Digital vs. Film
By PAUL F. GERO - The Wedding Photojournalist Association
Recently there is no topic that creates as much impassioned conversation
when it is discussed among photographers. There are impassioned
supporters of both film and digital. As a photographer who has
used film for over twenty years and digital for the last six years,
I would have to say that, at the time of this writing, its
just about a dead heat.
At least fairly recently (the last two years and especially this
past year), film did surpass the quality of digital capture, in
my opinion. Film does still handle certain situations better than
does digital, but for all practical purposes, they will both produce
professional results IN THE HANDS OF A PROFESSIONAL.
Some of these professionals are 100 % digital while others still
prefer film only or a combination of the two. (I still like to
shoot a little 3200 Kodak Tmax for the look it gives).
Digital, though, is revolutionizing the photographic industry
in a way that has been nothing short of astounding. It is here
in the present and will be down the road. And like computers,
it will only get better, faster and cheaper (at least the cost
of the tools).
When researching a photographer who shoots digitally it is important
to discern if that photographer is relatively new to the technology
or has been using it for a longer period of time (and thus should
have the bugs worked out).
Examine photographs made by the photographer using digital capture.
Most likely, that photographer will have work that was also captured
with film. Compare them and see if you can tell the difference.
When I discuss digital vs. film with prospective couples these
days, I find much less resistance than I did a year ago. Couples
are usually pretty technologically savvy and often follow the
developments in our industry, at least on the periphery.
Any opposition some might have to digital goes away when I show
them images that are captured on digital (on a Canon 1d - 4.1
megapixel chip camera) that are quite large (14 x 22
full bleed in an 11 x 14 inch album).
They also see many images that have been captured on film, though
scanned. Some folks are able to notice the differences, but most
really dont care. What they care about are the images and
the feelings that they capture and evoke. Thats really what
it comes down to and the main reason we are hired.
Digital does, though, offer several advantages to the photographers
1) The ability to see the image right away. This is my favorite
reason for using digital capture. It gives me a level of comfort
because I can see if my lighting, expression, exposure, etc. are
correct right away rather than wait to see the film back from
the lab in a few days.
2) The ability to change the ISO ( or the equivalent of film speed)
on the fly. This allows the photographer to go in and out of a
myriad of lighting situations without having to suddenly change
film to match the light levels from place to place at a wedding.
3) A virtually unlimited number of photographs can be captured
at an event. This can be the boon and the bane of the photographers
existence, though, because if you shoot them, you've got to edit
them. But it frees the photographer from thinking I can
only shoot 10, 12 or whatever number of rolls of film at this
event in order to keep it within budget.
4) The ability to make black and white and sepia toned photographs
from the digital capture. When one shoots digitally (unless they
are capturied in a black and white only mode on the Fuji S2) every
photograph can become a black and white and/or sepia image. Parents
may want an image in color, the couple may want to have it in
black and white.
5) Digital workflow. Many photographers now offer what is often
called a magazine style (or flush mounted) album. Images shot
on film would have to be scanned in order to produce this type
of album. While it is totally doable, it adds time and another
step in the process. Digital capture elimnates the scanning and
often the time spent dust spotting the scan made from negatives.
(Though I know of a very talented photographer -- George Weir,
who is a WEDDING PHOTOJOURNALIST ASSOCIATION member -- who prefers
film and has his images scanned to disk to allow him to still
post images online and then create images for his lab. He has
created a digital workflow without using digital capture and is
very pleased with the results).
6) Freedom to experiment. This is a corollary to reason one. I
will often shoot images that I would not even try with film because
I know I will be able to erase it if it doesnt work and
modify it because Ill be seeing the results immediately.
I was on a foreign trip last year and stuck in the bus on a rainy
day. I literally pointed the camera out the window and just made
some exposures just for the fun of it. And it was fun! Some of
those images were totally unexpected and I would not have wasted
film on it. But because I had the immediate feedback I could see
what was working, modify it as I shot and make some different
Despite all the buzz about film vs. digital what it gets right
down to when selecting a photographer are the images and personality.
Do you like the feel and the style of the images that the photographer
shows? Do you LIKE the photographer? Do you trust him or her?
Do they exude confidence about the work they do and the tools
that they use? Do they have raving fans who will share testimonials
© 2003-2005 The Wedding Photojournalist Association