Can Digital Photographers Shoot with Film?
Itâ€™s a pretty safe bet anymore that many people who are shooting with digital SLRâ€™s have never shot a film camera outside of possibly an APS cameras or some other mostly point-and-shoot or disposable camera. Many younger people have probably never used a camera that wasnâ€™t digital. Granted, a newer 35mm film SLR like the Canon Rebels are as close as you can get to shooting digital with auto-focus, automatic, program, and scene modes, and internal exposure meters. With these newer film cameras its pretty hard to take a really poorly exposed shot.
But letâ€™s step back in time a little, what about using an older vintage Canon AE-1. There are no scene modes, no automatic modes, no program modes, no eTTL flash, just shutter and aperture and whatever ISO film you have installed.
The Truth Be Told
Even the old AE-1â€™s had some basic metering and some automatic modes. If you pressed the shutter half-way down, the internal meter would tell you what the recommended aperture setting would be based on your ISO setting and current shutter speed. If you roll the aperture wheel on the lens (yes, on the lens, not on the camera body) from one of the available aperture settings to A, then the camera would set the lens to the recommended aperture setting before taking the shot, thus giving you somewhat of an shutter priority mode (you set the shutter, camera adjust the aperture). Keep in mind this is a reflective light meter so it can sometimes be inaccurate with brighter or lighter subjects.
Is it important that people know how to shoot film?
If you ask most any photography teacher they will tell you that learning film is extremely important in order to understand all of the dynamics of film and that learning the developing process will teach yoâ€¦.oh man, I canâ€™t even finish explaining it. I think the point that is often missing is not whether someone can shoot film or not, but whether or not someone has the skills and knowledge to get a good exposure without relying on all the modern conveniences of current cameras.
As I discussed this issue with fellow photographers, some felt that it really didnâ€™t matter so long as the person can make good images with what they have. The problem I have with this is that you may be able to make good images, even on a regular basis, what you canâ€™t do is to get a wide range of creative images.
The camera and your flash are going to try to give you a very neutral lit image. While this may be ok a good percentage of the time, when you really want to do some creative lighting your camera is simply not going to know what you want to do.
An example of this is with very dramatic lighting. The image shown here would be almost impossible with any automatic camera or TTL lighting modes. The camera would see the subject as underexposed and try to increase the exposure to give a brighter image. Of course you can usually correct that with flash exposure compensation, but that doesn’t work all the time and if you use most wireless flash triggers you won’t have automatic exposure features anyway.
Itâ€™s also fairly common that eventually a photographer decides they want more powerful studio lights, they make a big investment in gear, and then canâ€™t figure out why they are not getting what they want out of them. Again, this is simply a lack of experience in understanding the correlation between aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and lighting power.
If I can help to teach anything, it would be that shooting in manual modes is not as difficult as it may seem at first. Learning how to really control your camera and your lighting will open you up to a whole new world of creativity.
Here are some past articles that will help you along your path:
- Getting Manual Flash Exposure Quickly
- The Exposure L – Understanding the Correlation Between Shutter and Aperture
- How to use a Light Meter
- Photography Basics: Beginners Guide to Aperture
- Photography Basics: Controlling Exposure
- Capturing a sense of motion with shutter speed
- Learning to shoot in manual mode
- Understanding Depth of Field