Attempting a change in workflow back to using film

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by bo eder, Nov 29, 2010.

  1. bo eder

    bo eder Member

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    Hello everybody - new guy here.

    I apologize if any of you have asked this question before but I've done a search and nothing came up pertaining to what I'm about to ask, so I'll give it a go here. Honest, I am not bringing on a "digital vs. film" discussion...

    I cut my teeth shooting 35mm and taking my film to a lab. In the last 10 years, a majority of my work has been with digital. I have a couple of school clients where it's easy to come in and shoot their groups, and then do individuals, and I can bang those out pretty quickly in the digital realm. In fact, what I do is shoot it digitally, then edit a little, and then take the files to a Sam's Club for the printing of the packages. Slick and cheap. I like Sam's doing the printing of those projects.

    As an epiphany, a couple of summers ago I traveled to Yosemite with a 30 year old Nikon F2 and a 50mm lens with some cheap Fuji Superia 100 color film. Took the rolls to Sam's Club and got back CD's and negatives. Just last week I took two of those images and in Photoshop, re-sized them to 8x12 (did no tweaking in PS, mind you) and had Sam's print them up for me. I was stunned to say the least! The amount of detail was a shock to my more muted digital files.

    Anyway, couple this with finding some Photo CD's I had made in 1999 having longevity issues, and I'm now thinking of the viability of going back to film as a primary way to work. I think it would be tough going back to digital for shooting individuals and groups at the local high school, it's so easy digitally, and I don't think you can tell that much difference in the portraits.

    Obviously I would shoot 35mm C-41 so I'd have to go to a minilab. My lab of choice has been this Sam's Club because of the price and the relationship I've developed with those workers, but with the slow demise of film, I had heard rumor that some places don't even develop film anymore, and I fear these big box stores are next. Has anyone here found this to be true? I can order film all day long from places like Freestyle and B&H, but now I'm worried about finding an OK lab that could at least give me the negs and a CD for stuff like the high school shoots.

    Everyone seems to say the same thing that there will always be a 35mm minilab somewhere, and that film is going through some kind of resurgence. True? I'm worried about images just disintergrating over time as they live on these archival CDs and DVDs (I've just lost two disks from age! And it wasn't even 10 years ago!) And we're not even talking about making sure you have a machine that can read them in 30 years' time.

    So, the quality-longevity issue is one pushing me towards film again. Plus the fact that, my life was so much simpler when I just shot film. Imagine it: nothing to plug in. No real batteries to use. Just frame it up, get your exposure right and pull the trigger. My life for the last ten years has been all about upgrading computers, let alone cameras, carrying too much stuff around and for images that are a little less than what I saw with that 30 year old Nikon! (These days I've been using the old Nikon D1x's, Canon EOS-1D, among others) I want to keep using this hybrid method of shooting film, and getting a CD for the quick-portrait shoots (I'd like to avoid scanning too) - but I'm worried about the drying up of minilabs out there.

    Anyone have a better take on what I'm describing? Thanks in advance for the plies!
     
  2. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    C41 processing is still relatively easy to find, although there aren't as many options as there used to be. If you know the people who process your film at Sam's Club and they do a great job, you might as well stick with them. But I'm sure your local camera store would offer C41 processing. E6 they might send out.
     
  3. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    For me I found that there are fewer and fewer labs around here. Most of the Walmart's don't process film any more. Most of the Wolf/Rizt closed. I now have my film processed at Walgreen. I had them do the C41 only no prints. I make prints myself.
     
  4. Dave in Kansas

    Dave in Kansas Member

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    If you live close to a larger city, there should be one or labs that should do good work. I have one near me that has seen an increase in film business in the past year. Since you are not talking about investing a lot of money in film, you don't have anything to lose.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with shooting digital when you need to and shooting film when you want to have fun. I think a lot of people on this site do just that.

    Dave
     
  5. kb3lms

    kb3lms Subscriber

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    Or you could just process it yourself. However, if you have a large volume, that might not be a viable option. There is also the possibility of mailing it out. That worked well for me till I started processing 90% of my own. Don't be put off by the idea, though, because it isn't very hard. I definitely would have to agree with you that film is just easier. MUCH less stuff to go wrong and far fewer batteries!

    Besides, it just dawned on me tonight while printing color on Crystal Archive, the box of 100 sheets of 8.5 x 11 CA was MUCH cheaper than the same quantity of a quality inkjet paper. Not to mention that 10 liters worth of RA-4 chems (of which I have used 1l so far) was about the cost of re-inking the printer one time. Whatever digital may or may not be, it isn't any cheaper than film.

    Welcome back.
     
  6. bo eder

    bo eder Member

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    Thanks for the replies. I am just concerned about getting the developing done. I'm not in the position to really do it myself. Hell, I don't even do my own printing, I let the lab do it after I've done the Photoshop tweaks, which is a cool thing with the local Sam's Club. I'm afraid with the decline happening, it doesn't matter if there's a film resurgence in my city (east of Los Angeles, north of Disneyland). It would be hard to do event portraiture on film.

    And I know I could just work with both, but then, I'm maintaining two systems. I really liked it when it was just film! Grrr....
     
  7. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    The City of Industry!?? Dang. There's your problem...

    :tongue:

    Just kidding. I'll leave the more serious replies on your topic to the more qualified responders. Just wanted to say welcome to APUG.

    Ken (transplanted from LA many, many moons ago...)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2010
  8. bo eder

    bo eder Member

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    Hi Ken, thank you for the welcome.

    Well, by now I've ventured over to the Richard Photo Lab site, and actually, $22 for development, prints, and 4MB scans doesn't seem too bad for a roll of C-41. There is another thread going on here of someone else figuring his overhead for shooting just film for weddings and I suppose I'm in the same boat. If I market what I do correctly, it is possible to educate the client that they don't really need 1,000 shots of their wedding. They might as well have a video, yes?

    What I'm not getting are the guys who urge people to do both digital and film. And my stance is that I'm trying to get away from working at the computer altogether. The scans are important because some of my group photo work requires adding words to it identifying the group, but sometimes I think if you give me a camera with a 100% viewfinder, I'll just frame it up right and you can print it that way!

    The Richard Photo Lab is giving me hope (although I'd have to mail them rolls like everyone else, I'm not driving 35 miles through Los Angeles to get there) and I figure I can use the Sam's Club by my house for the little jobs until they decide to stop processing altogether. In fact, Richards has me thinking I can do 220 now....
     
  9. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    I think a lot of the digital users who claim that the film costs are far higher than the digital post processing are failing to put a monetary value on the time they spend doing it.

    In my father's day when he was a semi-pro wedding photographer it seemed really easy to send your films in for processing, receive negatives and a set of 5x7 proofs then take re-print orders which the lab printed.

    I'm not a wedding photographer but the two weddings I have done were done this way.

    As for time spent at the computer - That's why I went back to film after a brief flirtation with a Nikon D100.


    Steve.
     
  10. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    I wish to pick a bit of a bone about the challenges of shooting portraits being more difficult on film. I regularly (4-5 times a year) do what are termed 'FOH pictures' for theatre groups. These are portraits all taken with the same camer exposure setting, backdrop and lighting of the performers and production staff for a community theatre show.

    I make sure to put the subject on a stool, so they stay put, and the camera stays on a tripod, and moves up and down a bit to account for variations in subject height.

    I do some in b&w, some c-41, and some with digital.

    I print b&w, print ra-4 colour or b&w, or go and edit digital files when I digiatk capture and hand of the printing to a shop that prints straight onto foam core or coreflute.

    I find that by controlling variables when taking the picture, it is very fast to print the film images after you do a contact sheet and select the frame to use for each individual. Once the exposure, contrast, and colour balance if priting colour are fixed for the first image, the rest all print the same.

    To title the group shots when required I make up the graphics on a PC, and photocopy it onto overhead projector media, which gets taped to a corner of the esael for white lettering. I have also done reverse masks for black lettering, but that slows you down, for a second exposure to burn in the title is needed.

    The digital capture is a real PIA. I find it is as time consuming as conventional. I need to edit the images to use, then edit the file, then in my case, rename the file, and insert a 'digital overmat'.
     
  11. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    Keep doing film as long as the local labs are making it easy for you. You are lucky to have local labs. Mailing it isn't a problem either as long as you're not in a rush.

    To make digital less time consuming, you really need a newer higher end computer. Most general purpose machines aren't fit for it; they need an upgrade of some sort, usually ram and display. The software needed to efficiently process and batch adjust images is not fast or lightweight. That's where you put a price on your time. Do I spend $1000 on a new PC or do I suffer with my current slow one for another year or spend $500 on a false sense or economy for a more reliable low end one, and how much time will this decision save me. Then you have to duplicate all your data every 5 years (not that difficult with big hard drives) so you don't lose it to the ravages of time and entropy. Use digital where it's convenient; don't fight it when you don't want to use it or it's not the right tool. I've been doing digital color for 10 years, so I kinda got it figured out, not much challenge anymore, and find the newer dslr cameras to beat 35mm color film in terms of detail, but choice of medium is your artistic decision, not mine. Personally I like analog for B&W.

    I don't do color printing, but I have done it in the past. It is indeed easy if things are consistent like Mike Wilde aims for. It's tough when you pick a random negative out of your binder from some outdoor scene and try to make a perfect print quickly.
     
  12. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    there is a link/banner/block ad that pops up here on apug
    for this place

    http://www.photomfa.com/

    they have listings for labs and might be of help to you ...
    there is also the acecam list ..

    good luck !
    john
     
  13. bo eder

    bo eder Member

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    I get your point. I've been doing digital for about 10 years now too on a nice big PowerMac with enough power and a 30" monitor, and even I have to continually worry about upgrading and spend time with it. Having digital cameras is like having a car that needs to be maintained and upgraded much quicker. I think my whole point is trying to stop using digital in the first place. I really just need a simple quick way to get it into the computer for the odd-titling or headshots. Other than that, using film all the time would be great.

    This dilemma is hard because everybody trying to make a living in photography is doing it, and clients don't always understand what they're into and the impatience sets in more often now. I blame Random Access! I've heard it said more than once: digital was the greatest thing to ever happen to photography, and the worst.
    While I try to balance out this equation for myself, I'll continue on with that sorta' trusty EOS-1D (yeah, the 4MP one - it does great BTW).
     
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  15. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    If you have a place that is doing a good job of printing and packing your prints for you then stick with them as long as you can. As for processing, again stick with your Sam's as long as you can, as long as you are feeding that machine it might just survive.

    Your local Sam's club may stop processing film in house at some point, but they may continue to print from digital so keep using them for that service, they know you, and they know what you want and will continue to deliver it for you as long as they can. If your local Sam's stops processing film in house they probably will not care where the photos on your memory stick came from when you show up for print service. The people working at Sam's probably like working in the photography area, and will be happy with whatever work you can bring them.

    As for processing, if your local Sam's stops doing it in house TEST their send out service and see how well they do, it might not be all that bad to use there send out service. Before that happens you might want to shop a few places and see how they do on test rolls just so you have a backup plan in place if you need it. The places that come to mind and do a really good job for me believe it or not are CVS, Rite-Aid, and Walgreen's if you want to stay local, I find that negative quality has more to do with the person running and taking care of the machine than anything else. I'm not a big fan of send out services, while they do excellent work for the most part, I prefer places that I can walk into and people that I know and know me. I have my film processed by Marry Ann, Rene, Janette, Mia, Michelle, and while Randy is too far of a drive for processing, I buy chemicals from him still. All these people work in real shops that I enjoy visiting and processing is not there first business, but they all do it quite well for me.

    As for the whole line about there will always be people to process film, that is true but you have to be sure you do whatever you can to support them so that they can stay in business and be there processing film for you and everyone else that needs it. Also remember Digital was going to kill film, Film was going to kill painting, Painting was going to ruin drawing, and I am a draftsman so we see how all that is really going.
     
  16. bo eder

    bo eder Member

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    Again, thanks all for the replies so far. So I've lurked around since the last post and I discover (obviously) that alot of you do your own developing and printing.

    Question: is it crazy to think I can jump back into film without, at some point, considering developing myself?

    Part of me has this romantic notion of going back to the old ways and just shooting b&w and maybe carving a niche in providing b&w portraiture (who hasn't done that, right?). If I was brave enough to do that, I'd develop my own negs in a heartbeat. But then I feel like I should just go all the way and build a dark room to do some printing...

    And then reality hits that with a full time job, what little photography I do has to exist around everything else that needs me. I couldn't tell you if I'd love taking the time to develop film, let alone spend time printing. Maybe I'm not a film guy after all? Anyone ever dealt with that feeling? I mean, the rest of my life is so ensconced in digital - except for my completely analog Omega Speedmaster Moon watch - everything I do revolves around this internet, DVR's, Blu-Rays, camcorders....even the music I make and listen to is very digital. I play real drums though, but the recording and marketing is all digital. It wouldn't be possible to get it out there if it weren't for digital.

    Someone here called themselves an anachronism. Could I be experiencing false-anchrony?
     
  17. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    I don't think it's crazy. For the two weddings I have done I sent my film to a lab who process the film and then give you proof prints. These are digitally produced on Fuji Crystal Archive paper rather than optically printed as is probably the case almost everywhere now.

    The lab will keep the files for a year and you can order re-prints just by quoting the image number on the back of the print. To me that's much easier than the current digital method.

    EDIT: I just noticed the drum kit in your avatar image. Who do you play with? There is a link to one of my bands at the bottom of this post.

    Most recording is digital now but to counter that, many musicians/studios use valve (tube) equipment such as microphone preamplifiers. See another link below! I have also made an all valve mixing desk for a friend who is a drummer. He does session work at Toerag Studios in London which is very much all analog and vintage and does very well with it.

    Here is their steam powered website: http://www.toeragstudios.com/

    Steve.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 2, 2010
  18. bo eder

    bo eder Member

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    It's FIVE YEARS later!

    Hey all and I'm back FIVE YEARS LATER!

    Here's what's been happening with me in the last five - I've set the film idea down for a bit and concentrated on doing my portrait and group portrait business with DSLRs. It's not a lot of money, but it's a good addition to my regular job. But what I've done, after the camera sensors got good enough, was invest in those little Canon SL-1 Rebel cameras - they're tiny, but with 18MP sensors and great high ISO capability, they actually do a wonderful job. Gone are the days of having to buy the most expensive DSLR to keep up in quality. For quick portrait shoots, these tiny SL-1s are great. In fact, my last job (shooting school choir groups), I did it all with the kit lens too (18-55 whatever EF-S lens).

    I had 1D's, and 5D's, 20- 30- 40D's....dumped them all for these little SL-1's. I highly recommend them to anybody who wants a quick, cheap DSLR to use for on-site proofs to their film photography too.

    BUT - the film bug is still in me. And in case nobody has noticed, even with the resurgence of film (yay!), buying a mint condition 35mm film camera is incredibly affordable. Just recently I bought a mint condition EOS-1V for $250 from a guy in Japan! Awesome. For good measure, since I was out of control, I also found a mint condition EOS-1N for $99 from another guy in Tokyo. Both bought. Coupled with my standard 50/1.4 and 24/2.8, I'm pretty much covered for gear. The SL-1's look silly with these huge lenses on them, but it's the ultimate image of where you should put your money. I may invest in the 85/1.8 next month too.

    I think the developing is leveling out though. I've started using a place in San Clemente called The Darkroom.com, and the cool thing is it no longer matters what kind of film you're using. C-41 or B&W, 24 or 36 exposures, the price is all the same. $11 for developing, and scanning small files to a CD, and sending you the negatives. So far I've done two rolls of Fuji Superia 400 and have been quite impressed with the test shots.

    However, I'm no longer looking to ditch one for the other. I will continue on with my little DSLR's, but use the film machines for my personal happy stuff. I have found a Yin to my Yang. One thing I have discovered, because I wanted to get back to a manual SLR, is that my eyesight has worsened. I don't think I can focus manually anymore. Auto focus is now a necessity (I'm turning 50 in February)! So I can't really use my 40-year old Nikon F2, but having the EOS-1V and 1N is quite nice. I have them set to manual, and don't really use any exposure compensation. I even meter with my Sekonic L358 handheld meter. So I just see, let the camera focus, turn my mode dials for shutter speed and aperture, and fire away. I can't tell you how much I've missed that "click -whirr" sound of the camera cycling through a film shot!

    To see some stuff I've done (up to 2014 anyway), I did start a blog. I will eventually start adding my film images to it too. I hope to have some good APUG members check it out and critique some of what I've done! It's here: http://mattederblog.blogspot.com

    It's good to be back!
     
  19. bo eder

    bo eder Member

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    To answer Steve here five years later: I'm a hired gun type musician. I've worked for the Disneyland Resort as a drummer since 1986, and was just recently performing as drumming Mickey in the Soundsational parade. I'm pretty active as a player and frequent "Drummerworld" quite a bit online. I can read, sing, play a bit of piano, and play most all styles. I studied in college at Mt. San Antonio College and Cal State Fullerton playing jazz, and have taught as well. I hope Steve still sees this.
     
  20. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Welcome back to APUG
     
  21. mooseontheloose

    mooseontheloose Subscriber

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    Agreed. I found this thread an interesting read - it's nice when people come back and let us know what they've been up to!
     
  22. Richard Man

    Richard Man Member

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    IMHO, the key is to spend some money to get a good setup: I started with a Jobo CPE2 and now upgraded to CPP2. I processed my own B&W, E6 and C41, and have now standardized on C41. I shoot 4x5 and Hasselblad and the equipment are now (relatively speaking) dirt cheap, with only the film as the real expense. I do do scanning and digital printing (yes I know a dirty word on APUG), but I routinely print 24"x30" and even have a couple prints made at 4x5'. When you large prints from the bug 4x5 and 6x6 negatives, you will understand :smile:
     
  23. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Isn't that the truth?:wink:
     
  24. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    I would work on getting JPEGS correct from the camera before going back to film. You may need to correct exposures 1/3 stop , but that take no time.

    Film means you need to touch every frame.
     
  25. Black Dog

    Black Dog Member

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    Welcome back to APUG from me too and keep on keeping on.
     
  26. bo eder

    bo eder Member

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    EDIT - I know I said I couldn't really use my Nikon F2 due to sight challenges, but a friend of mine just gifted me another F2, an F2A from 1977 with a AI 50/1.4 lens. This camera is in much better shape than the old first gen F2 I have in my closet. So I'm going to give it a try. Split screen focusing isn't so bad, so I have it loaded up with some Superia and will shoot a test roll over the week. Maybe I'll shop for some diopters for that one. I do hope it'll work out, there's something about a totally mechanical camera that is just reassuring to me as well. I remember some ten years ago taking my original F2 to Yosemite with my brother and some of his photo friends and their DSLRs. They were so concerned about having batteries, and making sure they were charging at the end of the day, and there I was with my one mechanical camera, laughing and shooting away!