I’ve passionately expressed my preference for film photography over digital images. It’s no secret that I’ve held reservations about digital images, often attributing my discontent to the over-saturated market and abundance of digital cameras. However, recent weeks have prompted me to delve into the fundamental differences between digital and film photography. Although digital cameras boast significantly higher resolutions than film, with sensors capable of capturing over 50 megapixels compared to film’s typical 17 megapixels for a 35mm frame (even higher for medium and large-scale formats), my perspective has shifted. This transformation centers on the concepts of objectivity and subjectivity in photography.
While I could easily pen an entire book on this subject, today I’ll break it down quickly. Digital cameras meticulously record every nuance in a RAW file, patiently awaiting a creative touch during editing. The result is a clinical, static representation that faithfully encapsulates every detail in the image. It’s incredibly sharp, tonally accurate, and color balanced—ready for printing in such high resolution that some printers struggle to do justice to the image. On the contrary, images captured on film, whether negative or positive, possess a softer, less precise quality creating a subjective image rather than an objective, highly detailed image.
Film embraces imperfections, imbuing images with character and, most importantly, offering a subjective canvas for interpretation by the viewer. Each film photograph is a distinct and unparalleled creation. As an artist, I hold subjective information in higher regard than objective data, as this medium fulfills a role that the other cannot replicate.
Subjective film photography’s allure surpasses objective digital data’s appeal. Both have virtues, yet my preference lies in subjectivity, making film my chosen medium for artistic expression.
Subjective film photography is more interesting than objective digital information, but both digital and film have their merits. I prefer subjectivity, so film is my choice of media to attempt to create art.
The skillful craft of film photography has become nearly extinct, replaced by the ordinary, excessively vibrant, excessively manipulated, and uninspiring image that now dominates the realm of photography. Regrettably, society has embraced this as a form of art. It is disheartening because the technical expertise, compositional mastery, astute use of lighting, and imaginative vision that were once inherent in the creation of an image have been supplanted by the excessively praised and repetitive digital image, which, as eloquently stated by Helmut Newton, “has no guts.”
In the realm of visual expression, the film camera stands as the embodiment of philosophical depth. The digital camera has its place in detailed, objective images. Both are tools, conduits through which narratives flow, emotions converge, and reflections stir. The dichotomy between them transcends notions of superiority; instead, it beckons us to explore the distinct essence that each imparts upon our perceptual canvas.