Is there a point teaching film photography any more

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by swampy, Nov 1, 2006.

  1. swampy

    swampy TPF Noob!

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    Hi There

    I'm writing a study on the merits of teaching B&W film photography in College based Photography courses, as opposed to teaching digital photography straight away.

    I'd be really interested to hear what people's thoughts are. Is it pointless or outdated to teach what is fast becoming an outdated and less-used medium.

    Or does the physical aspect of manually adapting & conforming light teach more about the process than digtal?

    I'm about to begin a teaching course & this is something which is quite pertinent at the moment, seeing as we are still in the age of print/digital transition. I hope this sparks a healthy debate!
     
  2. dewey

    dewey TPF Noob!

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    I say make them all shoot slide film :angry1:

    I've found students who come from a film background understand lighting and composition better than students who started with digital. "Photoshopping" is now a "norm" in the business. I've found digital only students tend to think of Photoshop as part of the normal process for every photo, whereas students coming from film rely on Photoshop much less. They tend to use it to tweak photos rather than "save" them.

    Don't get me wrong I'm a big Photoshop guy - I'd rather save a crappy photo in PS than lose it. Photoshop has become so powerful that as long as you get the image nearly in focus and you get "okay" lighting everything in the photo can be fixed.

    Anyway, I would say that teaching student film first before digital is a good step and it does provide a needed foundation. If you go train to be an airline pilot you don't get the keys to a 737 on day one, you start with a Cessna and build from there.

    Having said that, I know a photographer with awesome work who never went to school for anything. She went down to Best Buy, bought a D50 and started making wonderful prints and decent money right away. She had never used a film SLR before... she just went out and shot all day everyday and learned for herself.

    Soooo I guess I'm torn. I think students who go straght to digital can produce the same quality image in the end, but they would also benifit greatly from learning film.

    ~Dewey
     
  3. I don't see any real point in teaching film. I learned to shoot 22 years ago in college, and don't see how most of what I learned was in any way unique to film. The only part that was interesting (and fun) was printing, but things like composition and so on are not unique to the recording medium. I can see how B+W vs. Color allows you to understand contrast and exposure a little more simply, but that can still be done in digital.

    I have been trying find my wife some classes, and I am unable to do so, because they all insist on teaching film. We only have digital cameras, and shoot digital, and the teachers are near militant about their dislike for digital. She has dropped out of one class and avoided another after talking to the teacher.

    For Goodness sake, most of the manufacturers aren't even making pro-level film cameras anymore.
     
  4. W.Smith

    W.Smith TPF Noob!

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    Imo, teaching about film photography is history. Literally.
    It's the same as teaching steam technology was 100 years ago.
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I'm an Engineering Technologist...primarily in Drafting and Design...my industry went 'digital' a while back and when I was in school...that was a time of major transition. All my drafting courses required manual drafting...all assignments were to be painstakingly draw by hand. The only exception was the few CAD classes. It started in my second year...but soon after I was finished...the majority of the course work could be drafted with Autocad. That's what employers (and students) wanted.

    I am glad that I got the chance to learn things the 'old school' way...and I do think it gives me an appreciation for the new technology...but I learned CAD really quick. Many of the other students could have used more instruction in CAD while they were at school...especially since >95% of industry is using CAD.

    So back to photography. If your classes are given with the intent of training people for working in the photographic/visual arts industry...digital is the way to go. The school I went to, N.A.I.T., is a great school because they listen to what the industry wants and they adapt quickly.
     
  6. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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  7. toastydeath

    toastydeath TPF Noob!

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    I believe it's important to have a foundation in where the techniques you use started, no matter what industry. But at the same time, it's important to have the primary focus on what will be used in industry. Teaching all film or all manual drafting, etc, is not the proper way to prepare people.

    In photography, that means film and darkroom work.

    In computer science, that means taking courses in ASM, and becoming very familiar with C (not c++).

    In manufacturing, that means learning how layout, setup, and measuring was done way back before CNC or computer, and being able to replicate it.

    I've noticed that the people who do these things usually have a passion in what they do, and are not only passonate, but intelligent individuals. They have initiative, because they went out of their way to gain deeper insight. It displays great virtue to be able to not only say why, instead of only how, but to elaborate on why it isn't done differently as well. I find that these people tend to move onward and upward, instead of stagnating or complaining about the direction an industry is moving in.
     
  8. Efergoh

    Efergoh TPF Noob!

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    The school I attend requires you to take at least two film classes before you can take digital. I'm glad I took the film classes. I think it gives me a geater understanding than if I dove right into digital.

    Even now, i still prefer "analog" photography.
     
  9. hobbes28

    hobbes28 Incredible Supporting Member

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    I think the thing I most learned (and still learn) from shooting film is to be more selective on the shots you take. True, on a digital, you can shoot away and pick the best one to keep but it, IMO, starts taking the picture taking away from the photographer and putting it in the hands of the camera. Not that you can't do the same with film, but it starts to get really expensive so people in general tend not to.
     
  10. Dylan

    Dylan TPF Noob!

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    I couldn't have said it better. I started with digital and was given a much nicer film camera. As soon as I learned how to use the film camera (Eos Elan 7e) I noticed the quality of my work improve. You can't just go shoot a couple hundred shots and dump all but the 10 best with a film camera. It actually forced me to slow down and look at what I was shooting. For that reason alone I think film should still be taught.
     
  11. Good point, the selectivity that film forces on you is definitely a worthwhile lesson. But I guess you could force students to use a smaller memory chip.

    Let me augment what I wrote earlier: in a perfect world, with lots of time, people should take the time to learn film. But if it is just a hobby, with limited access to a darkroom, then digitial is a great way to go.
     
  12. Znarled

    Znarled TPF Noob!

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    Flatline brings up a key point I think.
    If your intent is to train professional photographers who get paid to get the best image possible then I think it's imperative that beginners in this vein start with film for the various reasons that people have stated above (you better understand exposure, you are forced to put more thought into the process, you can't magically fix your mistakes with photoshop, and you tend to develop a better appreciation for the art and become more enthusiastic about the whole thing. . .as said, working in the darkroom is just plain fun).
    However, if the intent of the class is to enable the consumer (student) to produce better images for their own personal use, then starting with Digital would suffice. As stated, Digital is more accessible, less expensive, and pretty much everything that is taught through film can be taught digitally aside from the lessons learned through the often painstaking processes of chemical processing. Afterall, photoshop is pretty much just that - a 'digital' darkroom that mimics most film processes digitally.
    The professional (or future professional) can benefit greatly through the trials and errors and joys of the chemical darkroom, but the consumer doesn't necessarily have to go through it to take great pictures.

    The question remains, though, how a given course can satisfy both needs in a situation where you have both of these types of beginning photographers in the same class. In a University setting where most of your photo students are art majors, film seems to be the way to go. However, in a Community College situation for example, where most (or more anyway) students are older and taking a photo class to maybe wrack up some college elective credit or just because they're interested in learning how to shoot better, Professors should be more flexible and seriously consider using Digital only for beginning classes. Afterall, generally speaking, in that setting most of your students are also employed full time and lead lives that are more time-deficient, so being forced to put in the hours of lab time necessary with film doesn't seem fair.
     

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