Challange : Does digital lack soul?

Well I may be a 21st century digital boy...

I am a convert when it comes to photography. Film was my game and I held out way too long before accepting the writing on the walls. See, I was hooked on Fuji films like Astia, Velvia, Provia, and sometimes Superia. I knew the look I was after and chose my film accordingly. Most of my peers at the time were shooting D70's and I was still saying

"hold on I have to change a roll."

I started missing out on jobs because I was using film, and that was unacceptable. So I went down to my local camera shop and got on the waiting list for a DSLR. I told myself that I would stick to the tried and true films for everything that didn't require a digital camera. After all I had a scanner and was darn good at making digital files from slides and negatives, so why bother with that digital beast in the field.

The buzzword at the time was taking the plunge, I never used it but now I had done it. When my body finally came in and I was learning about it and checking on the file quality it produced, I somehow forgot all about those silly little plastic cans and the treasure that lay inside them. I was done with film. After my first real shoot with it, the DSLR reigned supreme. No longer was my film restricting my ISO, I could *GASP* change it on every shot if I wanted to! The advantages were huge, but so were the drawbacks. Back then processing RAW images took special software, and file storage became an issue. Push that ISO too far (even 800 was a stretch) and everything was mud. The learning curve was rather large, but so worth it!

Today I still own SLRs and I admit it has been a while since I used them. Film is getting hard to come by, the prices are going up and getting quality developing is a struggle. When shooting film I find myself being more deliberate with each exposure, that proves to increase my percentage of select images. Today Nikon only offers 2 film bodies, the FM10 and the F6. My goal is to acquire one of each before Nikon decides film is no longer a viable pursuit and pulls the plug on them.

Every now and again I get the urge to shoot some film, whether its nostalgia or the purposeful slowing down of the process, the reason doesn't really matter. There seems to be a feeling that goes along with film, not one person I have ever asked could describe that feeling. So I pose them a bit of a challenge.

Does digital have soul like film?

Here's what you need for gear.

  • your current favorite DSLR
  • A tiny card. I still have a 32M CF for this.
  • And a mindset that you ARE shooting film.

Turn off image preview and, (If you need to gaff tape the screen) limit yourself to 24 or 36 frames. Give your self enough time, as not to feel rushed. Set a single ISO and shoot MANUAL. I like to set spot metering for this exercise. Do not check the histogram, the only shooting related info you should be paying attention to is the frame count. Shoot your frames and then do not hurry back to import them, in fact don't import them at all.

Wait at least 24 hours to let them "develop" in your mind, then when you have plenty of time import them into your system. DO NOT add adjustments upon import (unless you are converting to B&W) the goal here is to see what you really shot. Sort out your shoot and put PS out of mind. Look for composition, exposure and feel of each image. Once you have your selects, limit yourself to post tools only in Aperture, Lightroom, etc. Try to stay in the color correction palette, and remember less is more.

Export your finished files and bring them to a Walmart, Sams, Costco, or anywhere that has a Fuji Frontier day lab and really get them printed! Wait a little while to open them, then look at them, hold them in your hands and pick your personal favorite. 

Does that photo really lack soul?  Is it really the film that adds soul, or is it the way you shoot that adds feeling and soul to your film?

I encourage everyone to try it out and leave some comments about what you learned. There is no better way to grow than to learn.