Film vs Digital 2015: Confessions of a Film Photographer / by Jake Horn

By Jake Horn

I’m not exactly sure why we are having this film vs digital discussion still in 2015. I still see stories pop up in my RRS feed that list pros and cons, or why one helps your photography over the other (like this one on PetaPixel). As you can see from this site, I shoot all my landscapes on film. This is definitely a personal choice, and one that is not easily explained. And I'm not sure I care to explain it because I simply prefer the look of landscapes shot on negative film, bottom line.

A few reasons that are typically cited about why film is superior really get me going. I shoot film 99% of the time, so take the following rebuttal from me.

“Film Slows You Down” – If you have to trick yourself into doing something, then you still have the problem, you are just being restrained. You can slow down with any camera you use. This issue is really about your state of mind.

“No Editing, Just Shooting” – I’m not sure I have ever understood this one. Whether you are printing digitally or optically, you still need to edit. You can spend time in front of the computer scanning film, processing RAW files, or even in the dark room creating contact sheets. You still need to curate your photos and put the best interpretation of your shot forward. If Ansel Adams taught us anything, it is the power of editing your photos.

“Waiting for the Film is Good” – The real thing one must do, which is better than waiting, is to revisit your images over and over again. Some shots that I loved after seeing them for the first time did not hold my attention after multiple viewings. On the other hand, there are many cases where I dismissed an image for years, but later grew to love the photo much later. Whether you look at RAW files right away, or film one week later is inconsequential compared to revisiting your photos after months or even years have passed.

I think these Film vs Digital stories pop up because photographers shooting film are campaigning to keep film alive. This is a great cause, and film needs to be fought for. Though I think it’s more effective to show good work shot on film to inspire people. Galen Rowell’s work really inspired me to shoot film again. Hyping up film while showing your “unedited” mediocre travel shots with a lomography camera only makes the case against film.

If you have never shot film, do yourself a favor and shoot some alongside digital. Best case scenario…you start shooting with both.