Why I still shoot digital?

I made the decision to start to shoot film a little more than a year ago. This decision actually changed my approach to digital photography.

Before switching to film, I was shooting almost everyday with my huge and heavy Nikon D810. I really loved this camera and I still do. It has an amazing dynamic range, it has an impressive definition and I took amazing photos with it. However, I was looking for something a lot smaller and lighter to carry around everyday with me. That’s why I chose film, because it was a cheaper alternative than a compact digital camera. Plus, the feeling was way different and I wanted to give it a try.  After trying film, I just didn’t want to go back to digital. My workflow was way faster (way less processing, even if I still edit my film photos), my shots were good and more unique and I just enjoyed the inspiration film cameras gave me.

Shot on a Leica M6 with Kodak Portra 400

However, after several months, I just grabbed my heavy Nikon DSLR again. I realised that my way of using it changed a lot. I was taking more time to frame my shots, I wasn’t taking that much pictures in burst mode, I tried to get the right exposure the first time instead of relying on the huge dynamic range my camera gave me. The result was: less pictures taken (so, less time finding the shot and editing it), much more interesting pictures and cleaner images. The look of the image itself is way different from a picture taken with a film camera obviously. But it’s way more versatile if you want to get crazy creative in post processing or if you need to do a professional photo shoot as you may have to apply a lot of editing in them.

Shooting film is not always the best option. A lot of people who shoot film might disagree, but for some kind of pictures, digital just performs better. I’m talking about long exposures, HDR or night photography for example. Plus, sometimes, light is so harsh and the natural contrast of your scene is just too much for you film to properly handle it. Whereas, a good digital camera with a good dynamic range can still capture the tiniest details in the whites and the shadows. It can be a way easier way to capture a rich and complex landscape picture.

I really enjoy shooting film, but I also like to shoot digital sometimes. It’s just two very different kind of photography. But the result is the same: you end up with an image. And in order to capture this scene your seeing, you have to choose the best way to catch it. It can be film or it can be digital, it can be in colour or in black and white, it can be flatly exposed or underexposed, it can be very contrasty or flatter etc. I feel like a lot of people that started to shoot film are just despising digital shooters and consider themselves as authentic artists. Whereas in reality they just look and sound like snobbish purists.

I believe that some pictures look better on film, and other look better digital. I like the limitation film cameras give me, I also like the great flexibility and the outstanding image quality modern cameras have to offer. I just choose the most adapted medium possible. But, for sure, shooting film exclusively for several months just renew my style as a photographer and I made much more progress during those months than I ever expected.


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