December 14, 2010 - Eric Ford-Holevinski
This October I picked up my dad's old Nikon FA and began shooting film with it, to complement my digital work. Results have been mixed so far. The following pictures were the scans that came back from my first roll of film since 2003, a 36-frame roll of Fuji 400H Pro color negative film. Unfortunately, the prints look better than the scans, so these images don't do full justice to the pictures. But they do give a general idea. This will not be my last film presentation. I'm slowly shooting through a roll of color slide film even now.
At first I tried to shoot images side-by-side. Because the film was more limited, I saved it only for special shots I had already tested with my digital SLR. This resulted in not taking many photos, so now and then I would let loose and take a shot or two on film. For some shots, the moment wouldn't come again and there was no point trying to go back and get it again with digital. Note also that I didn't include all 37 frames, but only the photos I liked. In fact, some of these may go down among my favorite pictures.
FILM / DIGITAL
Below are the photos for which I did manage to get two versions, sometimes in very close succession. There's no point being mysterious about it - the difference is obvious. Which do you prefer?
Here, I prefer the digital version. It's just a more pleasant, natural portrait. On film, Steve's eyes are a more intense blue, but his skin is badly blown out to white with a harsh, shadowy look. More striking perhaps, but not what I was going for.
Here we see how the color balance of film can be tricky to work with. The digital file is much closer to the way the scene looked, even before color correction. The colors of the leaves are clearer too, instead of being unceremoniously washed out. It's hard to see at this size, but the digital picture looks more crisp, too.
An example where the film came close to matching the impact of the digital interpretation, though I still prefer the digital twin. The juiced up color and contrast of the film has a pleasing effect, but I'm just a lot happier with how the digital file came together. The light appears more soft and layered, which it was in real life. The film image looks very flat, for many reasons (my focus was off for one).
Again, I like the film version of this shot a lot. The problem of color correction appears again, as the film image has a weird green-blue cast; I could have used a warming filter to fix that, but I don't own any. Again, the choice is between natural and dramatic. Ultimately I do prefer the more natural look, though.
I think the film wins this shot, but part of that is because I was using a longer lens for better framing on the film camera. It was a flat scene, so it was really helped by the enhanced color and tonality of the film - although I'm not thrilled about the sickly green, overexposed grass.
The same issues with portraits as before. This film seems geared toward higher saturation and landscape work, but for that it hasn't been perfect either.
Okay, I'd say the film wins this one. Notice that the color of sunset in the sky is preserved in the film version, while the sky in the digital file is mostly blown out to white. This has been an issue ever since digital photography began.
No contest, film didn't cut it with this scene at all. The russet leaves on the trees are a pale orange for some reason, and that blue-green cast is in full force. For some reason the scene seems very flat on film, which I wouldn't expect because this film was usually so contrasty.
Well, here is a classic problem from the film days. When unloading the film there was a light leak that ruined some of my pictures. Too bad, because I might have preferred the film version of this photo. But that is another advantage of digital; yes, memory cards fail, and can be accidentally reformatted, but it's rare, and memory cards don't require anything like the same care and babying film tape demands.
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All work © 2010 Eric Ford-Holevinski