Is my film photography a hiding place for my bad photography?

Every picture I take is a wish not a capture of reality.

Let me share two pictures with you as an example.

This is my father. The first picture was taken with the digital Canon 5D and the cheap 50mm/f1.8 and yes… I’m going to say it… straight out of the camera!

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Okay… it’s a pretty nice picture, the day was kind of cloudy, the camera did a good job, maybe a bit on the underexposed side. My fault but I was not aiming for an artistic capture, just a casual snap.

This is the second picture.

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My father holding a baby rabbit. It was taken with the Contax 645AF. It was a sunny day and we were in the shade. The camera did a great job and, again, I was not aiming for an artistic picture, just another casual snap.

When I look at both I feel the Contax one more appealing as a “photograph”. The digital one only has sentimental value, the second one has both sentimental and photographic value. Why?

I can imagine having the Contax picture hanging on a wall and the digital one kept in a family album. Why?

When it comes to photography both were made carelessly, both were made for that family album however, one looks so much more special.

Is it the lens? The “famous” bokeh? Is is the light? Does my father look better? Is it a better angle? Is it the rabbit?

Is it the simple fact that being in black and white adds an extra layer of seriousness?

Even my father likes the Contax one better. Why?

Well, reality is boring and the black and white image is the further from reality and that’s why I like it better as a photograph.

Let me give you another example. This is my son.

The first shot was taken with the (sweet) Ricoh GrD3. The second one was taken with the Zeiss Ikon Nettar.

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Again. Which picture do I like the best?

As photographs they should have the same visual value but they don’t, why?

Why do I keep on liking the ones further from reality?

Why do I feel that my pictures do look better in black and white? One is as good or as bad as the other.

The truth is, my pictures do look better in black and white and that’s why I don’t use digital cameras to capture these personal moments or other kind of personal images I make.

Reality is too… raw. Too real, too accurate. I don’t like it. I aim to capture it in many ways but only as the raw material to work on.

Every picture I take is a wish not a capture of reality.

At the end of the day, when developing and scanning (or printing the negatives) my black and white pictures are a pretty good hiding place for my lack of inspiration and talent but, at the same time, it is my black and white photography that comes closer to the visual approach I like when it comes to image making.

As usual, please forgive my limited English.

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12 comments
  1. This is similar to music lovers who tell us that vinyl sounds more organic than a CD or digital file. The medium is not relevant… important is what you feel and your unique vision. Nice entry. Great Pictures!!!

    • I totally agree and that is the bottom line, using what we like the way we want.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  2. Davide Rizzo said:

    Very interesting consideration…I agree on what you said, probably the point is we are not “photographers” or “artists” but we simply like taking pictures, hence the search for an artistic result even in occasions where there is nothing artistic.

  3. Another factor that may affect how you respond to film – there is only one frame, while with digital you can take many frames to get the look you want. There is a “uniqueness” about film shots because you can’t immediately check the result and then do shoot again.

    • Funny thing about using digital for work is that 99% of the times when I “burst” shoot a subject, I end up choosing the first picture 🙂

      Thank you for commenting my friend.

  4. A very interesting and thought provoking, if not philosophical, topic! Thanks for bringing it up.
    And I would disagree with the previous commented’s comparison to vinyl vs CD. Film DOES add some extra layer to the photo and your examples show it. When I was just trying the waters of street photography I didn’t have a film camera, so I used a digital one. And that didn’t tick me at all. Only after I saw my first film pics did I truly feel the joy of street photography.

    • Thank you Ivan and that is, to me, the bottom line. Film does add something extra. I’m a digital user at work and nothing compares to film and I’m not taking quality or sharpness or whatever, it’s about soul. 🙂

      Film does have it and that brings us, as you said it, JOY!

  5. Carly Matthew said:

    I have had this same thought about my own photography. I often wonder why my Instagram pictures taken on film are much more popular than any digital ones I take. It could be that the film community is closer or that I try harder when I’m taking pictures on film (and therefore spending money on each shot). The important thing to me is that film keeps me WANTING to shoot more. I get tired of digital so quickly.

    • Digital makes me lazy, then bored, then I go back to pinhole photography 🙂

      We all often use the word “fun”, and it really is all about having fun, enjoying and, as you said it, film makes us want to improve our photography and that’s why we always want more.

  6. just an observation said:

    Please, please, please… STOP APOLOGIZING ABOUT YOUR DAMN ENGLISH!!!

    Write in another language if you don’t feel confident about English, but stop begging for mercy at each post.

    • That’s means you read the posts and for that I thank you. No more apologies then!

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