True Beauty: Film or Digital Photography?

Film photography started out with Daguerrotypes in 1939. The first photographic image transferred via metal compounds to develop, stop and fix the image to plates. They formed the photographic image out of the alloy of Mercury or Silver but can use the Becquerel process to avoid using Mercury. Other compounds such as silver bromide and silver chloride were used in the process of Daguerrotypes to create an image that looked like it was “floating”. From using plates to fix photographs to from Camera Obscura to fixing them to paper. Henry fox Talbot used the idea of silver chloride and salt solution to process negatives onto paper called the “calotype”, which worked, making it a revolution in the development of photographical works. Most photographs that were produced before the first plastic film was brought out where using the dry plates process which was a mixture of gelatin and silver bromide to develop the photograph and use commercially. The first method of film photography was made by Kodak allowing negatives to be produced on plastic rolls. This then came the development of adding, subtracting and producing colour photographs over the years which many found a more accurate way of documentation. William Eggleston being one of the photographers to present colour film in all its glory with simplistic photographs that showed vibrant and raw colour bring more emotional value to photographs and compositional value.

Some of the great film photographers include: Ansel Adams (landscape), Sabastio Selgado (documentary), Helmut Newton (fashion), David Bailey (fashion), Dorothea Lange (documentary/portrait), William Eggleston (documentary) and Martin Parr (documentary). The photographs that these people and many more like them produced are pieces in history that will be remembered for year and years to come. They fascinate the minds of youngsters and older generations with their stimulus of conversational value and analytical capability.

Some pros and cons about film photography:

  • Batteries last a long time
  • Focusing and start-up are very quick, no delays all manually done.
  • Editing is difficult and a darkroom is required.
  • Once film has been exposed it cannot be used again
  • There is always an original hard copy of exposed film on negatives to keep as collections.

Medium format was the next generation of film to be produced. This meant that photographers could use a larger scale of photo on a 135mm film roll to produce just over the 35mm frame unit. This brought mass opertunity to photographers and filmographers over the centuries to come. Now a  days you can have the digital backs on cameras to produce a medium format and film cameras have the option to scan the photographic negatives into the computer to digitalise them. With producing medium format on the film camera then poses the option of photographic editing on a computer monitor stripping the original photograph of its former natural beauty.

Digital imagery was not invented and released until 1981. Sony where the first to produce the first prototype camera, this was the Mavica. The camera captured images as magnetic impulses on two compact floppy disks, one recording light/luminocity and the other recording colours or chrominance. With both disks 720,000 pixel images could be stored in field or frame mode which allowed 25 – 50 images to be stored upon each disk. The first full digital camera was brought out in 1990, produced by Logitech called the Dycam Model 1. The camera stored 32 compress images on to a 1MB RAM 376×240 pixel card. It had an 8mm Lens, shutter speeds between 1/30 and 1/1000 along with a build in flash unit. This was the genius camera that users had to connect to a PC to transfer the images onto the PC monitor to view. From the time the Dycam came out photography has seen a huge development in the production of digital cameras and the software to go with them. Now you can pick up Digital cameras anywhere in a shop and get the standard lens fitting, maybe a few filters, built in flash unit, cable to connect to the PC all for a small price. Also, with the development of the camera it has developed the software a camera can use, from file viewer and image edit to Photoshop CS5, Dreamweaver etc.

Some of the greatest digital photographers that worked with digital format are Nan Goldin, Jeff Wall, Robert Gober and many more. These photographers that use colour really bring out the essence that digital photography has to offer and even when in monochrome the photographs still look eye-catching and inspiring. The digital photographers from the 1980s to the present day really show some of the issues that photography has overcome from the past.
Also digital photography is a worldwide used medium now and it is almost a necessity to have a digital camera on you whether it be a small point-and-shoot, a DSLR or a phone camera.

Pros and cons about digital photography:

  • Batteries are not worth the money, rechargeable is the best option.
  • Editing is easy to do on a computer and can be done several times on one photograph.
  • Delay on shutter release and capture depending on mode of focus.
  • Photographs can be viewed straight away and deleted if not liked.
  • Once a memory card is full images can be transferred then wiped from the card.

Over the years of developing the photographic form of art has come a lot of technological changes. Although in modern day society there is a wide range of photographic equipment that can be purchased to enhance and change the photographic image when taken straight from the camera. When film photography was at its peak the editing techniques of the photographs were limited. There was only a few camera accessories that could be used with specific types of films such as filters where used to change certain aspects of the photograph. However, most of the difference in photographs took place in darkrooms under red lighting using chemicals to develop the film.

The digital age of photograph imposes more than just editing techniques such as changing the colours of the photograph and the lightness. There are many more things you can do to photographs, some require skill and some are set out on the photo editing software. There are techniques from “curves” changing the lighting of the photograph to completely transforming the photograph into a pinch or animation. The possibilities with digital photography in the modern age are that you can do anything with them, and I mean anything with the right knowledge and skill on the computers.

Most computers now-a-days come with an already installed basic editing software programme on it allowing people to put photographs from phones camera etc onto them and thus able to edit them straight away. The medium format cameras allowed film photographs to be digitalised into the computer and then edited for desired effects. The true effect of beauty in a photograph is being completely misconstrued to society….making something so tragic and sad that effects millions look a million dollars and beautiful once edited. Photography being mediated so much across all platforms is almost brainwashing the public into thinking the idealistic view of beauty is something that is silky smooth and has no blemishes. Magazines, Television, Books, Films, Internet are all culprits in the mediation of perfection and what society should look like in the 20thcentury. With all the modern age ways to change photography from what it once was into what it is today I pose the question to you….. Is the development of photography getting so great that it is allowing us to manipulate the documentation of society so that it looks sugar coated and perfect so we do not really see what is there?

My opinion on the transition from film photography to digital is something of a revolution. Looking at film cameras and digital and seeing the difference the Digital camera has optimised the main faults with the film camera. However, the film camera personally gives a better image beauty to me. Having a film photograph in its true form with no editing placed over the top of it and exposing it to the quality you want it. It personally has more of an emotional touch with you as the photographer, whereas, in digital photography you can replicate an image so many times and edit it in different desired ways, which brings out a more commercial look and feel to the audience. Film is more authentic, rather than a plastic gimmick as I feel a digital photograph is. I also personally think that there is more skill required in using film photography than there is digital as most things are manual on a film camera which makes the photographer think more in depth about the type of shot they want to get as an end result. A digital camera now has settings on the top button that you can change to get a different type of image, along with pre-sets in the main menu of the camera itself such as portrait, landscape, monochrome, standard etc. I mainly work in digital due to the film for my film camera being expensive. I hope to get an old Polariod camera to take snap shots of daily life and document them in a scrap book so that I can work with film more and get a better feel for it as I have not had the opportunity since leaving university. I work with a Canon 400D SLR and I have an Autographic A3 made by Kodak that I am itching to use but it needs a few repairs.

please post ideas and comments below, would love to hear what you think.



2 responses to “True Beauty: Film or Digital Photography?

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