With even Polaroid dropping production of its instant film, it really does look like the end of the road for analog photography.
Or does it?
More than three-quarters of US-based professional photographers who took part in a survey at the end of 2007 said they would continue to use film photography for at least some projects, even while they used digital formats. The reasons quoted ranged from “film’s superiority in capturing more information on medium and large format film” to “archival storage.”
That survey was conducted by… erm, Kodak, so the figures might not be as scientific as they look. But there are still a number of photographers who insist on spending time in the darkroom instead of in front of Photoshop.
These are some of the biggest.
For David Bailey, the British fashion photographer who rose to fame in the 1960s, sticking with film might appear to have as much to do with nostalgia for Swinging London as a preference for the old way of shooting. But according to BBC journalist’s Nick Robinson’s blog, not only does Bailey still develop with chemicals, he skips the pixels because of the quality.
While taking a portrait of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently, Bailey was reportedly asked if he ever uses digital.
“Nah” he quipped in front of the Labour Party leader. “Digital’s like socialism – it flattens everything out and makes everything the same.”
David Bailey uses film to shoot the famous; Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer Jack Dykinga uses film to capture the deserts of the southwest.
The subjects couldn’t be more different but the reasons for ignoring the benefits of digital photography are fairly similar. For Bailey, film photography brings greater depth to an image; for Dykinga, film beats digital images for the amount of information it can pack into a picture.
“There’s absolutely no better way for me to do landscape than large-format film, which in my case is 4×5 and Fuji-chrome Velvia film,” Dykinga told Outdoor Photographer magazine. “In terms of raw capture of information, if you want to look at it from a computer geek’s point of view, I’m capturing roughly 1,500 megabytes of information in a single sheet of film. That translates to about 500 megapixels.”
Sacha Dean Biyan
Sacha Dean Biyan is an award-winning fashion photographer and photojournalist who spends much of his time on the road either shooting for clients that have included Sony Music, the Gap and Lexus or collecting images for his Earth Pilgrim project.
Oddly for someone whose background was originally in aeronautical engineering, Biyan shoots entirely on film — although he might use digital manipulation in post-production. As he explains on his tech-heavy website:
“For now, despite the obvious advantages of digital, my obsession with quality always draws me back to traditional means. I use medium or large format cameras, and still prefer platinum palladium printing for my images, which unfortunately cannot be appreciated over the Internet.”
Nevada Weir is a travel photographer whose images have appeared in National Geographic, Smithsonian and Geo, sold through Getty and Corbis, and appeared in nine photography books.
Not all of her images are shot on film though and while Biyan waxes lyrical about the quality of palladium printing, for Weir, film cameras are simply more practical for the sort of photography she shoots.
“I could care less,” she told Shutterbug magazine, “film – digital; the only problem is that in many places I travel there is no electricity and that eliminates the digital camera.”
Like Sasha Dean Biyan, Richard Murai, who specializes in shooting the world’s sacred sites, also uses film to capture his images but turns to digital technology when the shooting ends. For printing, he uses digital scanning and large-scale, dedicated grayscale digital printers.
According to his website, that combination of a traditional medium with high tech product gives him maximum control and quality without risking long-term storage problems.
“Photographers can now truly paint with light,” he told the Mowen Solinsky gallery.
If you’re still using film, you might want to check out the Analog Photography Users’ Group and tell us whether you think film beats digital.