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12/24/2009 11:49:53 PM · #1
You know, that stuff hardly anyone shoots anymore? :)

Most of you here know that I am in school learning Graphic Design. My questions are these:

Is it worth it to go back and learn more about film and film cameras and darkroom processing?

See, I have these options at school. I can go and mess around in a darkroom for a semester or I can go learn the more advanced side of digital. Should I do both? Is there any benefit to learning basic film processing and film camera operation or would I just be wasting time?

Discuss :)
12/24/2009 11:54:22 PM · #2
You'd be wasting your time... like people who learned typesetting after desktop publishing became the norm. Film is dead. Stick with digital.
12/24/2009 11:54:44 PM · #3
I personally think that it's probably not worth the time, unless you just want to do it so you can say you did.
12/25/2009 12:25:47 AM · #4
Like anything, it depends on what you want to get out of learning to process film and prints.

If you're looking for skills that relate to being a professional graphic designer, then, yes, you'd be wasting your time.

12/25/2009 12:43:12 AM · #5
Personally, I think it has some value. Most things we do in digital is derived from the stuff we used to with film. I'm glad I have the knowledge of film development as a basis for what we do nowadays.

I wouldn't take a class on it for the purpose of using film processing in the future, but I think it is interesting foundational knowledge for photography as a whole.
12/25/2009 12:47:12 AM · #6
Originally posted by alanfreed:

I wouldn't take a class on it for the purpose of using film processing in the future, but I think it is interesting foundational knowledge for photography as a whole.

I think I agree with Alan. It is good background knowledge, but not an essential skill. For instance, the unsharp mask adjustment comes from a technique that was done with negatives to improve the perception of sharpness in an image.

I recently bought a 90's vintage Canon Film SLR from a craigslist ad. Haven't done anything with it yet, but plan to soon.
12/25/2009 01:14:41 AM · #7
If I had the option to learn about film photography or more about digital, I would definitely spend the time and money on the digital classes. Film is an enjoyable hobby now if you like that sort of thing. Film is good in a retro sort of way, and the colors are a little less predictable.
12/25/2009 05:52:20 AM · #8
Regarding what Alan said:

The whole Photoshop is the digital darkroom is what got me thinking about it.

But from what I see here, I should just go with the pixels :)
12/25/2009 10:26:02 AM · #9
Originally posted by alanfreed:

Personally, I think it has some value. Most things we do in digital is derived from the stuff we used to with film. I'm glad I have the knowledge of film development as a basis for what we do nowadays.

I wouldn't take a class on it for the purpose of using film processing in the future, but I think it is interesting foundational knowledge for photography as a whole.

Though I have always understood the rationale of knowing the history, and origins of anything, I'm not sure it necessarily is critical to learning and refining the way we do things now.

The analogy that is most easily understandable to me is though it's nice to know how an ignition distributor made and distributed spark to an engine, that information is totally irrelevant to the function of crank-triggered, computer controlled spark.

I know very little about actual film developing and darkroom processes, and to tell you the truth, I'd much rather go to PhotoShop classes than darkroom courses were I to be given a grant to go back to school. I want what's relevant, and valuable to me today and tomorrow. If it's history that I want along the way, I can get that in my own time.

Just my $0.02 USD.....8>)
12/25/2009 11:03:51 AM · #10
I would say yes, use film for a little while before plunging into digital. As long as you can process your negatives at school and do not need to build a darkroom at home. It has nothing to do with history but has everything to do with learning what differences there are between film and sensors. Every single master you will learn from is or has used film and learning the differences will only make you a better photographer in the end. If you ask me this in 20 years time I wouldn't hesitate to say go digital and don't look back but not in today's world where film is still being used in some studios and for landscaping.
12/25/2009 11:51:13 AM · #11
Originally posted by Jac:

It has nothing to do with history but has everything to do with learning what differences there are between film and sensors.

Why is this important?

What relevance does it have since the two are so vastly different?

I only ask because I feel that my ability to understand photography was considerably enhanced by learning, and processing my own images once I went digital.

I had neither the availability, or the money for a darkroom, so that was never an option.

How would this enhance my skills at this point?
Originally posted by Jac:

Every single master you will learn from is or has used film and learning the differences will only make you a better photographer in the end.

How?

What's the signifigance of processing to photography itself?
12/25/2009 12:01:56 PM · #12
Originally posted by NikonJeb:

Originally posted by alanfreed:

Personally, I think it has some value. Most things we do in digital is derived from the stuff we used to with film. I'm glad I have the knowledge of film development as a basis for what we do nowadays.

I wouldn't take a class on it for the purpose of using film processing in the future, but I think it is interesting foundational knowledge for photography as a whole.

Though I have always understood the rationale of knowing the history, and origins of anything, I'm not sure it necessarily is critical to learning and refining the way we do things now.

The analogy that is most easily understandable to me is though it's nice to know how an ignition distributor made and distributed spark to an engine, that information is totally irrelevant to the function of crank-triggered, computer controlled spark.

I know very little about actual film developing and darkroom processes, and to tell you the truth, I'd much rather go to PhotoShop classes than darkroom courses were I to be given a grant to go back to school. I want what's relevant, and valuable to me today and tomorrow. If it's history that I want along the way, I can get that in my own time.

Just my $0.02 USD.....8>)


That's fine until you run across a want/need/desire to fix an ignition distributor engine.

Also, film/darkroom processes aren't that irrelevant...they're still the yardstick by which many of our digital processes are evaluated. For example, I have yet to see a B&W print made from a digital process that equals the depth and richness of a handmade print from the darkroom.

Also, should the want/need/desire to work with film in the future, the opportunity may not be there.
12/25/2009 12:06:12 PM · #13
Originally posted by NikonJeb:

Originally posted by Jac:

It has nothing to do with history but has everything to do with learning what differences there are between film and sensors.

Why is this important?

What relevance does it have since the two are so vastly different?

I only ask because I feel that my ability to understand photography was considerably enhanced by learning, and processing my own images once I went digital.

I had neither the availability, or the money for a darkroom, so that was never an option.

How would this enhance my skills at this point?
Originally posted by Jac:

Every single master you will learn from is or has used film and learning the differences will only make you a better photographer in the end.

How?

What's the signifigance of processing to photography itself?


I have to agree with Jeb on this one - I don't think knowing about film has any benefit at all to the enthusiast or even professional digital photographer - not one little bit.

Message edited by author 2009-12-25 12:06:30.
12/25/2009 12:14:00 PM · #14
I'm learning both, theres a lot of techniques some that dont even involve a camera as such that cant be done digitaly.

That being said film is boring and time/money consuming :)
12/25/2009 02:40:48 PM · #15
I did a 10-week film course when I was already well into digital. We learned about exposure, lighting, developing film etc.

tbh, it was a fascinating subject and I really enjoyed it. As a standalone it was great, but there was really very little overlap with anything digital.
12/25/2009 02:49:05 PM · #16
Originally posted by Spazmo99:

That's fine until you run across a want/need/desire to fix an ignition distributor engine.

Well, I know how to do that, but realistically, it's not a particularly relevant bit of knowledge for any current competent automotive technician to know.

I'd also have to say having been through the gamut of automotive technology experientially that its application historically isn't relevant, and were I teaching a course on automotive, or even internal combustion theory, I'm not sure I'd bother bringing the specifics of a distributor into the equation.
Originally posted by Spazmo99:

Also, film/darkroom processes aren't that irrelevant...they're still the yardstick by which many of our digital processes are evaluated. For example, I have yet to see a B&W print made from a digital process that equals the depth and richness of a handmade print from the darkroom.

I hear this a lot, but for this admittedly not particularly knowledgeable photog, I just don't see it. I don't really see this disparity I hear of all the time in B&W reproduction.

As it relates to me, I never even considered working with B&W at all until I got into digital photography/processing, when it became a medium that was available to me at the click of a mouse. I much more understand the subtleties of light and shadows, tones and shades now that I can actually work them on the screen in front of me. I can actually see what works in color and what works in B&W as it pertains to what I see and get from my images.

Four years ago I just couldn't look at an image and think "That'd look SO much better in B&W." I had no real understanding of it 'til I actually worked with it.

Isn't that what it's all about......working with the medium to understand its value?

I may be able to understand what you refer to with your point about the differences in reproduction of a film and digital print now......but it would be because I finally have worked in a B&W world because of my digital experience.
Originally posted by Spazmo99:

Also, should the want/need/desire to work with film in the future, the opportunity may not be there.

But if its value is so important, wouldn't it stand to reason that it will probably be available through the standard educational outlets such as photography courses taught by instructors who know and see the value of it?
12/25/2009 02:51:59 PM · #17
The best thing about film is that it slows you down. You take longer to set up the camera, longer to decide when to press the shutter, longer to process, etc. The longer it takes, the more you're thinking about and paying attention to what you're doing. I'm attending a photography school and it's incredible the difference between what the same person will do on film and digital. The same person who consistently produces boring, uninspired, bland images on digital comes up with the most incredible stuff of film (especially when they have to slow down even more because they're using something as big and unwieldy as a 4x5).

If I had to choose between a film and digital class, I'd probably still go with the digital, but if you have the chance to do both, I'd say to do it. Working with film makes you slow down and *think* about every little thing you're doing, every decision you're making, and it gives you a completely different approach to photography, which I think is incredible.
12/25/2009 03:07:39 PM · #18
Originally posted by geinafets:

The best thing about film is that it slows you down. You take longer to set up the camera, longer to decide when to press the shutter, longer to process, etc. The longer it takes, the more you're thinking about and paying attention to what you're doing.

You might achieve a similar "effect" by finding and using an old 32MB memory card ... :-)
12/25/2009 03:08:45 PM · #19
Originally posted by geinafets:

Working with film makes you slow down and *think* about every little thing you're doing, every decision you're making, and it gives you a completely different approach to photography, which I think is incredible.

I think that's a mindset thing.

I find that with time and experience I'm slowing down, thinking through much more what I'm doing, and the ability to be able to look at the myriad of images that I take allows me to review what I like and don't like about the images.

It's funny, but the better I get at the photography aspect, from having to "fix" so much after the fact, the less skills I need in post processing. The last ten challenges I have had to do considerably less processing because I have been paying closer attention to what I want out of the image in the first place.

I think one of the things that I like most about digital is what I'd call perspective bracketing.......taking the same shot a number of times changing the angle ever so slightly......a step to the left/right; crouching down......and I am much more conscious what this does as well for keeping the background setting as desirable as possible.
12/25/2009 05:12:44 PM · #20
I would kill for the chance to spend a semester in a darkroom! There's something truly magic about watching prints appear in a tray full of developer.... Sure it's old school and may or may not have any bearing on your digital work. But I'd say it is definitely worth the experience, no question!
12/26/2009 01:15:04 PM · #21
Thanks, guys, that really cleared things up ;)

I guess it comes down to what I think is important. I'm with a lot of you here, I feel like it would be a waste of my time to go back to film. But on the other hand, I also feel like I would be learning Photoshop 101 (don't we call it the digital darkroom?). The school has a darkroom and it is available 24/6 so that wouldn't be an issue. The film photography professor also teaches about papers and the whys and whens to use specific papers for specific effects. I just don't know... still. I am LOVING the discussions here though. Everyone has some great arguments for both sides. Don't stop! LOL!
12/26/2009 04:33:52 PM · #22
Originally posted by TCGuru:

The film photography professor also teaches about papers and the whys and whens to use specific papers for specific effects.

Though it makes me TWITCH, I use Canon's Photo Paper Plus Glossy II (PP-201).

I've tried everything I could lay my hands on, and that's what gives me the results I like best.
12/26/2009 04:44:59 PM · #23
Originally posted by Melethia:

I would kill for the chance to spend a semester in a darkroom! There's something truly magic about watching prints appear in a tray full of developer.... Sure it's old school and may or may not have any bearing on your digital work. But I'd say it is definitely worth the experience, no question!


I love the smell of developer in the morning ;)

@ TCGuru: If the school has a darkroom accessible 24/6 and there's good guidance from the teacher, I would say: give it a try. You'll find out for yourself if you like it or not, if it teaches you something or not.
12/26/2009 10:21:21 PM · #24
It all comes down to whether you personally feel that it would be a benefit to you. How's that for non-committal? Here's a thought... whatever it is we endeavor to learn, it's worth knowing the history. That does not mean, however, that we necessarily need to immerse ourselves in said history. Given that film photography *was* photography until, for the most part, the past decade or so, it's certainly a very important part of the history of the art. Only you can decide how relevant it is to your goals as a photography student.
12/26/2009 10:42:31 PM · #25
For developing a career in graphic design, I would say it would likely have no benefit. As an artistic outlet or hobby, film and the darkroom can be great fun. I almost shoot film exclusively now. But I like old cameras and experimental processes. My brother, a photojournalist, laughs a bit and tells me you can get the same result in photoshop (or better). He is right, I think, but my hobby has many other personal benefits like any hobby does.

There are some real pros on this site with photoshop. 21_F.gif Roz immediately comes to mind. It would seem those great skills would have much greater career value.
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