Film Vs. Digital: The Dilemma

film vs digital

It’s no secret, and I know I have said this many times in the past, but film holds a very special place in my heart. For many, you wouldn’t recognize the difference between an image photographed in film verses digital, but to a photography enthusiast such as myself, the differences are insurmountable.

Let’s start with lighting. Every photographer knows that behind a great photograph is great lighting. That’s the secret ingredient to any “knock-out” image whether it was taken with a 35mm film camera or a full frame dSLR. Lighting sets the tone for the entire image. Here’s the thing, and why I LOVE film, even in harsh lighting, film tends to save the highlights whereas digital would blow them out. Overexposing in film (to a degree) allows for smoother, cleaner skin tones. The same goes with digital, but I find film to be oh so forgiving. If you overexpose a digital image too much you loose a lot of detail with the highlights. Film will bring those highlights back. It’s more difficult to lose highlights with film than it is with digital.

Next, let’s look at coloring. We all “ooh” and “ahh” over those light pastel colors. I hear photographers echoing all the time in forums inquiring how to achieve that look. I always wondered the same, and to my discovery I found that coloring is achieved by film. Now, I won’t get into the technicality of why that is, but it’s simple: If you want that light and airy look, then practice shooting film. Kirk Mastin has developed Lightroom Presets that have a pretty close match to film for your digital photography. I toyed with VSCO cam, and it just wasn’t for me, but Mastin presets were definitely the way to go! Whether you are a hybrid shooter trying to match your digitals files to your film scans, or just really love the look of film, I highly recommend using these presets (no this is not a shameless plug). Mastin presets will give you the closest look to film you can possibly achieve.

Any film shooter will tell you though that nothing quite compares to film. It slows you down and forces you to set up your shots and know your settings. There are no do-overs with film. Mistakes are costly, but worth every penny. Below are some of my film images. Below those are the same sessions in digital. Maybe I am biased, but I still have a swoon reaction to my film scans.




Pretty, right? Now, here are the digital version of the same image.




Still pretty, and a very close match, but wouldn’t you say there’s something extra special with film? This is why I love film! Although I will probably not become a 100% film shooter, I WILL incorporate film into my sessions for the sheer love of it. OK. rant over. I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.



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