Sunday, October 21, 2007

Why Would You Shoot Film Anymore? (Also: Always Shoot Your Digital Pictures in RAW.)

I just got a Canon 40D and downloaded a free trial of Adobe Lightroom.   The combination is amazing.  I snap a photo and it has flaws -- then I bring it into Lightroom and make it beautiful.  My camera shoots in 14-bit color, so a ton of detail is recoverable from under- and over- exposed photos.

Meanwhile, I have massive binders and many cases of slides that I shot in 1999-2001, before I bought my D30 and when I was really getting into photography.  Many have exposure problems, composition problems, etc..  What the hell do I do with all of these?  I'd love to get them in the computer and work on them there, but scanning slides is expensive and I don't care to buy a scanner to do it myself.

So, I have to ask, why would anyone shoot film anymore?  What possible gain would you find in doing it?

By shooting film you:

  • Can't take more than a few dozen pictures without changing rolls.
  • Can't check your work/exposure/focus on the spot.
  • Have less ability to modify the image after the fact (unless scanned).
  • Have no record of your film settings unless you buy an extra data recorder.
  • End up having to store photos physically, as well as rely on analog processes to distribute your photos.
  • Oh yeah, you process dozens of rolls of film using a bunch of chemicals.  Like THAT's good for the environment.

Here's the kicker, it's not even cheaper!  Seven years after Canon released the first reasonably priced digital SLR body (the Canon D30), Canon is still charging  ~$1700 for an EOS 1-V!  Newlab, here in San Francisco, still charges $10 for a roll of E-6 slide film mounted.  Ususally, the old and busted technology should get cheaper.

I snapped off 250 photos this weekend -- most end up getting deleted.  If I had done that on my film camera it would have cost me $70.  Wow.. that much cash for photos that mostly aren't keepers.  I wish I had gotten into photography AFTER the digital revolution.

By the way, I include motion picture companies in this question about shooting on film.  Why on earth shoot film instead of using one of the several digital cinematography solutions that are out there?   I can understand distributing on film, since the infrastructure is there.  But shooting on it?  Unless you have special needs like high frame rates, why?!

Getting to the meaningful part of this post:  I just want to advise all digital photographers out there --  DSLR and point and shoot alike -- if you take this stuff seriously, shoot RAW.  Reason being, in the future you can take old RAW images and put them through improved software for even better results than you see now. 

Years ago, I almost always shot RAW on my Canon D30.  I'm so glad I did.  Pulling these into Lightroom gives me the ability to easily adjust imagery like I've never been able to before.  At the time I shot these pictures, Photoshop barely had 16-bit.  So all images had to be converted laboriously from RAW to linear TIFF to some Photoshop Curves, etc.  Just to get some basic color work done, it was a slow painful process only reserved for the best photos of the bunch.

Lightroom also has filters that weren't straightforward in Photoshop, like removal of chromatic aberration.  Why buy an expensive lens if you can remove artifacts like that digitally?!  (This question is a bit sarcastic, but for some people, that solution may make a lot of sense instead of buying really expensive lenses.)

In any case:  shoot RAW and get software that makes it easy to manipulate RAW data.  There are a few point and shoots that can do it.  If you plan on keeping your digital photos forever, it's worth it.

No comments: