Visual Arts. Photography. Life.

On Film & Digital Photography (Part II)


I really really love film.

Yet currently I'm only shooting digital for my street photography projects.

The reasons?

1. Kodachrome is gone. For shooting colour film in streets, Kodachrome is the only option for me. Ektarchrome is coming back but I'm not sure if it will do. I do not know great street photography work using Ektarchrome, so that's no reference point for me. Let's see the results at the end of the year. Excited about that one.

Negative films like Portra 400 and Pro 400H are great but just don't do it for my street photography work. I have seen plenty of great street work done with Portra 400 but it's just not Kodachrome. Great for weddings and portraits though. Cinestill 800T for night work really impresses me. I would be using it at night for sure if I'm living in Hong Kong. All those neon lights in the night... It has that Wong Kar Wai mood to it. Maybe I'll try to shoot a project purely with it should I ever have the chance (or money). Tri-X is available but I'll explain my dilemma in the next point.

2. I shoot in both monochrome and colour at the same time. Probably my number one reason why I shoot digital. My projects tend to overlap whenever I shoot. To shoot in either colour or monochrome requires me to shift my mindset. Having one camera with me that can do both makes it easier. Having two film camera loaded with a colour film and a monochrome one will most definitely confuse me and cost me opportunities in the streets. Most of the time, the greats tend to pick one and specialize. But I love them both. I just can't give them up. Lucky, marrying my wife was a more straightforward affair.


3. Cost. I am living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. As much as I love photography, my family has to come first. Especially with the second little one on the way. The cost of buying film, processing and scanning is not cheap here in Singapore.

If you are in the classical sense of street photography, you will know the high rate of failure to get anything that can be considered "keepers". If I remember correctly, Alex Webb shot 36 rolls of Kodachrome to get his infamous complex Istanbul barbershop image. I'll buy burning money in no time.

On an average, during my 4-5 hour walks, I shoot under a hundred shot these days (much more when I started). Around 3 rolls worth of film. And there's no telling if I have any keepers. Some days I end up with nothing.

I do not see this as an issue for landscape/portrait type of photographers though. Or if you are shooting individual stand-alone photographs that do not require aesthetic consistency e.g. a project. If your work does not require a large amount of film, I would strongly encourage you to go with it.

4. Processing in Singapore is not only expensive but the quality is not really that great as well. Not to mention scanning. Sure, it's good enough for Instagram but once you view it on a larger platform, you will see the defects of a lousy scan. And I'm not talking about the good kind of imperfection with film. I'll have to mail to Richard Photo labs to be really satisfied. If I'm going to shoot film, I ought to get best out of it. With digital, I can process till I'm happy with the results.

Post processing on the computer at home has been a bliss for me. And I do enjoy it as well. The only thing is I have to wake up early (7am-ish) on weekends before my boy does to work on them. Not that I set an alarm. I wake up at 6 am for work every day anyway.



5. A full-time job and having a family demands a lot of your time. As long as there are no family commitment or work to be done, I have that one precious evening/night to shoot per week. There are times I do not work on my projects for months due to ...well.. family stuff. Any parent with young children will understand. With film, I think I'll never get the time to get it processed, developed and scanned.

With all that being said, maybe...just maybe, I'll shoot film for a different project one day. Got to love the sound from the mechanical film rewind lever. Film is really fun no doubt. Maybe with a different focal length this time.

Sebastian ChinBlog, Film