chantal stone photography: the blog

February 20, 2007

From Film to Digital

Filed under: Personal,Photography — chantal @ 2:17 pm

Next week (hopefully next week) I’m going to be purchasing a Nikon D200. I’m really excited about it—what photographer wouldn’t be…a new camera, c’mon!! But I have to admit some ambivalent feelings about switching from film to digital.

First of all, I know I’m somewhat late to the game. But up until recently, I was fairly content with doing a more ‘fine art’ type of photography, and the way I was shooting, film was perfect for that. Somewhere along the line, however, I realized that there really isn’t anything else I’d rather do, photography is IT for me. I began to seek out and accept more commercial types of assignments so my workflow now requires for me to shoot digital.

I just can’t help but feel sad though. I LOVE film, the look of it, the feel, the smell, even. A silver print made from a negative is just so delicious, I can’t resist it. But more and more, I’m seeing my future with film fade, and it makes me sad. I don’t think I’ll ever give film up totally. An afternoon with a few rolls of HP-5 is just too good to resist. But today in particular, the thought occured to me, that the days of film for every day use are wearing thin.

This afternoon I picked up some prints that I had processed from film. 8 rolls of film, processed and printed cost me $55.00. I know by most standards that’s pretty inexpensive, but when you factor in my workflow, plus the cost of the film itself….we’re looking at about $90 for every 8 rolls of film I shoot. I can easily snap off about 8-10 rolls during a single shoot. And up until now, I’ve been rather conservative with my shooting, but I know it’s in me to go completely shutter happy. So by going digital, I’ll save myself a several hundred dollar a month habit.

The pictures were good enough, I guess, compositionally speaking—I still have to study them a bit further…but what bothers me is how they are printed. I hate how photo-processing places now, to increase their own production and reduce costs, all will scan the negatives and give you a digital print. The print quality is just horrible and the colors are almost always way off. And these days, to have 4×6 prints made by traditional methods will cost you about $20 per roll of film!

So I know I’m doing the right thing by switching to digital. The D200 is an awesome camera and I’m confident it is perfect for my needs. But it’s bittersweet for me. I don’t have the time or money or space to invest in darkroom equipment, at least not right now. And I know I’ll still shoot film for special occasions, or to continue some on-going projects (for continuity’s sake). It’s just a little disappointing to see how the industry is leaning more and more towrds digital processing, making traditional methods scarce and expensive. Who would have though that by spending nearly $2,000 on a new camera kit, I’m actually saving money.



  1. Don’t worry. I went digital, but I’m still doing film. Last year 2/3 of my exhibited work was done on film. Digital gives you freedom to learn from many more mistakes, and opens up new possibilities.

    One of my favorite aspects of digital is printing. Even inexpensive inkjet printers are exceptional, with print longevity on some Epson dye printers heading past 100 years under glass (3 years ago this was a completely different story, with the state of the art at 25 years).

    I’m looking foward to seeing your digital work, and the effect that it has on your film work.

    (Oh, and don’t forget that when it comes right down to it: film is digital, and digital is analog…)

    Comment by Chris — February 20, 2007 @ 3:54 pm | Reply

  2. Welcome to the digital world 😀

    I just got my Digi Rebel XTI a few weeks ago… just cant find the time nor the clement weather to get some practice time.

    Comment by DAVE — February 20, 2007 @ 3:58 pm | Reply

  3. Chantal,

    Congratulations on going digital – you will not regret it! I made the switch from film to digital about a year and a half ago. I purchased the Nikon D70 and I love it! It won’t be long, however, before I need to upgrade to the D200. The D70 is so user friendly and I’m sure the D200 will be too. I was shooting the N90s prior to the switch, so that made the transition even easier for me. The two cameras work much the same, with the exception of the digital features. I was like you and many others. I did not want to abandon my N90s and jump on the digital bandwagon, but I’m so glad I did!

    Sherri Meyer
    Auburn, CA

    Comment by smeyer — February 20, 2007 @ 8:24 pm | Reply

  4. OK, here we go again the last one went to la-la land. Welcome to digital … the end! Just kidding!

    Welcome to digital. I’m sure that you are going to enjoy every minute of it; however, one thing that you should do, before you start shooting is get “The DAM Book” by Peter Krogh. Given that you want to do this professionally, you might as well start the right way by getting a DAM system! 😉 Digital Asset Management will make your life a whole lot easier.

    You mentioned film costs. Digital cost you nothing more to take 1,000 pictures than it does to take 1. You’ll find yourself soon taking hundreds, if not thousands of pictures per week. If you don’t have a DAM system, you’ll not be able to find anything for long. It will be the old needle in the haystack routine. I know. I got down 15,000+ images and then had to implement a system. What a chore that was/is. I’m still working on organizing.

    Another decision that you’ll have to make is whether or not to shoot RAW. There are a lot of ‘religious’ battles about it. Personally, I don’t shoot it because it takes too much space AND I cannot see a difference in quality AT ALL up to 16×20, which is the largest that I’ve ever had printed. Read this article, it has some good stuff in it. If you’ve ever read Ken Rockwell, you know that he doesn’t BS around.

    From my camera RAW files take up 20 MB each, while on the other hand, my JPGs take up about 2-4MB each, depending on the complexity of the scene. If you have lots and lots of time … well, you get the picture.

    Also, get a large hard drive (500 GB), or 2 medium sized (250 GB) hard drives to make redundant backups, or at least have a fast DVD burner.

    If you have any questions about the D200, give me a shout. I have a D2x and they are very close cousins!

    Comment by paul — February 20, 2007 @ 9:22 pm | Reply

  5. Welcome to the digital world. Trust me, you won’t look back. Embrace the technology and don’t be “ahsamed”. Also, who says that you cannot do fine art photography with digital? The process does matter to a certain extent but what the viewing public sees is the final print. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the prints you will get from a digital camera.

    Comment by Darrell Klein — February 22, 2007 @ 11:08 pm | Reply

  6. You’ll be very satisfied with your Nikon. I own a d70 and it’s an amazing camera. For me, going digital has improved my creativity a lot, I can shoot and experiment freely without bothering about wasting film any more. So welcome to the digital world. Looking forward to see your ‘new’ picts! 🙂

    Ps. Sorry for my English 🙂

    Comment by sil — February 23, 2007 @ 4:08 am | Reply

  7. Thanks so much for the comments and well wishes….
    New digital pics coming soon!!

    Comment by Chantal — February 23, 2007 @ 11:22 am | Reply

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