photographer has both film and digital cameras. We use them every
day, study them every day and examine the results every day. We
scientifically study, in a controlled environment, the difference
between digital and film photography. We have been utilizing both
platforms since 2001. We are experts in our field and highly qualified
to give expert advice in the use and consumption of both digital
and film photography products. As owners of both digital and traditional
film-based equipment, we will honor any special requests, preferences
or requirements you may have for a specific technology. Ultimately,
we are obedient servants and will take your direction - if you have
one. However, we do have opinions and qualified observations that
we would like to share with you.
We would like to caution you from accepting advice from non-experts
and non-digital users. Accept, only with skepticism, advice from
anybody who does not own and operate both professional film and
professional digital equipment. Put bluntly, anybody who tries to
convince you that digital photography is without merit is speaking
out of ignorance and fear. Ignorance of the technology and ignorance
of the benefits. Fear of the unknown, fear of learning something
new and fear of losing business to more technically advanced photographers.
In general, we find that most skeptics are older, stuck in their
ways (in a rut) and resistant to change.
Comparing Apples with Apples
If the debate is between film and digital then all other factors
and variables must be removed. Do not compare $500 consumer grade
digital cameras to $5,000 professional grade film cameras. Do not
compare 35mm digital cameras to medium format film cameras. Only
compare the quality and results of professional grade 35mm digital
cameras to professional grade 35mm film cameras. Only compare the
results of professional grade medium format digital equipment to
professional grade medium format film equipment.
Advantages of Film
Forgiveness. One of the clearest advantages of negative film is
its latitude for over exposure. Negative film (as opposed to transparency
film) is much more forgiving when a photographer over exposes his
subject. Beautiful prints can be salvaged from film that is shot
2-3 stops over exposed. With digital photography, you must be much
more accurate and precise with your exposure - you must know what
you are doing. Most digital cameras will not tolerate much more
than about 1 stop over exposure or else the highlights, i.e., textures
in white or light-colored things, will get blown out.
Advantages of Digital
1. Low-light conditions. With film cameras, your ability to shoot
properly exposed images depends significantly on the speed of your
film. Most photographers carry only one speed of film: 400. Some
photographers may carry a couple extra rolls of high-speed film
(ISO 3200) in their camera bags in case they encounter low-light
situations. A few photographers might carry slow-speed film (ISO
50) for extremely bright situations.
With digital equipment, changing the speed of your ISO is as simple
as rotating a dial on your camera (ranging between ISO 100-3200).
Or, you can have your camera automatically detect the speed of light
required for the shooting situation. With film, you have to interrupt
a roll of film, possibly unwind and waste a portion of film, locate
the proper speed film from your camera bag, load it, advance it,
ensure your camera is set for the new speed of film and then continue
shooting. The probability of missing a critical shot during this
situation with film is very high. The probability of forgetting
to reset your camera's ISO settings for the proper film is also
very high which would result in images being so over or underexposed
that they are rendered useless.
2. Color of light. Have you ever noticed the color of the sky? The
sky is typically blue and the light from the sky (on a sunny day)
is also blue. In order for colors to be rendered correctly in daylight,
it is critical that you have daylight-balanced film.
Have you even noticed the color of the sunset? It is typically warm
tones of yellow, orange or red. Incandescent light bulbs (the kind
that you see in a normal reading lamp or table lamp) are also a
warmer tone of yellow, orange and red. The light bulbs that are
often found in churches and temples are the color of candles, which
also contains warmer tones.
If you use daylight film in incandescent settings then the skin
tone will not render itself properly. White dresses will look yellow
or orange. White cakes will look yellow or orange. White skin will
look yellow or orange. Rarely will photographers pay the premium
price for tungsten-balanced film and carry them in their camera
bags for these situations. Consequently, many of your pictures will
contain improper colors, which may be difficult, if not impossible,
With digital equipment, changing the white balance of your camera
is a simple as rotating a dial on your camera. Or, you can have
the camera automatically detect the color of light and automatically
adjust for the proper lighting condition.
3. Black + White versus Color film. Most clients today request some
black + white photography. Some clients request 50% black + white
coverage. A few clients request 90-100% black + white. How are we
to choose, in the heat of battle, which shots to take in color versus
which to take in black + white? How easy is it to confuse, in the
heat of battle, which camera or film back has the color versus the
black + white? What happens if you are in a situation where you
cannot change the camera or film and must shoot a scene with whatever
camera or film back you happen to have in your hands?
With digital equipment, a photographer doesn't have to worry about
any of these questions. He or she simply needs to focus and concentrate
on their job at hand: getting phenomenal images. Shoot everything
in color and then convert everything to true black + white and then
you have perfect copies of both. You don't have to decide until
you see both images side by side. Then you can choose.
4. Instant Gratification. Even with 10 years experience as a professional
photographer, sometimes I still cross my fingers and hope that the
pictures turn out the way I envision them to be. Often, I have to
wait 3-4 days, sometimes longer, to see the results of my images.
By then, it's often too late to fix or correct a condition. The
wedding is over, the people are gone, and the opportunity no longer
With digital photography, I am able to constantly see what my camera
is doing. I know if I have a blinker (somebody who blinks too much)
on my hands. I know if my flash is reflecting in the wall, mirror
or glass across from me. I know if my lights are working properly
or improperly. I know if all my camera and equipment is functioning,
as it should be. I know that if I don't have what I want from my
equipment then I can immediately correct the situation before I
5. Immediate Results. Perhaps another way of saying instant gratification.
With film, I need to get it processed. If I shoot an event on Saturday
and get the film to the lab on Monday, it won't be processed until
Tuesday or Wednesday (maybe). It won't be proofed until Thursday
or Friday (maybe). It might not even be done before I shoot my next
event. Then, it takes time to edit and prepare for presentation
the images in a meaningful way. It might take weeks before my client
can see the images from their event. If they are not local to my
area, it will also take considerable time and expense to get the
images into their hands.
With digital photography, I can shoot an event on Saturday and have
images on the web by Sunday. If a client is extremely impatient,
then I can burn a CD-ROM of the images and deliver to them Saturday
night before I leave the event. Results are immediate, gratification,
instant. Time and expenses are reduced dramatically.
6. Expenses. Professional film is expensive. It costs at least $7
per roll (plus tax). Processing is expensive - at least $5-$10 per
roll. These are purely consumable expenses which, in my opinion,
is a wasted expense passed on to my client. Further, once you get
the film developed, you cannot see the images unless you either
burn them to CD-ROM or make paper proofs. Paper proofs are expensive
- sometimes as much as $1 each. So, a typical roll of film that
produces 30 images will cost at least $30 by the time you buy the
film, process it and make proofs or burn to CD-ROM. Again, these
material and consumable expenses are passed directly on to the consumer.
If a photographer is working on a fixed budget, i.e., the photographer
is getting paid a fixed price for an event then he is typically
conscious of the amount of film that he and his team are shooting.
He knows that if he is working on a $3,000 contract, for example,
and he has perhaps $1,000 in personnel expenses, $750 in album expenses,
$250 in marketing expenses then there is perhaps $1,000 left over
for film, processing and proofing. As he shoots, knowing that every
time he presses his finger, every time he takes a picture, it costs
him $1. As he approaches the 1,000-picture mark he knows that he
is also closing in on his $1,000 expense budget.
At this point, he really needs to stop and consider whether every
picture he takes is worth shooting. If he exceeds 1,000 pictures
then he is cutting into his own pocket and paying for the privilege
of shooting somebody else's event. He is subsidizing his client.
At this point, it becomes a hobby, not a profession. He is no longer
a professional photographer because he is no longer getting paid
for it. Too many jobs like this and he will not be able to afford
equipment, mortgage, childcare or his future. He is doomed to failure
and bankruptcy. Alternatively, he will simply refrain from shooting
what ought to be shot in the name of efficient and cost-effective
Fortunately, with digital there is virtually no limit to the amount
of pictures that a photographer shoots. The money that he would
have spent in on one wedding will afford him enough CompactFlash
memory to shoot 5,000 pictures at extremely high resolution. With
digital, a photographer will never have to stop and consider whether
a picture is worth shooting. Just shoot it and delete it later if
you don't like it. This literally liberates a photographer artistically.
It gives the photographer artistic freedom to explore every aspect
of his creative curiosity. It's a benefit for both photographer
7. Noise versus silence. In the dead of silence, between vows, imagine
a film camera at the end of its roll. Imagine that his camera automatically
rewinds at the end of that roll. Imagine the shock and disruption
that can occur as you listen and wait for that film camera to rewind
while somebody waits to continue their prayer.
What a horrifying thought!
This can only happen with film cameras. With digital cameras, there
are no motor drives, there is no film to advance or rewind, and
there are virtually no camera noises. A digital camera is almost
as silent as a motion picture camera or video camera. And with the
ability to shoot 300 images on a single CompactFlash card, chances
are that the entire wedding ceremony can be shot on the same card.
Further, in the case that it does run out or fill up, the photographer
can quickly and silently change compact flash cards in a fraction
of the time that it takes for him to change film. There is simply
8. State-of-the-art-technology. The industry is moving, at light-speed,
towards digital. Research, development and innovation are focused
on digital technology. Advances are simply not happening with film
or film-based equipment - development has been arrested.
Every 3-6 months a new digital camera is introduced by one of the
big four camera makers: Kodak, Nikon, Canon and Fuji along with
advances by secondary manufactures: Sigma, Minolta, and Olympus.
Each new product comes with newer generation sensors, meters, focusing
mechanisms and technology that simply does not exist and will never
be incorporated in yesterday's film cameras.
It's comparable to anti-lock brakes and airbags. Camera manufacturers,
like automakers, are moving forward with their innovations and not
worrying about or wasting resources retrofitting these older models.
So, if you want the best, most consistently reliable equipment used
for some of the most significant events that can happen in a person's
life then you should demand the most recent, innovative, state-of-the-art
technology that exists.
9. X-Ray machines. We all know that X-Ray machines - especially
the ones that have been deployed since 2002 will corrupt images
on exposed film. If your photographer has traveled by air to photograph
your event then there is a significant risk that his film will be
X-Rayed on the way home - even if he checks in his baggage. Even
if the photographer is local, often he will FedEx or ship his film
to a mid-West lab for processing. Cross-country shipping is now
at risk for X-ray machines as well.
10. Archival quality and backups. Film is vulnerable to dust, light,
heat, humidity and a plethora of other natural elements. It is just
as important to archive negatives, as it is to properly archive
prints. Many people often say that if their house were to catch
on fire, one of the few possessions that they would attempt to save
would be family photos - especially wedding photos. My recommendation
is to leave the film, take the kids and the dogs.
With digital photography, you can make exact duplicates of the original
images on CD-ROM. CD-ROMs cost about $1 each. Make half a dozen
copies. Keep one in your safe deposit box, give one to each set
of parents, keep one at your office and keep one at home. Most likely,
the photographer will also keep a set in case you lose or destroy
In effect, digital photography is infinitely more archival than
either film or pictures. It will last forever and can be replicated
exactly and precisely without sacrificing image quality.
The Future is Now
Accept it. Digital photography is inevitable. In the current economic
environment, where research and development budgets around the world
have been reduced, the opposite is true in digital imaging. Developments
and innovation in digital photography have been speeding along at
an incredibly fast pace. Every 4-6 months, manufacturers raise the
standard with regard to more sophisticated chips, resolution, firmware
and software. In fact, the earliest digital cameras were based on
highly sensitive chips used extensivively in weather and spy satellites.
In a matter of 18-24 months, most photographers will be digital
... it's only a matter of time. In fact, research and development
on film-based cameras and technology has been completely arrested.
Digital Labs. The lab industry has also gone digital. It doesn't
matter whether we shoot film or digital, most photographic labs
that make pictures and reprints now utilize hybrid printing systems.
Even if you input film into the system, it will become digitized
before it gets printed to paper form. In fact, the digital chip
in a digital camera actually receives it's signal in analog form
(similar to that of film) and then gets converted to digital. The
primary difference between film and digital is when it gets converted
to digital. It is going happen either in camera or at the lab -
either way - the image gets converted to digital prior to paper
output. Now the question becomes, do I want my print to be first
generation or second?
Do you think we are biased towards digital? You bet! Admittedly,
we are addicted to it. We can't imagine living or surviving without
it. Any time I travel or shoot for my own personal use, I use exclusively
digital equipment. Given a personal choice, wanting only the finest
quality, with the resources and ability to shoot any format that
I wish, any camera that I wish, I will always choose digital because
to me, it's superior to film.