Digital Photography Film photography

10 Things Digital Photographers can learn from Film Photographers

While movie images and digital images do have a couple of variations, in fact they share an ideal deal in widespread. Composition, mild, digital camera settings, and (in lots of instances) even the best way the best way the digital camera is operated are the same whether you’re capturing film or digital.

Nevertheless, there are some things that aren’t strictly restricted to movie photographers, however film shooters tend to consider or cope with far more than digital customers. In this article I need to take a look at ten of these factors, and the way occupied with / considering this stuff can improve your digital images.

10 Things Digital Photographers can learn from Film Photographers

Sharpness isn’t the No. 1 precedence

Reading many images gear evaluation sites and forums you might simply be forgiven for considering that the sharpness of an image is all essential. I’ve written about this before, however sharpness is never (never?) crucial facet of an image.

A portrait of an old vietnamese man. Despite being slightly blurry, it is still a good photo.
81540021 by omer servianski on Flickr (licensed CC-BY)

Whereas sharpness was (and nonetheless is) necessary to movie photographers, it wasn’t given the holy grail status it has now within the pixel peeping digital images world. Take the work of the some of the well-known 35mm movie photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson. While his photographs are acceptably sharp for regular viewing, look intently and you’ll discover most of them are missing the sharpness many digital photographers search for.

Film just isn’t capable of the same sharpness as a digital sensor (yes, I’m positive some will debate that). And some previous movie lenses (notably early zoom lenses) weren’t notably sharp. However photographers nonetheless managed to get excellent pictures.

An intentionally soft photo of an angel statue in a graveyard. The softness gives the image an ethereal feeling.
grounded by Patrick J. Cain on Flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)

Don’t worry about noise

In an analogous vein to sharpness, the levels of picture noise at high ISO settings typically appear to be rigorously debated each time a new digital digital camera is launched. But the noise levels of even digital cameras from a number of years in the past far surpass the grainy outcomes of equal velocity film.

Black and white street photo shot at ISO 6400 on a digital camera, with relatively little noise noticeable at normal viewing size
Let’s comply with my shadow… right down to the darkness… by Sergio Miranda on Flickr (licensed CC-BY)

The graininess of Tri-X movie can be thought-about totally unacceptable for a modern digital digital camera at ISO 400. Yet there are many nice photographs shot with ‘noisy’ film, and continue to be great photographs shot and developed even with pushed excessive ISO movie.

Grainy street photo shot on Tri-X film
Untitled by Ant Jackson on Flickr (licensed CC-BY)

So don’t use your digital camera’s excessive ISO noise efficiency as an excuse. If you wish to shoot in darkish circumstances, just bump up the ISO. The picture will get more grainy, positive, however as long as the lighting and composition are good, it doesn’t actually matter a lot. For black and white ‘gritty’ pictures, noise can even add a constructive facet to the image.

Issues and errors aren’t all dangerous

Mild leaks, expired movie, wrongly processed movie, double exposures and flare – all issues unique or rather more widespread for film photographers than digital. And yet photographs exhibiting these issues can truly make nice pictures when the issue is used for inventive impact.

Abstract double exposure landscape photo taken using a holga camera with a light leak
Vík by Richard P J Lambert on Flickr (licensed CC-BY)

Don’t be afraid to take the quirks and weaknesses of your gear and switch them into strengths.

Value your photographs

Film photographers only have a restricted variety of photographs they can fit on a roll of movie. And every film prices money, each for the film itself, but in addition the event. Each shot a movie photographer takes has a real monetary value to them.

35mm film for sale in a shop
What a deal? by Aaron on Flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)

Whereas with digital you can take as many photographs as you want with no value at all. Whereas this is usually an excellent thing, it can lead to a devaluation of your images, where you don’t pay as much attention to getting the shot right as you otherwise would do.

Take your time together with your images – attempt and make sure your framing and composition are nearly as good as attainable earlier than you’re taking the shot. (In fact, it’s not all the time potential to take your time as some photographs only exist for a second).

Trees in the wind, Lomond Hills
Timber within the wind, Lomond Hills by Euan Morrison on Flickr (licensed CC-BY)

Be disciplined and assume earlier than you press the shutter – is that this truly a shot that is value a click on? Or might it’s improved in any means? Considering like it will provide help to take better pictures fairly than just taking a number of quick snaps then shifting on.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

One of many huge elements that separated good film photographers from the overall population was that the great photographers shot a lot more. They could get by way of a roll or two of movie a day, whereas your average individual may shoot a roll a month, if that.

The most effective movie photographers weren’t afraid to experiment, regardless of the price of movie. They might attempt totally different methods – capturing, lighting, processing, and printing. Not every part would work properly, however it helped them learn what did work nicely and what didn’t, allowing them to take better photographs.

Portrait and red poppy flower floating above, taken on film
Untitled by Ciara-Angela Engelhardt on Flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)

This may increasingly seem at odds with the earlier level about valuing your photographs. Nevertheless there’s an enormous difference between rigorously and purposefully taking pictures you’re unsure (however hope) might be good, and just taking photographs with none care as a result of it doesn’t value something.

Experimental flower macro photo
Experiment by Olli Henze on Flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)

Experiment together with your images. You don’t need to attempt crazy methods, simply attempt various things. Both together with your digital camera, lighting, subjects, and submit processing. Find what works properly for you.

Guide just isn’t unattainable

Until the late 80s / early 90s the vast majority of cameras and lenses bought have been guide focus only. Auto publicity cameras date further back, being made extensively obtainable in the 1960s. However before then most photographers had to cope with each guide publicity and guide focusing.

Bright light at the end of a track lined with trees either side. Taken with an old manual focus film-era lens on a DSLR camera
Untitled by Ockham’s Band-Assist on Flickr (licensed CC-BY)

Yet at the moment you can read feedback that a lens is ‘ineffective’ if it doesn’t function autofocus. Nicely, many great photographs have been shot by photographers utilizing guide focus lenses prior to now, and still are. Whereas autofocus lenses are definitely a lot simpler to make use of, for those who don’t thoughts working with guide focus, as many film photographers had to, you can find guide focus lenses are much cheaper than their autofocus equivalents.

HDR image of a mirror in an underpass. Taken handheld using a manual focus fisheye lens.
Hall of mirrors by Houser Wolf on Flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)

You can also discover some specialty lenses which might be guide focus solely, corresponding to tilt-shift lenses, lensbaby, and petzval lenses. And there are literally thousands of previous guide lenses designed for film cameras, lots of that are relatively low cost on the second hand market.

When it comes to auto-exposure, you’re not going to seek out any low cost guide solely digital cameras. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t be afraid of studying how one can use guide publicity mode on your digital camera. It’s not something it’s essential to use on a regular basis. Nevertheless it does offer you extra management over how the image will look. So it’s value understanding, simply as film photographers do.

Know your gear

Film photographers had to know their gear for nice results. They had to understand the right way to modify the publicity, how one can set the aperture, find out how to wind the movie on, and so on. Whereas digital cameras are typically much simpler to only point and shoot.

Fully manual film camera in use
136/365 I found a treasure at the moment by Maarten Takens on Flickr (licensed CC-BY-SA)

Understanding your gear permits you to change the settings shortly and simply to get the outcome you want. Need a portrait with a blurry background? You could know what lens to decide on, what aperture setting to make use of (and tips on how to set the aperture), learn how to regulate the main target point, and fairly probably the best way to apply publicity compensation.

Splat SplashArt on Perspex - taking a photo like this would be almost impossible without understanding your camera settings
Splat SplashArt on Perspex by Joe Dyer on Flickr (licensed CC-BY)

You need to be getting your gear set shortly, not fumbling around in the menus or wanting in your bag for the digital camera guide. Even worse just isn’t getting the end result you needed with out understanding what setting it’s you’ve acquired fallacious.

Ensure you know the right way to use your digital camera. You don’t have to learn the guide off by coronary heart, just guarantee you recognize at the least the basics of the totally different settings, the way to change them, and what each setting does.

Images is a process

Some of the famous film photographers was panorama photographer Ansel Adams. He spent quite a lot of time establishing his digital camera and measuring the sunshine to get the composition and publicity good. Nevertheless after he’d taken the pictures, he didn’t ship the movie off to Sears to get it developed and printed.

He spent a substantial amount of time working rigorously in his darkroom to refine the picture and get the top end result he needed. Capturing film isn’t just about taking the photographs – it’s about the whole photographic process from taking the picture to displaying it.

Digital is far the same method. Now, you don’t have to regulate the process your self. If you need you can set your digital camera to jpeg and normal picture mode, and just share your pictures like that. Just as a movie photographer might get their movie developed and printed at the local drugstore.

However the extra you control the method, the extra you can ensure your pictures look their greatest and convey the message you need them to convey.

Before & After post processing image of ruins
Earlier than & After by Villy Goutova on Flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)

Be consistent

With movie images, you can’t (easily) change the movie stock you’re using half approach by means of a shoot. You need to take a set of photographs on a single roll, which can all have an analogous appear and feel to them from the movie used.

Similarly, when creating the movie, the same developer and course of can be used for an entire roll. It wouldn’t be changed for each particular person body.

With digital you can change your picture fashion very simply. You can go from excessive contrast shade to a low contrast sepia look simply by altering a number of settings.

Now, there’s nothing incorrect with utilizing totally different settings, nevertheless whenever you present your pictures collectively as a set they want appear to be they belong collectively.

Set of 6 photos of homes, all taken in a similar way to give a consistent and coherent set of images.
residence by stacey svendsen on Flickr (licensed CC-BY)

If the pictures are of radically totally different topics or have very totally different processing types, they don’t type a coherent set of pictures and look identical to a jumble of pictures.


Whereas there are a number of movie photographers who didn’t have a lot of their work printed (Vivian Maier being probably the most well-known instance), for the vast majority of film photographers the top objective was the print.

Prints by Chase Elliott Clark on Flickr (licensed CC-BY)

Digital presents a good way of sharing photographs shortly with numerous individuals. However it doesn’t imply that printing pictures not has any use. The expertise of viewing a superb high quality print held on a wall could be very totally different to seeing it on a display.

Equally, handing spherical prints of your photographs to family / pals is sort of a special expertise than watching a slideshow of photographs on the TV. Prints are extra ‘real’, and the straightforward reality that you simply needed to pay to get it printed provides extra worth to the picture too.

Shoebox of photo prints
Shoebox of pictures by rpavich on Flickr (licensed CC-BY)

Prints are additionally great for wanting again by way of years after you’ve taken them. They don’t last perpetually, however stored in regular circumstances they’ll possible final quite a bit longer than your pc’s arduous drive. Additionally they depart a bodily legacy that can’t be as simply ignored as digital information.

To sum up, there’s quite a number of issues digital photographers can learn from movie photographers (or perhaps even simply attempt to keep in mind from the times if you shot movie). To maintain the above points in mind you don’t have to shoot film, just assume like you’re. Though if you want to, capturing a roll or two now and again may assist reinforce the points, and be enjoyable.