Is it possible to be a pro and not use digital today?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Ara Ghajanian, Jun 12, 2006.

  1. Ara Ghajanian

    Ara Ghajanian Member

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    So, do you think it's possible to be a professional photographer in 2006 (and beyond) and not use a digital camera? Let's put our analog emotions aside and use our common sense. Obviously, there is no way around having to have your film scanned, but is digital capture absolutely necessary? Do you think there are enough clients who respect film for you to be able to stay afloat financially? Could you have a predominantly analog workflow with an occassional digital rental? I'd like to know your opinion of any of these questions. Does anyone have direct experience with this?

    Personally, (once again, I'm being objective) because most clients have become so used to seeing images immediately, that this is no longer possible. I did a photoshoot for my company using my Blad and some rented lenses. The results were scanned professionally and blown up on to display boards of 14"x48" with breathtaking results. The detail was unbelievable sharp. I have a super critical eye and I was impressed by the results. No one cared how I shot it or what the resolution was. Yet, just last week we shot with this "hack" photographer with an outdated digicam and everyone at the shoot ooo-ed and ah-ed when the crappy images came up on his outdated Powerbook. This is what we're up against.

    Feel free to hijack this post with your own questions relating to the main subject. I want to know exactly how you feel about the future of professional analog photography.
    Ara
     
  2. roteague

    roteague Member

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    I think the business is changing, but there are photographers who make a living with just film, but even that number is getting fewer and fewer. We live in a McDonalds society, we want everything now, even if the quality is less.
     
  3. jovo

    jovo Membership Council

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    I would guess that architectural photographers will be the last to abandon film. Movements are crucial to their work in ways that photoshop can't really address successfully. True, scanning backs can be used instead of film on view cameras, but still I think that kind of work will remain traditional for a long time to come.
     
  4. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    I am a working pro and don't use digital and am doing quite well for myself shooting my 35mm, MF and LF gear, in fact customers put effort out to locate me BECAUSE I do shoot film...

    R.
     
  5. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    this is right on the money ...
     
  6. battra92

    battra92 Member

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    I think it depends on what you do. If you say, shoot weddings, why not? I know of a couple wedding photographers who use 35mm and/or MF. So long as there are labs that do it, and you aren't working for a newspaper ... why not?
     
  7. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    I actually do quite a bit of work for the newspaper here locally as well, but I have th ability to process and scan all of my own films and don't have to depend on a lab if I don't wish to, at worse I drop a roll at the lab, have the negs in about 20 minutes and run through their film scanner, still get work from them, especially color stuff.

    R.
     
  8. Ara Ghajanian

    Ara Ghajanian Member

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    Yeah, newspapers I can understand. When you're printing at 85 lpi, you could use a cell phone for some photos (kidding).

    The wedding thing is a good point. I was talking to a woman I work with recently who happens to have expensive tastes (she brings her lunch to work in either a Nordstroms or Saks Fifth Avenue bag), and she stated that for her wedding they specifically chose a photographer who shoots film because they felt digital was like a bargain item and film was done by a skilled pro. There's still hope.

    Being a graphic designer, the industry I'm most in touch with professionally is commercial product photographers. Almost all of their shots are placed into layouts, so for them digital is the shortest and most convenient road.
    Ara
     
  9. Derek Lofgreen

    Derek Lofgreen Subscriber

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    There is a good thread on this at Photo District News http://www.pdngallery.com/cgi-bin/ubb/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=5;t=002066

    From what I can tell it seems there are plenty of pros using film. Probably more than you think. What is happening is the photo magizines and newsletters are all selling ad space to digital camera makers. So there content will be focused on digital. That's how they sell advertizing. Because of that it appears that "everyone" has made the switch. But in reality a lot of pros are still shooting film, MF and LF especially.

    In the end your images are what you are selling. Digital or film the capture is only the tool used to complete your vision. Market your vision and images and they will pay you for that, not by what your gear is.

    Personaly I never show the client the photos from a digital shoot until I have made color corrections etc. I don't know why photographers feel they need to chimp with the client. The photo isn't done when you press the shutter on a film camer why would it be done on a digital one?

    my 2 cents.

    D.
     
  10. roteague

    roteague Member

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    But, I wonder how much of that is just the McDonalds mentality. With a Jobo processor and film dryer it is possible to go dry-to-dry (unprocessed to processed) in about an hour. A used Imacon scanner to scan the trannies, and depending upon the number of shots, you could be talking about less than 2 hours of processing time.
     
  11. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    I have to agree, when shooting a story for the news here, I normally can have my stuff in the layout, pretty much as quick as the digital guys can..I guess it just comes down to how much effort you want to put out, I don't find my film workflo anymore cumbersome than the guys shooting digital..

    R.
     
  12. Ara Ghajanian

    Ara Ghajanian Member

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    I agree. I have a feeling the photographer had such little faith in his own talent that he had to see every shot after he took it to make sure they were okay. From what I saw, most of them weren't. Plus, he gave me uncorrected files on disk. I am sitting here right now touching up all the dust that was on his sensor.
    Ara
     
  13. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    Many of us that are Fine Art Photographers including nature, landscape, and wildlife photographers including people like roteague and myself shoot transparencies. We scan the work, but do not shoot images digitally. And we are professionally selling our work. But, we may be in a minority at this point.

    Rich
     
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  15. roteague

    roteague Member

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    I would venture to say that there are very few labs left that optically print color prints any more.
     
  16. Cooki

    Cooki Member

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    In the company I work for we have about twenty printers in 6 labs and there is only one optical printer left, it's kind of interesting being in the only store with optical, we get a fair number of pros who bring their stuff to our lab specifically for that reason.
    Cooki
     
  17. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    Good afternoon Ara Ghajanian,

    The PDN Forums is one place you can read about film usage amongst professionals, and some threads newer than the one pointed out above are still ongoing. The PDN magazine also has articles on some working professionals who use film, as does Picture magazine. However, there is a digital capture or perish mentality that happens too often in publications, probably because their advertisers want to push the latest gear.

    This issue is often polarized and politicized, and I am a bit surprised at the well thought out responses so far at APUG; it is a welcome change. Unfortunately, this newsgroup forum began as the anti-thesis of too many other digital forums, many of which are populated by clueless amateurs making wild claims. One exception is the Large Format Forum, which gets a nice mix of responses, though overwhelmingly film users.

    Defining which professional might show more of how profits are still possible using film, and often quite good profits. There is less need to turn over most of your equipment every 18 months, like too many cutting edge (bleeding edge) photographers are doing. A wedding professional should be able to still use film and meet their clients expectations. A remote location photojournalist needing to send news images via satellite uplink probably cannot do much with film. However, it should be noted that in the annual World Press Photos competition, 12% to 22% of images submitted in the last few years were still on film, and that is from working photojournalists.

    Your mention of product photography is a different realm. The needs of very high volumes and fast turnaround created some production environments using the newest technologies. There is also an issue of outsourcing, such as an article in PDN recently about much of the furniture photography industry having product photography done in China, near where a great deal of furniture is made. Large products still seem to benefit from film imaging, so automotive or architectural professional photographers should be able to continue with film usage.

    Fine art photographers are a very separate group of professionals, and I would think one of the largest group of film users in the professional community. Selling individual prints seems to not need much of the immediate feedback during capture, nor much need to manipulate images later. Obviously, there are exceptions, and some of those people write articles or run workshops, so they might be influencing some people.

    Commercial imaging involved in advertising or corporate work can still benefit from using film, and there are some professionals still making good money that way. When your book is shown to art directors or art buyers, there is no mention of what gear created each image. The results are the emphasis, as I think it should be. Many of these potential clients might want image files delivered to them, rather than film, but they rarely care if you started out capturing to film. This is largely how I work, though I almost hate to mention it here. I would more encourage people who want to figure out how to profit from a film workflow in advertising or corporate work to visit PDN, or the Large Format Forum.

    As to film usage, my local lab tells me they have seen a drop in E-6 35mm, an increase in E-6 4x5 usage, and about the same level of roll film in C-41 or E-6. I still shoot musicians in 35mm, even using some B/W films. I also do some advertising related images in 35mm, though the majority are roll film or 4x5; mostly it depends upon the final printing sizes. My editorial work can still be done mostly on 35mm. I don't do any stock photography. I do fine art photography on film, but my sales there are only a little better than break even.

    I don't understand the mentality of photographers that some might give a client images at the end of a shoot. Even if it is technically possible, it is not a good work practice. As a professional, you create magic in the images. Show a client everything, then they will see your not so good images; soon your clients might get the idea they can just buy a camera and do it themselves. Editing is a skill, and any client should only see your best images.

    Finally, I have been asked by a few clients why I don't capture digitally. Rather than relate that here, let's just state that film still gets the job done, and quite well. I have also been asked a few times: what camera should I buy to take photos like you, to which I state the one with me behind it. Like a few people in this profession, I see cameras just as tools, though the film choices are like choosing different paints.

    Ciao!

    Gordon
     
  18. JJC

    JJC Member

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    I've recently begun having photos printed by Praus Productions (from negatives). They do traditional processing, and, on my photos, the results look better than prints from scanned negatives.
     
  19. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    It depends on what your doing and who your doing it for, so you have to be prepared for no matter what. It's like having a hammer along with your wrenches in the toolbox. I personally couldn't compete price wise with my friend doing digital wedding shoots if shooting film unless I wanted to make less, but then, I may not have to have Photoshop, and a larger drive, faster computer and calibrated monitor etc. I might have to pay extra for dodging and burning by the lab and may pay more per print against a inkjet, but it's a tossup either way. It may come down to other factors required by the customer or circumstances/ In the end, keeping up with the technical aspect of creating pictures digitally keeps me learning and up with the state of the art no matter my preference. It's fun to work in and bs about all of it.
     
  20. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    It is, of course, impossible to distribute and deliver your photography digitally, unless you use some portion of the digital workflow.

    I took the question to mean "Is it possible to be a pro and not use (some) digital today?"

    I think that if you are even just maintaining a website with examples of your work, or sending scanned "proofs" to a client, you are using some digital, but you are using it in a way that takes advantage of a facet of digital workflow which is particularly advantageous and generally limited to digital only - it permits the rapid delivery of usable images, as well as sharing those images, almost instantaneously, amongst multiple viewers, in multiple locations.

    If the photographic world had evolved in a more rational fashion, analogue and digital might co-exist better. We might be able to comfortably rely on the continuing availability of film and optical printing, because of the quality, and qualities that they offer, while still choosing, if we are so inclined, to provide the additional or new services that digital makes possible.

    It is not particularly distressing to me that your average snapshot processor scans and prints digitally - it may actually reduce the amount of handling of negatives, and snapshot processors were often not so great at handling negatives before digital came along. The problem is that the professional market has always relied heavily on the lower prices that were an offshoot of the high volume amateur market, and when that market changed, the professional photofinishing market had to either change with it, or accept markedly higher costs. We now see the results of the choices that were made.

    Matt
     
  21. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    I'm a prof shooter and only use film -- yes, it's possible. I do portrait work, some fine art work, some commercial work, and the occasional wedding. I'm 100% film capture, and all my work is fiber hand-printed stuff. The only digital that comes into play for me is scanning to put stuff on the web.

    -- CJ
     
  22. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    I don't deny digital, I have a nice cd digital and I consider it to be a "tool". I have a hand saw and a cabinet makers table saw. Both are "tools". Sometimes just a hand saw will to but for professional work I use the table saw. I use what is necessary for the purpose at hand. I wouldn't use digital for display prints but I don't dictate that everyone do the same. I think that film photography needs to be the best it can be, it's future rests on how it is perceived. If it is seen as superior then it will continue to move forward. If digital is seen as superior then no amount of darkroom work will help. Not everyone likes the stink of fixer on their hands. How many people wouldn't give up their horse for one of those loud cars? How many people got rid of the horse for something they could park in the front of the house and not feed house and cleanup after the horse? There are always people who want the newer technology and "ease" of use. Analog film photographers have billions of dollars of ad out there pushing digital photography. Even the photo magazines are now hybrid mags. Noting last forever though, enjoy it while it lasts.

    How about a million photographer walk to promote the continuance of film photography?
     
  23. Gary Holliday

    Gary Holliday Member

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    I walked into a dodgy high street portrait studio for a nosey and listended to the sales girl speak to a potential client,
    "Don't worry it's all done digitally so we can remove any blemishes."

    So how can I compete with that? How do I convince a client that she doesn't need those bags under her eyes removed? That other photographer gives me all the photographs on a CD so I can print them out at home. I hate high street studios with a passion.

    Any designers will need a digital file as all their software is obviously digital. Bands will want a digital file for their website.

    We can shoot in film, but we need to be prepared to deliver a digital file if required. Go out and buy a scanner!
     
  24. BruceN

    BruceN Member

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    I know of 2 nearby portrait pros that have gone BACK to shooting film. They both discovered that they were spending way too much time in front of their computers and not enough time shooting. Both of them dusted off their Hassies and returned to film. I bought them drinks and said "I told you so."

    Bruce
     
  25. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    Gary, that is your problem, you are trying to compete with them, you need to break out your indiviuality as a film photographer and explain to the client why, just as the digital photographer does, I don't even try to compete with them, I have my own nich.

    R.
     
  26. Gary Holliday

    Gary Holliday Member

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    I think my final print is as individual as I can get and no tacky high street studio can compete with what I produce. But does Miss Spot on her Nose care?