The Future of Film Photography

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by mamiya7, Apr 7, 2010.

  1. mamiya7

    mamiya7 Member

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    OK, Here goes. This is not a debate as to which medium is best. It is simply a thread to establish where the future of film photography lies. I am a mature student at NESCOT, near Epsom in Surrey, coming to the end of a foundation degree in photography and for my extended study essay, I have decided to investigate what the future of film photography holds in the 21st century digital age, so any thoughts and opinions will be very gratefully received.

    For your information, I very much prefer film photography and shoot with a Mamiya 7 and Hasselblad XPan, as well as a Shen Hao 54 camera. Although it was digital that re-ignited my passion in photography it is film that really inspires me, so much so that I have sold pretty much all of my digital gear except my Panasonic GF-1. I also work for a Canon Pro dealer and Phase One retailer, and even being surrounded by this technology I really feel most comfortable with a film camera as my companion!

    Please let me know your thoughts on the destiny of film photography. For example, is it worth the investment of perhaps several hundreds, even thousands, of pounds in film equipment? Are there future advances to be made in film emulsions and papers? Is film photography still a viable proposition in the commercial arena? Which medium do you prefer (film or digital, and why?)? Are there more advances to be made in scanning and/or printing?

    I look forward to your replies.

    Regards

    Ian
     
  2. DanielStone

    DanielStone Member

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    Ian,

    film still has some uses in the advertising/commercial arena. What I've found from working here in LA as an assistant, in addition to being a current college student, film is slipping. Unfortunately, but true.

    what I've found though, is that film seems to get the most use on editorial projects, or personal work. Being that budgets are getting smaller and smaller by day, clients generally aren't: 1. needing the quality of film, and 2. need/want results faster than film can provide.

    working with DSLR's has become the norm, even for high-end work. Also, the extra time and worry of flying with film(x-rays) is "nil" with digital, since there isn't anything to get damaged. But there are some holdouts, though they are rare, who prefer to shoot on film(when they can). These people are generally the "old timers" who have been shooting for years, and have the know-how, let alone the portfolio, and the TRUST of their clients, to give the client what they want.

    up and comers, like you and me(I'm a photo major), are having a harder time proving that film is still a viable alternative to digital. Some AD's specifically ask for film on some jobs, but now, that's quite rare.

    not to mention the reduction in the amount of quality labs that can process/proof film these days, even in a grand ol' place like LA.

    I'll still continue to shoot film when I can, but given the option of getting a job(and having to shoot digital due to time), I'll shoot digi, just to put money in the bank(and to buy more film :smile:)

    shoot it while you can

    -Dan
     
  3. mark

    mark Member

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    Seems to me that a trip to the library is in order. You will get many many answers here and if I were your professor I would discount everyone of them because there is no valid basis to back up the claims, nor is there a way to prove the validity of the source. Looking at company sales reports and reporting on the actual sales of film and film equipment for stores in your area would make a lot more sense than asking around here

    If you are just looking for validation of your film habit this is definately the place to get it. Spending lots of money on film and film equipment is what we do, and we like it.
     
  4. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Welcome,

    That Ian is all that matters.

    IMO yes.

    IMO "who cares". Technical advancements don't make good art, people do.

    Sure, but this depends on you defining your workflow. The market generally buys the end product, not the manufacturing process.

    Just FYI, digital questions are off topic here at APUG please try these over at http://www.hybridphoto.com/forums/home.php .
     
  5. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

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    Is it going to be popular ever again to the masses? No. It will fall into its niche as an alternative medium. I will continue to use it. I know a number of other people will continue to use it. It will become more specialized in its use and people will use it to perfect a certain look or when super high resolution is required.

    I personally prefer film because the cost of every shot causes me to shoot less than I did when I used the shotgun digital method. Would you rather look at 36 pictures or 600?

    Optical printing is as good as it's going to get (which is very, very good.) Colors look colorful and gloss looks glossy.
     
  6. r1ma

    r1ma Member

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    Leaf through a copy of Outdoor Photography. At least 50% of the pictures were shot on Velvia 50.

    I don't have the data off hand, but a search through Lexis-Nexis or SEC filings would easily get the data: After a decade or so of declining film sales and cutting film lines, sales volumes and revenues have plateaued and in some cases risen from their lows.
     
  7. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    I do not earn my living with photography but I have been active in "fine art" photography for over thirty years and believe there is a place for both film and digital media. Personally, I prefer film which to me permits both wet and dry opportunities for printing as well alternative process such as pt/pd, etc. I can scan negatives. Digital capture and printing provide certain conveniences that film doesn't. My children just gave me a wonderful DSLR and I look forward to incorporating that into my shooting as well. Since I use medium and large format, I suppose I will use the digital when the other is not convenient. I am confident there is a place for both -- some painters use acrylics and some water color and some both. Film won't disappear obviously new technology will be in digital and there will be fewer film choices but there has been a resurgence in large format and at least for now the medium and large format digital equipment is very expensive and out of the price range for most who don't need it for their occupation.
     
  8. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    My view on the future of film

    Hi Ian,
    I think film will be around for a while. The use of film cameras have definitely dropped of due to digital cameras. I think film will be mostly used by art photographers and the rest of the remaining photographers will shoot digital. I work at the art department at the University of California, Davis that still teaches with film cameras. I met some art students that never touched a film camera or even used film until they took a photography course here at UCD. I think a younger generation of photographers that shoot with film will have a greater appreciation for analog photography. I think commercial work won't use much digital because the the work for the most part is disposable photography. If you have plans to do fine art, invest in some film gear. A lot of people are disposing their film cameras so they could buy digital camera gear. I remember when I was in photo school 20 years ago and all the gear that could be had inexpensively today, cost a kings ransom. Besides, film gear never goes obsolete like digital cameras. Good luck.
     
  9. jamesgignac

    jamesgignac Member

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    Ian,
    I'm just starting out my career in photography (event shots, portraits, advertising, photojournalism) and I'm going at it with film. For me it takes the cake and I couldn't see myself doing the work without it. I do, however, have a serious digital background and a lot of my end-products are digital (website content, etc.) - for me it's the love of the equipment which dramatically increases the overall enjoyment that I get out of my work - and believe me it's very easy to become good enough to leave nothing to chance in terms of your results. I just started back into film about a year and a half ago and am not looking back. I will most likely end up shooting digital more in the future but thankfully several of my cameras can take lovely digital backs.

    At this point the quality to cost ratio is on the side of film for me and I will wait until I can afford a 30+ Mp digital back.

    I've thought a lot about where film is going as well before I decided to venture into it - now I just hope I can keep my technique up and don't really have the time to worry about where the markets are headed - I know the quality of my work and to worry about becoming 'obsolete' in someone else's eyes is just a silly waste of time.
     
  10. Donmck

    Donmck Member

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  11. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Ian,

    I use both digital and film. Mainly, I use digital for color and film for B&W. I do my photography this way because I like the result I get both in color and BW this way. I don't know if new advancements are made at this point. Kodak came out with new formulation in Tmax few years ago. I'm sure the rate of advancement has slowed but we must remember, film already is a very mature technology.

    When it comes to investment into equipment, I am not sure if I'd spend thousands but I'd gladly spend hundreds which in turn be multi-thousands in dollars when these equipment were new. I just can't resist getting near top-of-the-line enlarger for $40, professional Nikon for $200, etc. I believe my Mamiya M645Super used to be mid thousands when new. I got it for $250.

    If you buy digital gear, such as top-end Nikon for way over $5000, in few years you'll have much cheaper ones costing in low thousands that are, in many ways, better. Honestly, per-good-image-per-equipment basis, perhaps film photography is less expensive. You don't "machine-gun" film photography either. You carefully compose, and shoot. This is especially true for me in medium format.

    I think it's a personal decision you'll have to make.
     
  12. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    The issue isn't really whether or not a certain number of photographers prefer film, but rather, will there be enough of them to sustain Ilford, Kodak, Fuji, and the lesser known European manufacturers who make it. If they tank, we all do.

    Pictorial photography is coming back strongly, and so are a multitude of alternative processes that are utilized for that purpose, Antipathy to digital button pushing is strong, but the alternatives need to be supported financially.
     
  13. Maris

    Maris Member

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    I reckon "film photography" will re-emerge from the amorphous swamp of contemporary picture making techniques as a premium or ultra-premium medium.

    This will happen when folks realise that "film photography" is the only kind of photography that there really is. Everything else is some kind of painting or drawing whether executed by hand or by a concatenation of looking machines - cameras, thinking machines - computers, and painting machines - printers.

    A long thesis could follow but won't. Searching APUG turns up a lot of illuminating threads.
     
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  15. Alan W

    Alan W Subscriber

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    Super 8 film is still being produced/sold/bought! Imagine that.Film's gonna be around for a while yet,there may be fewer choices but it'll be around.
     
  16. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    the future is not bleak, but like the 1800s
    ... film and papers will be expensive but available
    a lot of people might say " if i have to pay 200$ for a box of paper or a box of film i might as well make my own " ...
    there will probably be a lot more entrepreneurs like mr eastman + mr harman ( pouring and selling dry plates )
    who knows maybe someone may start to sell albumin paper again ...

    i'm kind of looking forward to it
     
  17. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    From what I remember reading not long ago, one of the reasons film was still around was due to the manufacturing of loads of movie film. Now I don't know how that reflects on producing Tmax or Portra or Velvia but I guess it does in some way. (Possibly chemical production?) But the thing is, movie production is moving to digital and 3D and after awhile I think we're going to see it reflect in photographic film production. Be that as it may, labs are still closing and some product is not being produced anymore whether film or chemicals or paper. So, I think the industry will continue to contract and it's really what happens in the economy and how many people go out and spend money and use product that will either sustain or spell the death knell for the industry, outside the alternative and perhaps hobbyist market if anything is left.
     
  18. DennisGrieder

    DennisGrieder Member

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  19. archer

    archer Member

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    Dear Ian;
    As you may know, Patrick Lord Litchfield is a convert to digital and has for the past few years tried to convince Anthony Lord Snowden, (the former Anthony Armstrong Jones), to switch to digital. It is my understanding from conversations with mutual friends that Tony has written some very well thought out reasons why he believes that film still has a future. You might want to contact Lord Snowden and ask his opinion, in your quest for information.
    Denise Libby
     
  20. Willie Jan

    Willie Jan Member

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    Maybe you also can aks yourself if digital photography will exists in 10 years time.
    The new dslrs have video capabilities and what you do is film and take the frame out that you like the most...

    Analog photography will become more and more an art just like painting and sculpturing in the future.
    The general view market doesn't care for quality, only a small group of people will see the difference and get excited about this.
    So you make photos for this little group. A second problem is that you will have to go to an exhibition to see the actual quality. A website shows crap if you compare it with the original.
    And that gives you another problem. Galleries here (Holland) do not have a lot with anlog photography at this time, if you are famous it's no problem, but the unknown man does not get anything from the ground.....
     
  21. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    It's the same with music. Most people are happy to put up with harsh sounding MP3 downloads because they are more convenient whereas musicians passionate about their music are creating CDs and vinyl albums using vintage recording equipment.


    Steve.
     
  22. Marc Leest

    Marc Leest Member

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    Whether film still exists in the foreseeable future does not only depend on film manufacturers but it also depends on camera manufacturers. As I see the market now, there are not enough NEW entry level cameras(35mm) of adequate quality (commenting out Holgas and Diana toy cameras).
    More, it is my personal and strong belief that the digital SLR will disappear from the market (in favour of EVIL technology - this requires other lensdesign than (D) SLRS, so compatibilty will be lost). With other words, not every (new) analog photographer wants to start with secondhand gear, and not willing to invest in LF gear.

    -m-
     
  23. Mats_A

    Mats_A Member

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    I agree with Marc. For us "old people" it doesn't matter that the equipment is used. But sooner or later we will run out of Nikons and Canons from 1980-1990. What then?
    Or will there be enough film users for Nikon or Canon to make a new film SLR. Rip out the sensor from a D700 and put in a film back. Hey presto! You have a very nice camera that will not depreciate like a cows rump. Ken R (he who must not be mentioned) is spot on in one of his articles where he writes about digital rot. A four year old DSLR is worthless because the digitals inside. An F6 costs about the same today as when it came it. No digital rot.

    r

    Mats
     
  24. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    I am a Professor. Bravo to the student who goes the extra mile with research. It's one thing to pour over the books, it is another to speak to people who are doing what you are studying. You will learn more about reality talking to people than you will from books.
     
  25. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    My plans? I am going to keep going full ahead with film ONLY :smile:D) forever. I don't plan to invest thousands in gear though I would like to. I am going to keep shooting black and white for the rest of my life even if when I am an old man it comes down to find a way to coat it myself and I will shoot color as long as it is here. I will also keep going the purist style with all optical and when I can no longer have color optical prints I will shoot even less color than I do now and I will NEVER give up an optical black and white print. I hope to help keep it alive just like the rest of us here. I also plan to keep using the ImPossible films even though they may rip a hole in my pocket. That is where I am headed :smile:
    You have said you work for a Canon dealer etc. but still prefer shooting your films. I am somewhat in the same boat. I have plenty of freinds that love photography too. All they will pick up is digital because it is so easy for them and I take a lot longer then they do and they sometimes have to wait for me...It doesn't stop me though and certianly doesn't make me want to pick up digital. I only think to myself. If they were only capturing some of there stunning images the real way on film..........
     
  26. AmsterdamMartin

    AmsterdamMartin Member

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    I guess film is here to stay, for instructional purposes.
    Try the Nikon FM-10, I love it.

    Or as an emergency backup, indepent of electricity, computers (In Nazi-concentration camps people managed to take photographs, bury the film and secretly dug them up many years later when the same area's where under communist rule).
    My oldest forgotten exposed film was one I found 16 years after: http://www.flickr.com/photos/martinheinsius/4362249897/
    It is Kodak TMax 100, and I saw light differences with directly processed films (It was stored at various locations in many houses and storage boxes and went through 16 extremly hot-very cold cycles during the years (how many daily cycles !).

    Also it is a reliable archival method, until we have definite ways to secure data for hundreds of years to come. Speeds, standards etc.

    Film can be marketed as some kind of handcrafted form of art.

    Soon digital cameras can probably replicate any kind of photography in an indistinguishable manner.
    But maybe some day you can put a sensor in the back of your analog camera !
    The old cameras will as good as the most modern ones, with all present day DSLR's being totally obsolete.
    Or a new type of film will be invented.

    photography for me is: looking, seeing, imagining, composition, focus, diafragm, shutter, data collection medium and some way to print when needed, on some other type of medium, and finally doing something with it.
    I love film, especially silver-halide, but for me it is one factor in the whole process.
    A very nice one though, combined with the way to print and tone.