thinking about it.” – As told to Lydia Koh, writer for the Malaysian Insider, see the entire story here.
*Climbing down off of my soapbox now* I hope all of my readers attempt to understand why learning film is so important while studying the art of photography and continue to do so yourselves. Do you think art is more rewarding the more effort you put into it? I do too 🙂