We Lost The Magic When Digital Took Over Film

michaelaDigital is nothing magical.  It’s perfectly good at recording, but the magic is gone compared to the days of film.

There’s something about the waiting that made film photography more special.  The time created anticipation which allowed us to forget the details of the moment, and relive it when we finally saw the film and prints.

I was just talking to someone recently about this, as I was carrying a Leica IIIf around my neck, that in the analog days, film was magical, the photographer the magician, and getting a photo meant hiring a photographer to make that image.

Untitled-26_1Nowadays, shoot it any way with any camera, even a phone, drop a few filters on the shot, and it’s good enough.  There is no magic.  The art director can fine tune the shot in camera and see the finished image before the photographer even leaves the shoot.

Even when I shoot digital, if I shoot your portrait, I will never show you the photo right there.  Because, it’s not about seeing it yet, but waiting until it’s finished.  And digital photographs need finishing.

Right now, there is film with latent images in my Leica that I don’t remember, and I will be transported back to where they were taken once the roll is finished and developed.  And I’ll have that experience all over again.

I love film for that reason.  It’s not spray and pray.  It’s not ones and zeroes buried on a card, a phone, a hard-drive.  It’s a photograph.  Time captured in silver.  Light burnt from that unique moment onto that actual piece of film.

You realize that film was present at the event.  That frame saw your Grandpa in that long-lost roll of film, with the latent image still intact, awaiting processing all these years.

The magic is gone with digital.  The photographers lost out.  And we all did when “good enough” with a few filters replaced the masterful technique of recording light.

6 thoughts on “We Lost The Magic When Digital Took Over Film

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  1. I loved to read this but i find your troughs a little bit dramatic. Not every one who use digital camera automatically use filters and effects. I use both – digital and fikm these days and my love to film is not because of umeral method of digital and not because of chemical reaction of the film. I love them both. Each of them because of different teasons 😉


    1. I find that everyone is a photographer nowadays, and the common belief is anyone can make a photo, either by good technique or good filters. It’s not drama, it’s my experience with friends and acquaintances on Facebook.

      I like digital for many things, and I use it professionally. But it still lacks the magic which came with waiting for the film, the forgetting. The trusting of the craftsman with techniques that he/she knows how to use, as opposed to the fixing that digital allows anyone to make the image fine, good enough.

      My feeling is that before the curtain was lifted, and there were some who were treated professionally, because they were, there was more respect for the image, the process, the moment, the art. That feels diminished now, somehow. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fully agree with you. I don’t like these postprocessings and instagram filters and also don’t believe that some filter can make image better or to change the lack of composition. Right – everyone is photographer today and my mum also started to use her new Point and shoot digi camera that i bought for her one year ago. She dont call herself photographer and she has no idea how to add some filter but she loves the process and also publish her images on FB just for friends. So nothing to do. Photography is the new method of saying today, but like averyone can use by pencil but Murakami is only one, everyone will use camera but Ancel Adams still only one. Thank you for this conversation 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Regardless of the medium, I’m all about story first. I’d take a well-made digital image over a technically perfect pointless analog one. It’s a marriage of all these things–story, light, vision–in the craftsman’s hands. I, myself, find film photography more thoroughly created and composed, in the work I encounter. Best to you!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Digital used to have a magic of its own called the Foveon Look™. It was produced by Sigma cameras from SD9 through SD15. Some people compare it to film look but I disagree. To me film photos look like paintings (medium format) or mosaic (35mm). Foveon Look is the exact opposite – ultra-digital, hyper-realistic, 3D pop, etc. etc. The colours often weren’t accurate, but there was something special in rendering water, clouds and shiny objects that neither film nor any other kind of digital could reproduce. Unfortunately, with the introduction of the Merrill sensor, the magic greatly diminished and with the new Quattro sensor totally disappeared.

    When I look through my old Foveon photos, I feel like I’m looking through a window into the past, and only memories of the horrible user experience stop me from searching Ebay for another SD14 🙂


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