Why the silver gelatin process?

Petri 7S, Street, 2TMY, Grand Rapids, Michigan

I’ve been thinking about the reason why I’ve been using black and white film exclusively, and don’t even bother to touch my digital. I came up with several points. I’m not anti-digital, but film still has its place, when it comes to art.

– I’m never into the main stream. Just when everyone and their grandmother is all about digital, I’m already over it to a point. Be classy, and use film, and when you do, use black and white film.

– With the silver gelatin process, it is very easy to do at home, unlike c-41 or E6. To develop, all you need is a tank, and as little as 3 other chemicals if you want to be cheap. Developer, Fixer, and Photoflo.

– You don’t get Kodak Tri-X with a digital camera.

– Film cameras are relatively cheap, nowadays. And you can buy camera that you could only dream of 20 years ago for a decent price. They are relatively well built compared to a lot of digital cameras, and better than new cameras for a lot of occasions. I have a total of 20-some film cameras. They are all different and from different decades, from toy cameras to “professional” workhorses. I have everything from a Ansco Pioneer to a Kodak Instamatic to a Rolleiflex. All those cameras cost less than 1500 dollars combined.

– If you would like to talk about resolution, how would you get a 40+MP camera for couple hundred dollars? I usually scan my 6x6cm to about 12000px tall and wide. And I can up the resolution, yet.

– A black and white enlarger is also relatively cheap, I picked up my Omega B22 and the whole darkroom set including timer for $50 dollars. It works like a champ, and sort of giving the old enlarger a second chance. It is a lot of fun sitting in my darkroom (bathroom) except for the smell. You are learning the real deal. The silver gelatin process been around us for over 100 years, if you really love photography that much, you need to know how everything works. Digital-only shooters are posers.

– With black and white film, it’s personal. From loading , developing, to printing under the enlarger, you make up each little part of it.

– With my negatives I don’t have to worry about hard drive malfunctions. If anything, I just have to worry if I washed my negatives long enough.

– Film, nowadays, is fine grain. If you worry about it that much. And, if anything, it is grain, not digital noise. Bottom line is, digital noise and grain are mostly annoying. Film grain can be beautiful.

– Bringing a film camera out on the street, most likely you will get friendly attention. Unless you’re taking your 6×7 to do random street photography.

– With film, you shoot less, its quality vs quantity. You know you’re not gonna easily waste a frame for non-sense.

– If you’re worrying that stock photo companies or other media agencies don’t accept film anymore, well, there is always the digital scanner, and you can edit with ease. 150$ dollar epson perfection will be a very, very good starting point.

– If you really want to be particular, you can utilize Ansel Adam’s zone system to the extreme.

– Film has much much higher dynamic range. If you don’t believe me try something super high contrast with stand development.

– There are many different films, developers, and developing techniques. Learning all this is a bottomless pit.

– You don’t have to worry about camera companies coming out with a slightly better sensor every 2 months to get your money.

– A Silver Gelatin print is much higher quality than a ink jet print. Even higher quality than a negative scan. Best of all, you can get it wet and it won’t smear.

– If you master black and white film photography, you’ll be even better in digital. When you understand what Zone III, V, and VII are.

– I shoot Nikon Digital, If you’re not dumb enough to buy a G or DX lens, your lenses are interchangeable with most Nikon Film bodies. I use the same AIS 180mm f2.8 on my FE and on my D80.

– Film keeps you in check with reality, unlike digital’s la-la land where everything (colors, contrast, etc)  can be way unrealistic.

– Digital is for amateurs.

– Another thing, If you don’t use film cameras, they won’t be around. And they need to be around.

Bottom Line, for personal work use film, especially black and white. Use Digital for a quick buck.

And I HATE that photography schools are trying to teach digital only. That’s because its cheaper, and easier, to teach someone. In reality, you don’t even learn 1/10 of what photography is all about.


8 thoughts on “Why the silver gelatin process?

  1. Reblogged this on The Film Diaries and commented:
    I am reblogging this article posted by Derek because I completely agree with what he has written.
    The only thing I’m not going to do ever again is print them with an enlarger on photopaper.
    Visit Derek’s blog “Straight, No Chaser”. It is loaded with useful information, interesting articles and great black and white photography.

  2. Hear, hear.
    I could not have put it better and because of this and the fact I completely agree I’m reblogging this article. The one thing I’m not go to do again is make silverprints. I scan my negs and use archival “art” paper. The Pixma Pro 9500 Mark II prints extremely well in black and white. Of course inkjet will never beat Silver gelatine printing though.

  3. I have noticed an odd viewing result when I view your blog using Safari on my iPad 2 Air with latest updates. In portrait mode, the pictures change from normal to wide distorted. This was especially unflattering for a bride. Other blogs do not do this. Hope you are well and continuing on with your blog. Cheers from one State below.

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