Fabulous Film Fridays, November 4 – Back to Back

I photographed the same subject using my Tachihara 4×5 film camera and my digital Nikon D300s.  The images were made within minutes of each other, although the film image shows the coiled hose being light painted and the digital image is a ‘straight shot’.  In this instance, I like both results:  the inky shadows returned by the Velvia slide film are slightly sinister while the more even-toned digital image shows fascinating texture.  The funny thing is, neither image seems to be like how I remember the object.  The film image is more ‘true’ in that the room was very dim with only a faint glow from a window above the hose.  Yet, of course the purple colour is an artifact of Velvia film so the beige hue of the wall is probably more accurate.  In either case, an interesting view of how the medium affects the message!

The film image is above and the digital version below.


~ by Samantha on November 4, 2011.

11 Responses to “Fabulous Film Fridays, November 4 – Back to Back”

  1. I’m a digital man myself, but actually prefer the film shot for subtle range of blue tones, which add extra interest and diversity to the image (even if an artifact of the film). The digital image seems somewhat ‘flat’ in comparison. Did you use a flash in the second shot, because there is virtually no shadow from the hose?

  2. What a revealing exercise. Thanks for posting those. So much for how photography captures “reality.”

  3. Sam, there is no one “true” rendition of RAW files and therefore they can’t be compared to film in terms of color balance and contrast. These can be set by you to whatever you want them to be.
    In this case the lack of blues in the digital capture tells me you likely had the camera set to AWB, which killed those beautiful blue casts seen in the (daylight-balanced) Velvia. It is also obvious that the RAW file gives you a lot more dynamic range (open shadows) than the film image.
    Converting the RAW file using the same white balance as Velvia (daylight or thereabouts) and adjusting contrast to reduce dynamic range should give you a very similar look.
    That is where digital capture has the greatest advantage over film. It can look like Velvia if you want it to, but it can also lend itself to an infinite number of other looks,which Velvia can’t.
    The only advantage to Velvia is that is saves you a little processing work if you want images that look like Velvia.


    • Hi Guy,

      I think you make this more complicated than it is intended. The simple message here is, at a basic level, you will obtain different ‘looks’ depending on what media you photograph with. I agree that, with digital RAW files, you have options in post-processing to change the look of an image to a large degree. I think you know me well enough to know that I don’t usually do much on the processing end, so for me, there is value in taking my RAW file (I usually don’t shoot AWB, BTW), giving it a curve, converting the slide to digital and throwing them both up on the blog and saying — look! there’s neat differences! (And neither looked like what I saw at the time). This is meant to apply to how I shoot, not a treatise on how digital and film compare.

    • Hi Guy – I don’t think it *is* possible to make a digital shot look like Velvia. Having shot many side by side comparisons and had a play with the colours in most of the digital shots (with the intent to see if it actually is possible) my conclusion is that the interaction of light source spectrum with film sensitivity spectrum created different final colours than the interaction of light source spectrum, bayer filter and digital sensor. These different colours can then be made the same but only at one colour at a time (i.e. you make one colour look the same and another colour will be different). This is a similar effect to the metameric effect in prints and different light sources. From my experience, chlorophyl shows the biggest differences between digital and film. Film also separates colours in a way that can be replicated in digital but with some difficulty. e.g. Velvia 50 takes slightly blue greens and makes them very blue and slight yellowy greens and makes them more yellow. It does the same with yellows and reds, making oranges more red. This is why pointing velvia at a sunset ends up with something completely over the top (and where I’d advise the use of Astia or Provia which holds the subtelties together).

      • Well, my gut feeling was the same, Tim, but being a newbie I knew there’d be a bunch of spit balls thrown at me if I dared to venture such an inexperienced opinion! I know that trying to make my digital file look just like quirky Velvia is beyond my processing skills. Darwin says he can’t either, and that he’d have to have shot a Velvia slide for the comparison because of how it can vary from what the human eye sees. So, might as well pick your media in the first place.

  4. I love the presentation of the top one. I think sometimes unusual colours help jiggle our brains and cause us to view photographs in a different way. The shadow in the top one is a great detail too.

  5. Hi Sam,
    It’s interesting how the two images each have a totally different feel. Not to say that one is better than the other. I guess it’s just important to keep all of the possibilities in mind when shooting or post processing to be able to best express your vision.

  6. I keep going back and forth on these. 🙂 I like the lighting on the top one, producing the shadow, and the color cast adds a bit of visual flair. I also like the soft light on the bottom one, showing the subtle texture; it feels a bit more “formal”. You’re right — two very different impressions.

    Combined with Darwin’s side-by-side shots of the coal car wheels, it’s a really good illustration of the impact of just choosing the medium, and perhaps a smidge of lighting. A shift this way or that can really deliver a completely different expression of the scene…

  7. hi Sam, Thanks for this, I am amazed at the difference , being a person who is attracted to blue tones, I know what I like.but it is more than the blue it is the feeling of depth and the little details. Everyone “sees” differently and the results are endless. This helps me to look at a composition and asking myself before as well as after the shot, ” just what it is that attracted me in the first place. What is it that gives me an emotional response, thus giving a photo more “staying power””? And thank you for helping me to “see” better at photo cram. Jane

  8. Thanks, everyone, for spending time with the two images. And Jane, my pleasure 🙂

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