What are commercial limits for 35mm film photography?
What I wanted to ask about is pretty broad subject (I'm a simple person, so I tackle complex problems easily )
I'm usually on the artistic side of photography, chatting about aesthetics, meaning, communication, visual language, and relations to other works or media. Besides that, I'm living frugal life and I'm working in a different way (typesetting). I don't care about making money with my photos, so I can do what I want within some time frames and budgets, or the lack of it. But I'm trying to imagine how life of a "professional photographer" looks like nowadays. Not the bottom line feeder, not a full time job in advertisement (shooting sausages or weddings or models portfolios are the things I can imagine painfully well). How about a not-so-busy freelance photographer, or a landscape photography enthusiast, like me? I'm thinking if and how it could be possible to mend how I live into something more adventurous (to take the subject really broadly). Or what to avoid to help myself in the future. I know marketing techniques (having galleries online, exhibitions offline, creating a bit of a buzz, publishing albums)... Is there any reasonable way to actually work with 35mm film (that's shooting for money, not with own artistic creation)? Any advantage? (I feel like being banned ASAP for asking this)
What can be and what shouldn't be done with 35mm format? I don't mean creatively, but professionally. Is it reasonable to work (and earn money) in the analog way with 35mm format? How one can "sell" traditional film photography attitude nowadays, where people carry DSLRs that take more photos faster with better quality (raw file has greater contrast range recorded, I think) and can process photos in multiple ways, some of which were unimaginable before the 90s? I believe this idea just has to be treated differently, than just pushing scans on stocks... I'd bankrupt on scanning in no time this way, and any decent scanner is more, than year's worth of my salary.
What are the strong points with the 35mm film? Ethics, I guess, doesn't count where the industry starts. And the fact, that 99% of digital photography should simply be treated like a pollution, whereas we care for every single shot on film. We can't care more, than a guy with a camera hooked to his laptop, taking a closer look rightaway, in second or less. Film doesn't make the image any better or worse (or?), but it looks like a lost battle in terms of both quality and quantity, and we're left behind with our mindfulness as an only virtue. Mindfulness and Velvia.
What are technical limits of 35mm? Again, limits not from creative perspective, but for the industry (whoever buys the images or pays to make some)? I know it would be good enough for a magazine cover if it's not cropped much, but not enough to advertize coffee brand worldwide. I guess it's good and reasonable to make photos on film when I make "not many photos" (which is how I roll with my landscape work), as opposed to taking burst after burst (sport, journalism) and fighting to deliver the photos before anyone else. I hope the age of natgeo-ish surplus is over in our silver world, with the attitude of having "film carrying and loading assistents", using helicopters where it's hard to walk and shooting thousand of photos per hour.
Finally, are there any professional do's and dont's with small format?
I know some already:
As for a "don't", I expect that slide film is pretty much obsolete due to excellent Ektar and Portra color reproduction and fine grain. Or maybe not, and Velvia is the standard sometimes?
As for "do's" - small grain films 90% of the time, best prime lenses one can buy, accurate exposures, light covers, moderately tight framing (my 92% coverage focusing screen seems to cheat plastic scanning frames in the right way), best scanners (not flatbed), good archiving startegies (light-tight boxes to store color materials, avoiding moisture and dust). And making plenty of quality photos (isn't it against the medium?).
But what I know is from creative standpoint, I don't know how the other side rolls and what they may expect, want or demand to see.
Final rant: I have a feeling, that what I ask is not the question, that should be answered. I hope you're wiser than I am.
Last edited by q_x; 05-18-2013 at 04:47 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Use the Force, Luke!
Can you simplify your question?
Originally Posted by q_x
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”
Profitable commerce requires a salable product.
Salable products are typically well defined and designed to suit an equally well defined market that is willing and able to buy the product.
So, the question you need to answer is "can you find and get access to a market that is willing and able to buy your prints at a profitable price?"
When you can answer yes, sure you can make money.
Until you find and get access to "that" market, no matter how good your work is, your "business" will struggle.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
35mm films like Ektar or Velvia/Provia have resolution comparable to a modern full frame DSLR, so if you're happy with the resolution of that DSLR, you can likely be happy with film.
As for technical limits, depends on your standards really, same as digital.
For me, the strong points of 35mm is small size of cameras, for other uses, I prefer medium format.
For "industry", I would imagine it varies wildly. Some publications are happy use to mobile phone photos, and some will demand perfection, and there will be everything in between.
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Few commercial photographers shot 35mm, in fact those I knew didn't own any 35mm cameras. 35mm was mainly used professionally by newspaper photographers and amateurs.
I mainly shot 35mm colour slide and B&W at rock concerts, and snapshots on E4 later E6 films. You couldn't compete with people using 120 and LF with a 35mm camera where it was practical to use a larger format..
Before I moved to MF & a couple of years later LF (1976) I was shooting portraits commercially on 35mm but these were more environmental portraits, people in their natural surroundings.
That was then, now it's very different, some of the work I do can't easily be done on film - the specialist films went a few years ago (and I don't want to experiment again). Clients want digital files quickly, no delays while negataives are processed and scanned, and I always do my own processing and after shooting a rock concert would do a C41 and E6 run the next day. There's a lot of work involved and that cuts potential earnings. So in my case I decided if they need fast digital results then an all digital work flow was the best option.
That leaves more time for shooting personal work and some commercial work on film, and I much prefer film.
When you're stuck with lemons, sell lemonade.
When famed pioneer film director Cecil B. DeMille learned his first film feature was all underexposed, he sold it as "Rembrandt lighting."
35mm went out of fashion years ago for commercial use; commercial (ad studios, fashion, sports etc.) is dominated by digital. Wedding pros have commonly invested in the high-end $45,000+ Hasselblads. I watched a pro working one of these amazing beasts recently (leased equipment) capturing magnificent night sky shots flawlessly. Doing that on film is far, far more interesting, fun and educational, and of course you see reciprocity failure in all its ruddy glory. Love it. But swing to the other side where people want things now, not in four hour's time and you have to consider the edge that digital work has over analogue. And the fact that the analogue pro market is several orders of magnitude smaller than the beast in the digital spectrum.
You must have that WOW! factor in your work. Truth be told, even at quite sensible enlargements with quality optics and careful exposure, 35mm doesn't cut it that much alongside medium format, allowing or requiring, as it does, an understanding of precise judgement-based metering far removed from poking around with fancy matrix/evaluative displays.
Nobody would buy my Ilfochrome Classic prints shot on 35mm now. They turn around and see the better hybridised prints from MF, with better contrast, outstanding clarity, sharpness and tone. But 35mm is great for personal use, for fulfilling a desire to produce quality work at the relatively least expensive end of things and for travel, when one lens can cover all eventualities. Work within your capacity and understanding for shooting quality work and you never know, people may take a shine to you and actually buy it.
Thanks for your support!
If I could break it down, I would. Sorry
Originally Posted by cliveh
I guess it's the point here. Thanks for this simple (yet very effective) explanation, even though it leaves me in the dark, at least I know there's a point trying.
Originally Posted by markbarendt
What I'm interested in mostly, is buyer's perspective. What market may or will demand.
One deal is "lemme put your shots in our mag", but it's another when you hear "We'd like to purchase your photos from this two sessions. Please provide us with three full resolution unretouched samples to evaluate". What I was asking for is an advice how not to screw the second situation ahead of the time. of course "it depends", but are there any things to keep in mind all the time? How to make such a situation happen in the first place? Looks like after 10 or 15 years of digital revolution it's not easy already.
Originally Posted by thegman
That doesn't sound optimistic at all. But I admire your honesty here. There are times where trying harder simply can't be good enough, this is how I understand it.
Originally Posted by Ian Grant
I've got a reply to the other thread I've started, asking for an FSU rangefinder selection - not for serious work, for making my romantic art. And I got a reply there to get my hands on 4x5 camera first. Now I see the point (and I think I could make a camera like that myself, what an adventure it would be!).
I get the point. I have no troubles making big prints out of compact cameras myself. No one buys it, cause I haven't tried to sell it. What are your arguments for using film, i mean in detail? Where you see this "step up"? In quality? I guess it's not ease of cooperation with modern photo printing services.
Originally Posted by Alan Klein
What a brilliant point here!
There's an article here on APUG, full of clever sentences, and there's one about luck there.
Originally Posted by Poisson Du Jour
Thanks for yet another real life example. I can see, that geting serious with photography (unlike mural painting, for example, a thing I did while ago as well) requires expensive, modern equipment, at least most of the time. 45k USD is over 15 years of my current salary (just what I've got myself into...). I could work some more, or say "bye bye" to PhD - making it is a lose-lose situation anyway.
Know your stuff. Luck is a nice thing, but a terrifying thing to rely on. It’s like money; you only have it when you don’t need it.
I'm also starting to see, that there's little I don't know already to avoid. And "do's" are medium and large format, which are really expensive to start with and, with 4x5, really expensive to, hmm, "shoot", or rather "work with".
Thank you all for your input!
You can enter medium format for under $1,000. I did. And that was for mint equipment. True, it was once a prohibitively expensive format to work with. Serious photography does not require "expensive, modern equipment" — at any time. APUG members around here are no doubt creating beautiful work with equipment between 20 and 60 years old, possibly much older, their investment being in knowledge and skill honed over time, not fancy equipment. That is the work of artisans who know their stuff and aren't so much carried away with equipment like, for example, Leica, which makes photography seem terribly expensive to people casually viewing it as a hobby. Large format can be expensive (e.g. a Linhof kit will still set you back a few thousand dollies); I avoided it for that purpose, among other reasons. It comes down to your skill in photography, the equipment is secondary, but it defines the shape and form of your work and the breadth of your experience; as with any format, you work with it, much the same as you see the world with your camera, and not just through it.