Many new photographers today have very little or no experience with film. They take for granite the simple advantages of being able to change your ISO setting anytime or being able to see the results immediately after you make the exposure.
For the people using film cameras, who are still the purists and students, there are still being manufactured a number of excellent film cameras. In fact, if you are in the market, you can pick up great used film cameras on ebay or even your local pro camera store.
I think it’s good that students learn on film cameras. I feel you should learn and build the foundation of knowing how to “get it in the camera”. Where many times you have to shoot it right or it will be gone forever.
Back in the film days, and it was not that long ago, when I was shooting a portrait or a wedding, I had to know what I was going to get before I pressed the shutter. I had to learn how to see and find the light when it was there. And, if it wasn’t there I had to learn how to put it there. I also had to know the camera. I had to know how to set the controls without even thinking about it.
If I wanted to spice things up I would use a filter or a vignetter in front of the lens. That alone became a special skill. There were so many options and possibilities that it usually took years and years to find the right equipment to give you the look you were looking for. It is like the musician looking for a certain sound in their instrument or amplifier if they were using one.
In fact, there were many books written and courses offered on filters and their proper uses. And every instructor had a favorite. One of my favorites were the use of soft focus. There were so many different ways different filters worked in their method of achieving soft focus and diffusion. Yes, there is a difference between soft focus and diffusion. Soft Focus filters effect the light as it transmits through the lens. And there are many different manufactures who achieve this in different ways and to different degrees.
And then there are the diffusion filters which give more of a misty or dreamy look. Some of these have a different effect on your image. Some lower the contrast to a great degree and have a certain effect on darker colors. And if light hits your filter, that also has an effect on your final image. Some photographers would make their own by putting a nylon stocking or similar material over their lens or into a filter ring. I made my own misty filters years ago. It gave me a beautiful soft misty look that I loved. It was great for wedding images and sometimes babies and kids.
The New Photographers
Digital cameras and equipment have revolutionized the photo industry. Some of it really good and exciting and some of it has lowered the standard of photography. For someone who knows how to make a proper exposure and is able to see and utilize light and then adds further art and digital enhancement to the final image, one is able to turn a great photograph into a masterpiece.
Then, there are those who are happy to just shoot in the auto mode using the camera’s built in flash. That’s OK too and you can still get some nice images that way. But for those of you wanting more than the look of flat lighting coming from your flash-on-camera, this is a great time to be in photography. The tools available today are tremendous. All it takes is a little bit of knowledge along with the right formula and you’re on your way to enjoying and being able to produce really great photographs.
Before the computer was used along with the many different software programs available today, you were able to apply some of the retouching, artwork and enhancement to your images, but it usually was done be a specialist retoucher or artist. And that was quite expensive and time consuming as I remember. If you were doing artwork to your print such as airbrushing or using pencils, you had to apply a coat of retouching lacquer. And, by the time you were done the print had quite a few heavy coats of lacquer on it.
I remember working on some of my 16×20 competition prints with pencils and chalks. Before applying artwork, I would have to give the print a good coat of retouching lacquer for a base. Then after each application of artwork, I would spray the print again with lacquer, let dry and repeat the process many times.
When the art work was done I would have to spray many more coats of either a high gloss or semi- gloss lacquer on the print. There was always a chance you could ruin the print during one of these steps in the process. You had to be careful of dust specks or even bugs getting on your print as you are spraying on the lacquer. Yes, this happened many times and I ruined many good prints and had to start the process over. This took a lot of time out of your day.
Today, we can do all of the artwork or retouching on the digital file without all the mess and at a fraction of the time it took before we had digital files. Programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Painter gives us that opportunity and it is readily available to everyone. To create a photographic masterpiece one must know the skills of all that is involved as before. The big differences now are the tools have changed but the process from the beginning of capturing the image to the final print still requires great skill with so many new opportunities today.