Disclaimer: The title of this series is a bit misleading. To me, it’s not a competition of which is better, but simply an exploration of the quality/cost/experience of shooting film vs digital. The conclusions are based on my personal opinions, preferences, and taste.
I’m about to get all kinds of geeky, y’all! Today, we’ll be exploring the difference in images shot with film and images shot digitally–AND I COULDN’T BE MORE EXCITED! Now, we’ll be looking at just one image, but dissecting it beyond all recognition, so stick with me. Not to worry, I’ll be posting more image comparisons, but to me, the info is more digestible (and easier for me to share) when presented in bite size pieces.
It’s Kate & Jeff again! I shot their engagements a couple of weeks ago, and you met them on Monday. This was one of my favorite shots. I happened to take an almost identical shot with both film and digital, so it was the perfect photo to compare. Film is on the left, digital is on the right. The shot was taken at about 4 in the afternoon on a sunny day–not a cloud in the sky. No filters, reflectors, flash, etc. Just a camera and natural light.
LEFT: Shot with a Mamiya 645 + 80mm f/2.8 lens + Fuji Pro 400H film + Processed at Richard Photo Lab
RIGHT: Shot with a Canon 5D mkiii + 50mm f/1.2 lens
YOWZA! The differences are popping out like crazy! One of the first things to note, however, is that both images are exposed correctly–BUT notice the difference in the way they LOOK. Film is notorious for handling light beautifully, and IT DOES–be still my heart! To me, the digital image looks a bit muddy when compared to the brilliant colors and creamy skin tones of the film image.
Everything within me wants to hug the film image–it’s perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing (read: ZERO time spent in front of the computer editing). However, I’m noticing lots of things about the digital image that I’ll want to change. I want to correct the pink tones, I want to add contrast to make it pop, I want to brighten parts of the image, and I want to make the greens a bit more blue. Basically, I’m wanting to edit it so that it looks like film, which is what I always do.
So I did. And now you can compare the film image with the digital edited image:
I’m not too snobby to say it: they look pretty similar. So similar, in fact, that you may be thinking, “Who even cares about this whole film vs. digital thing.” And that’s just fine. Looking at those images above, it’s pretty apparent that you can create an almost-film look using digital. If that’s what you choose, more power to you!
For me though, I LOVE the fact that I can get a perfect image straight out of the camera using film. No editing. No hours spent in front of the computer. And…my eye still picks up on subtle, yet powerful differences between those two images up there. To me, the color in the film image is just stunning. The film photo has a richness and depth, and it’s beautifully saturated. There’s a quality difference between the two that I can’t seem to put into words. The it factor. Don’t get me wrong, both are pretty images. But personally, I prefer film. Not only for the final image, but I also appreciate the experience of shooting slowly and thoughtfully. Personal preference. :)
I’ve zoomed in even a little bit more below so you can really compare the two. Have a look. What do you think?
(Film image below)
(Digital image below)
Zooming in even more here, you can see the way the different mediums handle harsh light. You’ll notice that the film image, while bright and light, still retains most of the detail of Kate’s hair. However, the digital image, though exposed correctly, has a whole lot of blown out space, and all the detail there is lost.
This close up also sheds light on one of my biggest pet peeves about digital. You’ll notice the film image has little to no chromatic aberration, while the digital image has “fringes” of red on the brightest spots. Those fringes of color tend to show up in harsh light and intricate detail when shooting digital. I don’t like them one bit. Yes, I can minimize them when editing, but that’s just more time spent in front of the computer. Thumbs down.
(Film image below)
(Digital image below)
Finally, I just want to remind you that these are my personal preferences. Both film and digital have their strengths and weaknesses, and I’m just having a blast exploring and comparing them. As in, so much fun that I probably shouldn’t even admit it, because it’s just too geeky. Oh well, too late. :)
So, in conclusion, I was utterly blown away by the quality of the film image. YOWZA! I’m just loving it! But, the mere act of shooting film doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to start churning out the world’s most incredible photos. I’m realizing, film is only my friend if I know how to use it well. Believe me, plenty of my film images did not turn out well at all. Lots were underexposed or out of focus (oh, hello manual focus) and there’s not much you can do to salvage it in post processing. So in short, film image quality is unreal and beyond beautiful. But the only way you can achieve that quality is by knowing how to use it well.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above images! Feel free to start chatting in the comments section. :)For Photographers