It’s not often you see a professional photographer taking the time to formally survey his colleagues about an issue, but that’s just what San Diego–based shooter Robert Benson has done at his blog. Curious about professional photographers who still use film—he calls them “the holdouts”—he sent some questions to 11 shooters, including our own Jeff Lipsky.
I’ve posted an excerpt below, but if you have the time, it’s worth going here to read the whole thing.
Why do you shoot film?
Brian Finke: I almost exclusively shoot film, with the exception of recently starting to shoot video with the new Canon, and soon checking out the new Nikon HD camera. More and more these days when I am on assignment I get the, WOW, reaction when I pull the first Polaroid and everyone on set sees I’m shooting film. I am instantly seen as an art photographer, which makes by happy. I learned shooting film and love it. I shoot exclusively with the Hasselblad, it is a great process, taking the Polaroids, loading all the backs, then while shooting taking a pause and reloading, the physicality of the camera and process are beautiful. I also prefer the grain and depth of film and the chromogenic print, especially when viewed in a large scale, gallery environment.
Paolo Marchesi: I like the “organic” feel of film and the process. When I shoot film is mostly large format and shooting large format makes you think about the shot more. It makes you a better photographer. With digital is easy to just fire away without really taking the time to take “the shot”.
Amanda Friedman: Film has better exposure latitude. Film does significantly better in low light, I get better blacks. I shot a ton of night photography and I’m still finding film to be a much better choice. I can shoot ISO 800 speed film and get beautiful results—can’t really do that with digital yet.
Simon Watson: Because it is beautiful, easy to use and it is always so much more sophisticated looking than digital. Always.
Finn O’Hara: I love the pace of shooting film, and the reality of the exposure is much more tangible when shooting film.
José Mandojana: A few reasons. I like my medium format and large format film bodies and lenses better. I just see the frame better with these cameras vs. a digital SLR. I also shoot film because the color neg is perfect in my eyes. When shooting raw, a lot of tweaking needs to be done to get it to look like my film. It can be done, but film still has a richness unmatched by digital. Why mess with perfection?
Michael Sugrue: In addition to the look/feel of the image, I most like the workflow of shooting 4×5. It’s a very quiet, studied approach. A lot of the mental aspects of shooting large-format film are lost with the instantaneity of digital capture.
A recent portrait of actress Ellen Page by Jeff Lipsky.
Jeff Lipsky: Many reasons…… For one, I love shooting my film cameras. There is something special when shooting a portrait with my 4×5. I feel digital takes the pace and feel away. I still enjoy looking at a proof sheet with a good loupe. The editing process is easier and more tangible. Digital format has yet to reach the 6×7 format. Film is more forgiving and has more range. I can flare and backlight images and still have information in the negative. Digitally it would be lost. I actually like being the first person to see and edit my film. To many times there is a crowd of people surrounding the monitor, no matter how hard I try to hide it. I love working with 120 films. Changing a film back or reloading enables me to change things up and get more variations. Believe it or not, it’s still more economical for most editorial jobs.
David Lauridsen: Film is beautiful. It has a depth to it and a painterly quality in the way it captures light and texture that digital just isn’t capable of capturing… yet. I shoot a lot of travel photography and like strong side light and backlight, which I think is the biggest weakness of digital. With ﬁlm, I can expose for good shadow detail and just burn in the sky. With digital, the sky is just gone completely or if I expose for it then I end up with an image that is just much darker than I like. It’s recoverable to some degree in post, but it still doesn’t have that “lushness” that ﬁlm has.
Bryce Duffy: I still really love the aesthetic of film. I’m not saying it’s not possible to get very similar results with digital, it’s just that in 20 years of working with film stock and polaroid, and a long standing relationship with a lab, there’s so much that is going in to achieving the aesthetic that I’m after, and other peoples expertise as well. Switching to digital means that so much more of that falls back on the photographer. In a way you’re your own film manufacturer, your own lab, your own printer. And I still really feel that there are certain lighting situations where film just “feels” more organic and digital can not replicate that as far as I’ve seen.