Attracting new film users

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by z3guy, Jun 2, 2010.

  1. z3guy

    z3guy Member

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    As a traditional photography instructor at a non-profit in central MA I am wondering how other attract new students to film. The instant gratification of the digital age makes it an uphill fight but I find that some "see the light" once they experience the darkroom. The question is how to get them through the door?

    Thanks,
    Paul:confused:
     
  2. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    My daughters friends, and the occasional adult that I encounter when I'm roaming with cameras.
     
  3. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I run across people all the time that wonder why I don't use digital cameras. Usually I end up praising the digital technology for what it's good at, but move on to that film photography in its most raw and crude form has a lot more to teach me about photography; it makes me a more complete photographer. Most people understand this when you lay it out in such a fashion; film photography is different, it's a different method, it's a game of patience, process, and deep understanding of things like exposure, and matching film + processing to your paper and developer.

    It teaches me the basic rules of exposure, when it's appropriate to intentionally break the rules, and use it to my advantage. Basically, it forces me to do this, or I just will not get good results. Because you don't know exactly what you captured on film until processing is done, it depends almost solely on me what the results are. When I am successful, and I get a picture that is beautiful and that satisfies hungry and critical eyes, it is so much more rewarding - mainly for all the hard work that went into it, both in learning how to get there, and in making the print in a stinky darkroom.

    I really think you have to sell film photography and darkroom as 'different', where you show with actual results what can be had. Why should anyone want to put up with the hard work and actual physical attention to a process when you can do much the same in front of a computer screen? What are the reasons to give up such convenience? It's the adventure, the smells, the anticipation, the raw knowledge of the basics of photography, confidence in being the machine behind the results, and being more accountable for good processes leading to those good results.
     
  4. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Posted wirelessly..

    Yeah, just be visible using film and willing to discuss it.
     
  5. z3guy

    z3guy Member

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    Thomas, Your description is the core of our teaching method, you need to be in control of all aspects of making a photograph and the more you know your equipment and materials the better final print you can make. We begin with "taking the camera off of automatic" and go from there.

    Thanks,
    Paul
     
  6. Leighgion

    Leighgion Member

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    My experience has been that letting go of the evangelistic notion goes a long way. A lot of people don't like it when you're trying to convert them to something, regardless of what it is. I know I'm one of them.

    I've been head of the local camera club for a few months now. While I'm one of the youngest members in a group dominated by retirees, I'm one of the few who still regularly shoots film. I don't try to (re)convert anybody. I just talk about the film I shoot like it's a normal thing. The group seems to respond very positively to me in this regard. Even though I shoot digital as well, a certain number of folk keep getting the idea I exclusively shoot film.

    Just yesterday I showed some photos I took on Fomapan 100 stand developed in Rodinal. People loved the "old-fashioned" look it created. I talked about stand development's impact on the contrast and how Foma's factory is old and thus in a real sense producing "genuine" vintage product. Nobody seemed tempted take up film cameras again, but by associating images they liked with film, I think I've done far more to keep it alive than if I browbeat even one member into picking up a roll of film again.
     
  7. Darkroom317

    Darkroom317 Member

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    One of the thing I greatly enjoy is the surprise of seeing what's on a roll after it has sat a while. My darkroom is 30 miles from where I live and so I don't get to process right away. I have a couple of rolls of 35mm that I shot a few days ago. I don't remember the exact subjects and compositions. For me film creates a better reflective process on why I shot a certain subject and why I shot it the way I did.

    I will note that I am a 20 year old art student. I've noticed that other students really enjoy the Intro to Photography (Darkroom) class.
     
  8. daleeman

    daleeman Subscriber

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    Marketing film in a digital age is a real challenge.

    Generally I think it is going to be an attraction rather than a promotion kind of thing. Being able to address the tones and shades far more variable than the 6, 12 or more mega pixels and Photoshop tweaks has to pull one from the insides.

    Not certain how many times there are real photo exhibits of great masters about us, but if you ever get a chance to take a digital user to a showing of great work, or get them to stare through a loupe into a well done negative it might help.

    Simple knowledge of this negative has never had to survive a hard drive crash ever, may never be enough. Nor would it matter to the guys I saw at Yosemite NP on my last trip as they ran up and took a picture of me looking through my Hassy WLF with his cell phone. They asked what kind of a camera is that and then ran off before I could say medium format, snapping 3 more cell phone pictures along the way

    If we keep doing what we do and just invite one other along the way, we may have a chance to get them to walk through the dark room door and give this stuff a try.

    Lee
     
  9. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    You'll have to try to convince the right crowd. The best demographic is probably fine art people. The way film is heading, it's going to be a fine art process like lithography, etching and silk screen printing. It's going to be hard to convince wedding and commercial photographers with tight budgets and short deadlines. But most importantly, do the soft sell and don't be Evangelical about it. Don't bad mouth digital either.
     
  10. z3guy

    z3guy Member

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    Thanks, all!
    We certainly don't trash digital, as some of our students shoot both, and we fully understand that to survive in the commercial world you must shoot digital to meet client expectations. We have had students learn film after starting in digital and they come out of a sense of curiosity and appreciation of a well crafted black & white print. Perhaps Mainecoonmaniac has some of the answer "The best demographic is probably fine art people." I appreciate everyone taking time to answer.
    Paul
     
  11. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Ya know, I keep coming back to Thomas' remarks about matching the right film with the right developer and the right paper and the right processes. Let's face it, digital is any SD card into any PC into any high-end software. The most control, I guess, would be the paper, printer and ink preferences. Digital is pretty much plug and play. Not to lessen the skill and craft needed in order to be proficient in its use. But there is a lot more HANDS ON methodology required for analog processes. And I think that's what should be pushed, if anything. A lot of people, though enticed by the quick and easy and seduction of the dark side of the medium, still like getting the old paws dirty. It certainly does take much longer to get where you want to go, but the length of the voyage and the perserverance required in acheiving the goal are their own rewards to those with the patience, aptitude, drive and curiosity to make it.
     
  12. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    We crossed in the mail. You're welcome and I hope you are met with success.
     
  13. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I'm a tech at a university art department. The good thing is that the faculty still teach the use of film. The students are Gen Y and most of them haven't shot with a film camera or event touched a roll of film. One of them checked out a Fuji 6x7 camera and discovered a world that is totally magical for him. One sad thing is that the department got rid of their RA color print processor. The students shoot color film, have it process at one of the few remaining labs, then scan the images to have it printed. We still have a BW darkroom where students learn about processing BW film and silver gelatin printing. Film is still alive and slowly being rediscovered by a new generation. They will, I'm sure, try to convince people on the merits of analog photography.
     
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  15. SilverGlow

    SilverGlow Member

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    Digital can be plug and play the same way shooting film can be too; when one drops off their rolls of exposed film to be developed and printed.

    Digital can be just as hands on as film processing too. They both can require loads of time in the darkroom, masks, layers, dodging, burning, both can require just as much time consuming work in their respective darkrooms.

    One does not require more or less technical acumen, aptitude, drive patience, and curiosity then the other.

    I have convinced MANY digital shooters to use film and they will try film if one does not jab or badmouth digital, and if one sells film for it's look, it's dynamic range, and the awesome anticipation one feels before getting the developed negatives and/or prints.

    A friendly RESPECTFUL approach to digital shooters is a must. Telling them lies about how film is better, or how digital sucks, or that real photographers shoot only film is unproductive, and evidence of one's stupidity.

    I was sold on film by a film shooter that also loved digital but showed me the look, feel, tonal graduations and wider DR that film provides...that caused me to switch to film.

    The way I convince others is by the prints that came from film....that is the strongest argument.
     
  16. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    All your points are good ones but this one is great. Acting against this ethical approach would be akin to saying oil painting is better than watercolor.
     
  17. Leighgion

    Leighgion Member

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    They're lies easily demolished too, which doesn't help the cause.
     
  18. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    Show them some nice B&W prints, on double weight fiber based paper. Let them touch the paper also. After that - they will say: I want this! At least that is how I got in to this beautiful world of traditional photography :smile:
     
  19. wclark5179

    wclark5179 Member

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    "Attracting new film users."

    Gosh, I feel for you; however, please let me tell you this.

    Our TCPPA (Twin Cities Professional Photographers Association) meets each month at a Vocational School located in Eden Prairie, MN. You would fine about 0 people who use film anymore in their daily workflow. At our last meeting, I visited with an instructor at his office and noticed several D-2 Series Omega Enlargers on a cart. They were taking them out as they came to the conclusion that the future for the young new photographers is to be involved in digital in the capture, process and viewing stages.

    Sorry to be the bearer of this news. But digital has changed photography. If you want to make a living in this industry then you have to go where the bucks are. If you have a day job in another field or income from another source then bless you and go for it. Or maybe have a rich relative!

    Otherwise to advise a new student to go into film as a career is a mistake from several vantage points. Or go into photography as an art or passion, whatever, but don't go into it to make a decent living. It's hard enough as it is w/o throwing out road blocks to achieve some sort of financial success with photography with a film medium.

    Now crucify & have at me for my comments. However, I've done OK in the photography industry.
     
  20. anon12345

    anon12345 Member

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    Ah, that stinks. After forty years of film photography I finally found a camera with automatic features that I like, and I noticed a marked increase in quality and output. :sad: I'm not going back. No way.

    Showing newcomers some "original prints" by "master printers" might be enlightening.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 2, 2010
  21. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    Just show them some slides in 120 or 4x5". From my own experience, this tends to astound the people...
     
  22. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I totally agree that a respectful approach is needed. After all, it is ALL photography, and no approach is better than the other. Just different.

    I will say, however, that it took me about five years to become a decent darkroom printer, and it took me about two weeks to become a decent inkjet printer.

    The difference, I think (and this is my opinion), is that when you're shooting film you are almost 100% responsible for the results. You use tools that are rudimentary and tangible, hand tools, basically, AND it's a process that takes a long time whether you get a good print or not.
    Digital can take time too, and for some it might require as much time as the darkroom, but once you learn a work flow it still baffles me that anybody would find it difficult to get an inkjet print right - especially from a nicely exposed digital capture. No joke or ill meant comment, but I honestly think it's almost too easy as long as you have the right materials in a good printer and good software.

    I mean absolutely no disrespect to digital shooters and printers, this is my experience; but my opinion is that darkroom work is much more difficult than a digital work flow.
    With multiple toning techniques, lith printing, selective bleach back and re-development, re-development in lith developer, various stages of using several contrast filters within the same print, getting the exposure and development of film *just* right to eke the maximum possible out of a frame of film, the list goes on and on. It is my feeling that it takes a lot more to arrive at the maximum possible from the darkroom than it does from the computer.
    The results can be blindingly good from digital. I know this. It's how the world spins these days. But I just can't get along with the fact that it takes as much work with digital as it does with film and darkroom. I just will not agree with it.




     
  23. Scotto

    Scotto Member

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    As a new-again film user, I couldn't agree more. If you are shooting, let other people take a picture or two. I carry a camera just about everywhere with me and find that people are very curious. I always offer people people to give it a try. Most people tell me that they don't want to waste the film in my camera because "film is expensive." As soon as they release the shutter, they instantly smile. I think letting a stranger burn through a couple frames without looking uptight always reassures people.

    I would also offer to give them advice on where they might buy a camera. Recommend that they go to camera shop you're familiar with. Digital users do everything on the computer these days, especially research and shopping. I think many shoppers have become so accustomed to shopping from their desktop, that they are intimidated by stepping into a physical shop where they'll be "sold" something they don't understand. Obviously, purchasing their first film camera on an auction site can be risky. A camera with a shutter that's off or has light leaks is frustrating enough for most to mentally write off their losses and give up.
     
  24. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I don't think it's an either or proposition

    I don't think it's an either or proposition. The success a photography business is decided whether he or she shoots film or not. There's nothing wrong with a photographer learning both. I think learning analog photography first will improve a photographer's skill. The business of photography has changed and will continue to change. The successful ones will adapt to markets, equipment and technology of photography and film can be part of the equation of success.
     
  25. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    I like Scott's answer the best.
     
  26. z3guy

    z3guy Member

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    Bill,
    Yes, in the commercial world to survive one must use digital.
    Our students cover a wide age range, teen to seniors. Most take it for their own use and those younger ones who do go on in photography realize that to be commercially successful they must do digital, but many continue to use film for their own personal work as they have come to appreciate fine black and white prints.`

    Paul