Recently there is no topic that creates as much impassioned
conversation when it is discussed among photographers.
In the current Wedding Bells magazine, there is
an article that describes the total digital transformation
of three photographers including Monte Zucker
(the famous portraitist), Jeff Hawkins (a Florida
photographer) and Denis Reggie (who many would
consider the father of documentary wedding photography).
There are impassioned supporters of both film
and digital. As a photographer who has used film
for over twenty years and digital for the last
six years, I would have to say that, at the time
of this writing, it¹s just about a dead heat.
At least fairly recently (the last two years
and especially this past year), film did surpass
the quality of digital capture, in my opinion.
Film does still handle certain situations better
than digital, but for all practical purposes,
they will both produce professional results IN
THE HANDS OF A PROFESSIONAL.
Some of these professionals are 100% digital
(i.e. David Beckstead or Denis Reggie) while others
still prefer film only or a combination of the
two. (I still like to shoot a little 3200 Kodak
Tmax for the look it gives).
Digital, though, is revolutionizing the photographic
industry in a way that has been nothing short
of astounding. It is here in the present and will
be down the road. And like computers, it will
only get better, faster and cheaper (at least
the cost of the tools).
When researching a photographer who shoots digitally
it is important to discern if that photographer
is relatively new to the technology or has been
using it for a longer period of time (and thus
should have the bugs worked out).
Examine photographs made by the photographer
using digital capture. Most likely, that photographer
will have work that was also captured with film.
Compare them and see if you can tell the difference.
When I discuss digital vs. film with prospective
couples these days, I find much less resistance
than I did a year ago. Couples are usually pretty
technologically savvy and often follow the developments
in our industry, at least on the periphery.
Any opposition some might have to digital goes
away when I show them images that are captured
on digital (on a Canon 1d - 4.1 megapixel chip
camera) that are quite large (14 x 22 full bleed
in an 11 x 14 inch album) .
They also see many images that have been captured
on film, though scanned. Some folks are able to
notice the differences, but most really don¹t
What they care about are the images and the feelings
that they capture and evoke. That¹s really
what it comes down to and the main reason we are
Digital does, though, offer several advantages
to the photographers while working.
1) The ability to see the image right away. This
is my favorite reason for using digital capture.
It gives me a level of comfort because I can see
if my lighting, expression, exposure, etc. are
correct right away rather than wait to see the
film back from the lab in a few days.
2) The ability to change the ISO ( or the equivalent
of film speed) on the fly. This allows the photographer
to go in and out of a myriad of lighting situations
without having to suddenly change film to match
the light levels from place to place at a wedding.
3) A virtually unlimited number of photographs
can be captured at an event. This can be the boon
and the bane of the photographers¹ existence,
though, because if you shoot them, you've got
to edit them. But it frees the photographer from
thinking "I can only shoot 10, 12 or whatever
number of rolls of film at this event in order
to keep it within budget."
4) The ability to make black and white and sepia
toned photographs from the digital capture. When
one shoots digitally (unless they are capturied
in a black and white only mode on the Fuji S2)
every photograph can become a black and white
and/or sepia image. Parents may want an image
in color, the couple may want to have it in black
5) Digital workflow. Many photographers now offer
what is often called a magazine style (or flush
mounted) album. Images shot on film would have
to be scanned in order to produce this type of
album. While it is totally doable, it adds time
and another step in the process. Digital capture
elimnates the scanning and often the time spent
dust spotting the scan made from negatives. (Though
I know of a very talented photographer -- George
Weir, who is a WEDDING PHOTOJOURNALIST ASSOCIATION
member -- who prefers film and has his images
scanned to disk to allow him to still post images
online and then create images for his lab. He
has created a digital workflow without using digital
capture and is very pleased with the results).
6) Freedom to experiment. This is a corollary
to reason one. I will often shoot images that
I would not even try with film because I know
I will be able to erase it if it doesn't work
and modify it because I'll be seeing the results
I was on a foreign trip last year and stuck in
the bus on a rainy day. I literally pointed the
camera out the window and just made some exposures
just for the fun of it. And it was fun! Some of
those images were totally unexpected and I would
not have "wasted" film on it. But because
I had the immediate feedback I could see what
was working, modify it as I shot and make some
Despite all the buzz about film vs. digital what
it gets right down to when selecting a photographer
are the images and personality.
Do you like the feel and the style of the images
that the photographer shows? Do you LIKE the photographer?
Do you trust him or her? Do they exude confidence
about the work they do and the tools that they
use? Do they have raving fans who will share testimonials
By PAUL F. GERO - The
Wedding Photojournalist Association
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