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I Shoot Film for a Higher Keeper Rate

Over the last two years I can’t remember an occasion where I chose the Nikon D90 DSLR over one of the film cameras. I probably did choose to carry that DSLR out the door once or twice, but I honestly couldn’t think of the occasion. And it must have been many months ago. Maybe it was the Wooden Boat Festival two-and-a-half years ago. Or that folder of crap photographs I shot at a local art opening. This DSLR cost me nearly AUD$2,000.

Bronica ETRS

One of the primary reasons that I moved into shooting film is that the keeper rate for film is significantly higher than for digital photography. The film camera places a monetary investment into each shot on each roll of film and the direct result of that cost is the consideration that underpins each image that I shoot.

Of course, any film photographer’s contact sheet will reveal weak shots along with the strong. But open a digital photographer’s daily file, or at least my digital photography daily file, and all sorts of errors become apparent. Errors specific to the digital process.

Blur through a habitual reliance on shooting in aperture mode. Pixelation where grain would have been a feature. Replication because I shoot that DSLR like a World War 1 trench warfare machine gunner. Laziness because there is no cost to the individual production of a picture. And speed in the rush to pummel subjects into pixels without a tripod. The DSLR allows these errors… even forgives these errors… because the price of a photograph and replication of images is free.

If there was a Photo Police Unit they would clamp my DSLR and issue fines for speeding and reckless abuse in public spaces. And rightly so. Give an untrained kid a Lamborghini and the result is measured in mayhem. I learned to drive in a DSLR Lamborghini… but I learned to shoot more valuable photographs with old fashioned film cameras.

My photographic process also benefits from the cost of shooting film because creativity thrives on constraints. And the act of releasing a shutter becomes an issue of precision. One frame, two frames… maybe a third frame. Which reflects in the keeper rate when shooting film.

After all, what I’m trying to do is take a vision of something from my mind and use the camera as a tool to re-create my imagined picture in reality. That’s tough to achieve without stopping to smell to think. And I really don’t want the advanced technologies of digital to dictate my terms.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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