Thursday, April 10, 2008

In The "Not Dead Yet" Department: Analogue Film

I dropped off the "Family Foto" CD at the local mall's photofinishing center, then meandered over to the magazine rack to see what might be of interest. Lo and behold, Monocle was heralding "The great digital resistance movement." I scanned the cover article, which claims that in the field of skin tone alone, digital photos are grotesquely inferior to their analogue (film) counterparts.

No argument from me there. In fact, I could add a few complaints to the specter of this widely embraced digital revolution. To wit:

Digital photos waste a heap of the photographer's time. The disc I dropped off had 150 images on it, culled from just over 900 that had been taken in the last four months. Many of the non-essential photos were pictures of the cats, taken by my daughters; others were simply botched shots of family members growing weary of the digital delay and blinking, or letting their smiles droop. These have to be culled -- but the work doesn't end there. Even the "good" shots seem to require some Photoshopping. Red eye removal, cropping, a little tweaking of the color-balance, perhaps a special effect or two. This is all Gee-Whiz Fun ... the first time or two. It quickly gets to be a chore.

Excess. Overabundance. Digital Gluttony. 150 pictures in four months?! How in the world did that happen? There used to be a time when dropping a 36-exposure roll into the family camera was to risk the film's chemical expiry. Now the family averages 450 printed photos a year. But that's not the worst of it: the pictures are all mediocre. "Why is this so?" you ask. I have a theory...

Digital photography is an impediment to the photographer's eye. Analogue photography forces the photographer into scrupulousness. If you botch a shot, you waste your money. If analogue is going to work, everybody has to play their best game: the photographer, the subject, the developer. But more than anything, the photographer has to pay attention. Digital photography is so darn flexible, the photographer gets to thinking that even a crappy shot can be salvaged on the home computer. Well, it ain't necessarily so.

My trusty old single-lens reflex camera is still in use. And those are the photos my family looks forward to seeing the most. And on this point I shall stop, lest I begin to pine for the lost nights of the family slide show.

Inspiration provided by JD.


DarkoV said...

In lieu of your post and the recent death of Mr. Charles Heston (whom I had truly under-rated as a person of character. Seriously!), let me take license with one his most famous quotes and say, They shall only take my SLR (and CD's) out of my cold dead hands.

Trent Reimer said...

That's interesting. Kind of like how you still see some hare core computer users using old-school cathode ray tube monitors because LCD does not have the same colour depth yet.

Not sure exactly how long digital has been around but I suspect the hues are better than they were for film at a comparable point in time. Being unknowledgeable about the subject I'll ask if that gap can ever be closed or if there is an intrinsic reason for it?

Whisky Prajer said...

DV - you stole my thunder. And, I should add, I was rather fond of Heston, too.

TR - I wish I could remember where I read this, but I once encountered a technical account of why digital was never going to be able to provide the sort of "depth" you get in an analogue photo -- 1s and 0s just didn't have the capacity for it. Seems a little hard to believe now that the Western World is so besotted with Hi-Def....

Anonymous said...

Mechanical film cameras are also simpler to use, cheaper and often last decades.