That "film look," are we creating a false memory?

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Tim Tucker 2, Jan 20, 2019.

  1. Grandpa Ron

    Grandpa Ron No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Obviously film could be doctored. Dog do not sit at tables and play poker. And yes, a few gifted souls labored for hour to produce the perfect print. Today those changes take a few minutes on mouse and keyboard.

    But film is film and digital is digital. Each is unique in its own way. To compare the results of silver compounds interacting with light photons, to inks deposited on paper, is like comparing apple to oranges or one type of wine to another.

    There is absolutely no reason to choose one over the other, when one can enjoy both. I love fly fishing but I still bobber fish at times. I love canoeing but a bass boat come in handy once in a while.

    I like film because I enjoy the touchy feely diddling with mechanical things and it feels more natural to me. But I will admit, digital is quicker and easier and definitely the future of photography.

    Choose what is best for you.


     
  2. Tim Tucker 2

    Tim Tucker 2 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    :):)

    But it does highlight a problem. Many don't ever question the nature of how they see but believe that the object that they *see* is in fact the object as it stands in front of them. It's an assumption that promotes what I find a *weird* idea, that what you see is absolute visual reality and exists in the absolute visual reality of an object. A smile exists on the face of the one smiling and also in the photograph, it's a visual reality that absolutely exists in the object.

    And it leads to a false presumption about the nature of photography: Cameras are able to capture subtleties we don't see, nuances of expression and light, the emotive impact of what's in front of us... This leads us to the contradiction because if this is true and the absolute visual reality is contained within the image then the other half of the equation must be: ...and the human eye is a precision optical instrument that captures exactly what's in front of it.

    Which is kinda the wrong way around: Cameras capture exactly what's in front of them and the human eye is capable of picking up on subtle nuance. And emotive impact only happens as a reaction to what you see, it doesn't exist in the image at all. Happiness is our ability to recognise the shapes in faces and through experience and associate them with the emotions we feel when we smile and laugh.

    Film has many restrictions, but does that make digital better? Digital can capture colour and sharpness in low light, it can capture detail in shadows, freeze action and capture the absolute visual reality of a moment. Great, but as absolute visual reality is not contained in a photograph but in our human interpretion and how we relate it to our experience is there really much point in chasing after it's existence and trying to *capture* that reality as a product of the light it reflects? When we are very young we learn to see by touch, our worlds extend to what we can feel. We associate touch to the 3D shape of objects and their textures, weight. Texture is the memory of touch, not the physical reality of contrast contained in a photograph...

    Film has no soul, but it does have a history and that history has meaning in our experience and memory. It's restrictions and the creative solutions to the problem wrote the book on the *visual language of photography* that we still use today. Shallow DOF to secure shutter speed and silky water to secure DOF... The abstractions in images and how we interpret them are because of that history, they no longer show us anything we haven't seen before. Also those old images have to be viewed in the context of the time they were taken. Robertson's "Fading Away" and "Autumn" are composites by necessity of process rather than artistic intent and were a greater depiction of reality than the alternative of the time, an artist with a brush. In fact today they are seen for what they are, and have been lampooned as a vision of complete falsity. In their day they weren't really seen as *artistic*, "Fading Away" being against the sensibilities of what many wished to hang on their walls but both were slightly *kitsch*.

    The abstractions in images are the result of process, the deserted streets in old images a direct result of slow emulsions not lack of people and was seen as *unreal* hence the impact of *real* street scenes when light and emulsion speed allowed.

    In many ways that *old film look* is as much a process of subject matter, the limitations of film and our association of the image with nostalgia and memory rather than the *absolute physical reality* of a film *look*. Film was actually far more varied than the current trend in digital with the number of different formats, emulsions, lenses and the restrictions each placed on images. It's look is much more diverse than the modern digital trend of sharpness, detail and the need to capture an absolute physical reality in an image.

    This trend to nail photography to absolutes has always been present, mainly because those who photograph were predominantly *left brain* thinkers concerned with science and the exact way a camera captures and forms an image, very few women were taken seriously until recently. Artists however have always been concerned with the way we as humans see and respond to the visual stimulus placed in front of us. It continues today but with a technical precision that promotes the idea we can capture reality and present it in an image, and with it comes the idea that the *look* is absolute and contained within the image itself.

    We are capable of seeing very subtle differences in images, mostly subconsciously. It's these subtitles that really distinguish digital from film rather than the other way around. We see digital as *all encompassing* and the pinnacle rather than the history and variety of film images against the lesser historical narrative of digital. We believe that we can create anything with digital because it is more advanced, more capable. But is it? Film defined the language of photography in a way that digital has not had the time to. We want to believe that digital can do everything that film did because we want to believe that it's better. We have this fixed idea that more DR, sharper lenses, better sensors transforms into better images where all of photographic history has shown the opposite. That the artistic side is only revealed when we forget about absolute visual reality and technical correctness and start to explore how the camera abstracts our world.

    In film that abstraction was the result of the limitations. Now because we've removed those limitations we think that we can reproduce the look of film more easily. To me the way to do it is to put the limitations back and there's no easier way than to use film. However I don't really tell people what I used to capture an image, I don't feel it's important for them to know or that it has any relevance to the subject. I'm taking a picture *on* film, not *of* film... ;);););)
     
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  3. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Simulating film in digital processing is somewhat like the "Elephant and the blind men" ELEPHANT AND THE BLIND MEN film is not a fixed medium it changes with type, process, age, storage........ like the Elephant anyone attempting to simulate film is likely only looking at one part.
     
  4. 480sparky

    480sparky Chief Free Electron Relocator Supporting Member

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    If I take a digital image and try to replicate a 'film look' on the data, it's not so I can recall what the scene looked like back when I took the shot. I'm trying to create something artistic, not a snapshot. Snapshots are what you take at family reunions, graduations, weddings and when your kids to something funny during the day. You don't edit them to 'look like film'.
     
  5. Grandpa Ron

    Grandpa Ron No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    The folks have had over a century of photo viewing. When you say photograph, many think paper. Digital has been around for about a quarter century and growing rapidly.

    When my grand kids grow up, photo will mean a digital a image hung on a video screen. Film photos will be looked on like we look at old tin types; an interesting old technology that some folks like to play with.
     
  6. Ysarex

    Ysarex Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    When I referenced photogs like Adams and Smith I'm not talking about hours to make the perfect print I'm talking about hours to manipulate what was there into something else. Smith is known for creating composite images taking what was there along with what was somewhere else and combining those with what was there on another day and turning them into what was never there. Eugene Smith - Albert Schweitzer — ALTERED IMAGES Adams wasn't as extreme but he was also an image "doctor" as were many of his contemporaries.

    "When the film is exposed to light energy, the photons of light release electrons from bromide ions, which collect at defects in the crystal (sensitivity specks), which in turn attract an equal number of free silver ions. The combination is silver atoms (black deposits), which in the processing stage are amplified by chemicals to a negative image."*

    "CCDs consist of etched pixelated metal oxide semiconductors made from silicon, sensitive in the visible and near infrared spectrum. They convert light that falls onto them into electrons, sensing the level/amount of light rather than colour.... The electron-to-voltage conversion is done on the chip, leaving the supporting camera circuitry (three to eight additional chips) to digitize this analogue data."*

    Sounds to me like we're comparing a process where photons push around electrons with another process where photons push around electrons. Interesting that you mention ink on paper. My very first job in the photo industry (1970s) was working at a press shop making press plates that we used to transfer photos from film to ink on paper which until pretty recently (and if only considering still images) was the most common way that we all experienced photos -- newspapers, magazines, books, etc.

    Speaking of images that don't show us what was photographed I'm sure you recognize this one.

    afgan_girl.jpg

    Taken in 1985 on Kodachrome film by Steve McCury it's considered the most recognizable photo in the world today. When you first saw it did your intuition kick in -- those eyes huh? Oh oh, wait a minute, or were you just another member of the public duped by a doctored film image?

    Think about commercial advertising: All those fashion models that today are photoshoped into idealized fantasies were presented decades ago showing them as they were photographed because film was used? Not a chance.

    It's not a digital/film thing.

    Joe

    *https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/silver-bromide
     
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  7. ayapx

    ayapx TPF Noob!

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    I think though digital can be touched up enough to look like old style film, I don't like it often even if I know it's just being creative. It's all about what you associate it too personally, whenever I think of old photos I don't feel very comfortable, they often feel a bit ominous to me. But I know that's just me whether it's the old family pictures I found sitting around untouched for years that look like they were taken on another planet at this point or seeing old photos in some place that had really bad vibes to me one too many times. I can't be upset at what anyone else enjoys taking pictures of though, if I don't like it then I just don't look at it.
     
  8. limr

    limr Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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  9. Grandpa Ron

    Grandpa Ron No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    My point is if you take the hours to bend and massage your photograph negative and paper into a not so real photograph, in my opinion it becomes Photo-art. We still use the term "Fine Art" photography to refer to these and other photos. There is a certain level of understanding that the photo has received more than the typical exposure and contrast adjustment.

    I believe this was the exception in the day of film. One only has to go to the library (we all remember them) and peruse the old Time, Life, Look and National Geographic magazine photo collections, to realize that the majority of the photos capturing the news of the day are "as shot". Sure they were cropped and trimmed for affect and certainly the commercial and glamour photos were enhanced. But the background was not "Bokehed" except for the lens depth of field.

    Personally, I am of the opinion that the majority of the digital photos one sees today are more Photo-art than "as shot". Except of course snap shots, and even they have gotten better because you can take eight shots and cull out the ones you do not like.

    I attribute this change to more artistic photos to three things.
    1. People have moved away from day to day still photos and are using more cell phone videos to capture almost everything.
    2. Those who like to share photos can digitally enhance their photos in minutes not hours. Before they email them.
    3. Many digital photos never see paper, they are photographed, download, post processed, sent, and stored electronically; then viewed on a brightly back lit monitor.
    So getting back the OPs original comment of reproducing film-like photos. There is no standard photo to compare to. My slide photos of the Grand Canyon in the 1960's shot with Ektachrome, look very different from the Kodachrome and other film brand prints I shot on that vacation.

    To say that a person enhancing a photo to their liking is trying to dupe someone, is like saying an artist laying brush to canvas, to paint a light house, is duping the viewer because he omits the birds nest that has not been removed yet.

    A good post processed photo can take a lot of talent to get it the way the person wants it. That is why I call it Photo-Art. Basically painting with pixel. My own bias leans towards the "as shot", they look more natural to me. The fact that other may have a different opinion is normal.
     
  10. Ysarex

    Ysarex Been spending a lot of time on here!

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  11. Ysarex

    Ysarex Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    It was and it remains the exception today with digital.

    As they are now with digital. In fact probably more so today with digital since we're aware that it's easier to alter digital photos and ethics expectations and rules have tightened up: https://petapixel.com/2015/11/18/reuters-issues-a-worldwide-ban-on-raw-photos/

    And if you're still talking about journalistic photos background is not "bokehed" using SOOC digital images -- see link above. As for past film photos that weren't journalistic we used to do that in the darkroom all the time. We "Ortonized" them too. In the darkroom a sheet of clear acetate did the trick to make the out of focus background blurrier. I was teaching students to do that 30 years ago.

    No way. Nearly all the photos one sees today are digital. We are inundated with them constantly all day long and the huge majority of them are "as shot" SOOC JPEGs from the cameras. Because digital has increased the overall volume of photos by a huge amount the photos that are not "as shot" if anything are a smaller percentage of the whole than they were during the film era.

    What does taking more "as shot" photos so you can select the better "as shot" photos have to do with them being "as shot" or not?

    But the overwhelming majority of them don't alter them at all or do any more than your accepted exposure and contrast adjustment.

    What does seeing paper or being displayed on a backlit monitor have to do with photos "as shot?"

    Joe

     
  12. Tropicalmemories

    Tropicalmemories No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Why do you say duped by the image? I thought the Afghan girl in Pakistan did have striking green eyes, and they went back again 20 years later and found her in Afghanistan, and the new photos also showed her green eyes.

    A bit of light adjustment maybe, but the image showed a real girl with striking coloured eyes - so who was duped?
     
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