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Film vs. Digital: Why do we still debate it?

Film is dead. Well, maybe it’s on life support according to some experts.

In April, the British Journal of Photography reported that Fujifilm had plans to drastically increase the retail cost of its film. Most professional film will now be twice the price. That may mean that film photography will become a true niche art form. And if it’s a niche art form, does that mean that digital is professional photographers’ saving grace, or a security blanket for faux artists?

Clearly, the debate continues.

A few years ago a friend of mine displayed his latest personal project in Nashville’s largest art museum. As Whitney and I viewed his show, a couple entered the room. They were excited to see a photography exhibit, until the man exclaimed to his girlfriend and everyone else in the room, “That’s the problem with photographers today; they all use digital. Look! You can see how horribly pixelated all these images are! Film is so much better!” He proceeded to storm out of the room after viewing only one print.

What he failed to realize was that all of the photographs in the show were captured on film. He was not viewing enlarged pixels but rather the grain that film naturally yields. If he had walked just a bit farther into the exhibit, he would have seen the Holga camera used for the project, which was on display as part of the show.

When it comes to art, there have always been heated debates about what makes each medium superior. Film vs. digital; vinyl vs. CD; oil vs. acrylic; electric vs. acoustic.

With Fujifilm’s announcement, the the film vs. digital debate reemerged as a popular topic across photography forums and community groups.

These debates have always baffled me. As an artist, is your goal to be a unique and creative individual? If so, why would you confine yourself to one medium and expect the rest of the world to do the same?

Webster’s Dictionary defines “Medium” as “a means of effecting or conveying something.” When we engage in any of the debates listed above, we are debating the best way to deliver an artist’s vision, idea and message? Sometimes a certain medium will enhance the idea and message. Sometimes the medium has no effect at all and should not be a concern.

Before deciding whether film or digital is better (for you), consider the following:

  1. Decide what your vision, idea and core message are. This is the most important property of your art. An art piece without any thought or emotion behind it does not connect with any viewer.
  2. Learn your craft. If you don’t know how to use your camera and can’t create a great photograph, it doesn’t matter which medium you choose. A bad photograph is a bad photograph, whether it’s captured on film or on a CF card.
  3. Familiarize yourself with different media. Don’t just take your friends’ word for it. Learn about the specifications to find out technically which may be better for creating your art. Don’t just rely on scientific reports or community chatter. Take time to experiment with different forms of media and decide which ones are best for you.
  4. Decide if it fits your business model. If you’re trying to make money as a photographer, which media work best for your model? Which media make you more efficient and lower your overhead?
  5. Don’t think your favorite medium is “the best” medium. The man in the art museum was so convinced that film is better than digital. His conviction blinded him to the art he could have experienced. He was unable to truly appreciate film or discover that he may actually like digital photography better.

If the man in the museum truly was a fan of film, he missed out. His closed mind caused him to miss a beautiful film project, one that was created through the eyes of homeless children on a simple plastic camera that kept things basic and pure.

Written by Peter Carlson

Peter Carlson’s outgoing, laid back, quirky personality is the main reason both brides and photographers love   working with him. Through photography, he and his wife Whitney focus on the unique personalities of every couple as well as the joy and happy emotions that are felt on each wedding day. Photographers find their classes fun, inspirational, and easy to implement. Peter & Whitney run their own studio, Dove Wedding Photography, as well as The Collection and The Nashville Photography Class.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!