Yesterday evening I had an interesting conversation with my friend about photography. I gotta say I’m more than thrilled any time someone wants to talk about photography, not to mention presenting deep and interesting thoughts about it. Especially film, which is such a marginal hobby. Not everyone gets it, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear my friend wondering what is it about film, that makes it look so good.

He said, and I think this is true, when you shoot film, it has an instant artistic value over a digital photo, even though we both agreed, that a good photo is a good photo no matter what it has been shot with. The consensus is that the format or the type of camera doesn’t matter. The funny thing is though, that secretly it actually does matter.

Somehow film seem to have some kind of instant charm and allure. We were not able to figure out where it comes from, but it definitely is there. Is it the apparent low-fi image quality? Is the grain? Is it some other subtle nuance that is harder to pin-point? Is it just some kind of sense of nostalgia? After all, we belong to an age group, who’s childhood images were all film. Or does film simply represent the world more accurately? They are just photons hitting the emulsion. There are no computer processing or electronic interference. Are digital photos almost too good, to the extent of being unnatural? I know some people say digital photos look plasticy and soulless. Maybe that’s it?

I’ve tried to simulate film look on digital photos many times in Photoshop. I’m pretty sufficient in artistic photo manipulation and I have a pretty good hunch what should make an authentic film look. Adding some grain, dust and scratches will not do the trick. It goes somehow deeper than just the obvious.

I like especially the look of black and white film. I like a bit of grain. Something like Tri-x. It looks traditional and classic, even though it is pretty damn far away from a perfect image quality. The defects are not to be considered as a disadvantage. They are in fact the things that make the image quality so appealing, even though it doesn’t make apparent sense. I like low-fi music too, like delta blues from the 1920’s, for example. Studio technology was pretty low-fi during those days, but the sound quality has a similar kind of rough charm as a grainy black and white image.