Attempting a change in workflow back to using film
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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....
The City of Industry!?? Dang. There's your problem...
Originally Posted by bo eder
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 Ken Nadvornick; 11-30-2010 at 12:40 AM. Click to view previous post history.
"Some photographers are the poets of purple mountains' majesty. Some are the poets of the placid suburbs. Weegee is the poet of small-timers who died face down on a city pavement at 3 a.m. in a pool of their own blood."
— Richard Lacayo, Photography: Dames! Stiffs! Mugs!, Time Magazine, January 12, 1998
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....
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.
Originally Posted by bo eder
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.
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'.
my real name, imagine that.