Black & White: Film or digital?

long exposure, black and white, fineart, fine art, landscape, Alberta, Dan Jurak, clouds, farm, prairie, silo,

What to choose when shooting black and white? Digital or film?

Let me preface this by saying that not only did I spend two years in photo school stuck in the darkroom back in the seventies but when I graduated I spent thousands of hours, yes that is THOUSANDs of hours working in a color and black and white darkroom while trying to establish myself as a photographer.

I am NOT tied to any sense of nostalgia because after hand processing thousands of black and white prints it was the final image that was important not the craft of black and white developing and printing.

In my short foray into the world of black and white after a thirty year absence I can say without hesitation that if I never ever saw another enlarger and wet darkroom I wouldn’t miss them one little bit.

It’s simple for me. The results are far superior today to what I would achieve in the darkroom. No contest hands down to my way of seeing the black and white wet darkroom is relegated to the same place that a ’57 Chevy is today. It’s fun to drive but if I want to do any serious driving I am going to drive a vehicle today that is better at everything than the old ’57 was.

From reading the opinions of those who are enamored with the old fashioned way of thinking it seems to me that they probably grew up shooting digital and for them the wet darkroom is a novelty. Those that I have read praising digital over the old way seem to be like me, people who grew up with film and for them and me there is no sense of the good old days.

In the good old days we were always looking for better films and better papers to get the tones that we were after. With a good knowledge of Photoshop and a decent printer I can easily come up with better prints than when I was shooting with my wooden sheet film cameras. Those old or rather new versions of old cameras were good at what they did but they in no way offer me the creative freedom that a good DSLR does today.

If you like to drive old cars, wash your clothes on a scrub board and cook your meals over an open fire and read by candle light then film cameras are probably for you. LOL Me? I’d rather throw something into the microwave and then watch a movie on a big screen HDTV. To each their own, I guess. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Happy shooting,



~ by Dan Jurak on November 9, 2014.

17 Responses to “Black & White: Film or digital?”

  1. I’m from the same camp; design school back in the 1970s, a decade working as a pro photog, thousands of hours in a darkroom, horrible hours, worse deadlines, and — ultimately — burnout.

    Got back into photography for personal satisfaction and made the jump to digital back in the early 2000s. Due to a failed digital body, I was forced to shoot with film again last January.

    Wow — what a revelation! I found the results to be superior to digital; no CA, wonderful atmospheric effects, full frame, etc. All in a package that’s much lighter than the digital gear I kept hauling around.

    I’m not going to do darkroom prints, but I am going to do my own B&W developing and scanning.

  2. Mitch, that’s great that it worked out for you. Each of us has our own unique experiences and expectations. Continued fun shooting film!

    All the best,

  3. I loved reading this and couldn’t agree more with you. I have always found it so intriguing how some people think film is so much better, it is more traditional, though if you ask them if they are using glass negs they will say no. It is the old Luddite thing, I’m with you, I love digital. The wet darkroom frustrated the hell out of me, I can get exactly what I want these days, and that is so much better, better for the environment too, no more horrible chemicals.

  4. Leanne, we have the same experience and Mitch who replied above you had the exact opposite. To each their own. I say whatever works best for you, do it. For me and you, digital is the way.

    Thank you for commenting and visiting,

  5. I enjoyed your article and like the photo. So many ways to be creative.

  6. Thank you Jane. You are right about being creative, so many ways. Creativity is like a muscle that needs to be exercised to make it work better.


  7. Hello
    Absolutely correct, the only good thing about the good old days is they’re gone. I live in a remote rural area and when i used film had to wait until i had a dozen rolls shot, mail them in and wait for the slides to be processed and mailed back. What a pain, with digital its all done at home. I wouldn’t go back to film if someone paid me ten dollars a roll to use it

  8. @Dave, I had completely forgotten about that part of the “good old days”. I remember waiting a few weeks for my rolls of Kodachrome to arrive in the mail. That was agonizing.

    I think because of the immediacy of digital photography it is easier to become a better photographer quicker. You can see your mistakes almost immediately whereas with film it would be a longer time to do so.
    Thank you for visiting and commenting,

  9. Film – I have blocked that out – like Dave pointed out – Oh the waiting and no control – like doing complex math calculations with a slide rule

    Dan I am not 100% sure how you are doing these – but it is quite like seeing magic – show me more – just truly some incredible work since your return

  10. Ray, I have a freezer full of film. Color. Black and white. Rolls of 35 mm. Sheets of 4×5 and 8×10. It is film that one day I will bequeath to my grandchildren because I sure aint gonna use it. LOL

    About the black and white photos, almost all of them were taken at longer exposures between four and seven minutes long. That is one third of the recipe. The other two thirds is playing in Photoshop to selectively lighten and darken things. When it comes down to it I still find getting color photos that I like more challenging than these black and whites. With color I think the recipe is reversed. It’s two thirds the exposed image and one third or less processing in Photoshop.

    When/if I ever become confident enough in what I am doing to not feel like I am looking the fool I’ll make a short tutorial on how easy it can be to get images looking like this.


  11. Dan I have to say you cannot look the fool with a final piece of art like the one posted above.

    A b&w – to me – has a sombre quality to it – but this is alive – a b&w dream – just magical

  12. I’m an advocate of both film and digital, each has it’s place. You do get better quality images with digital and it is of course massively more convenient but I find the sense of satisfaction is much greater when you go through all the hard work with film and get a great print at the end.

  13. Richard, I think that there is a place for both film and digital today. Both give different end results and both have their limitations. Maybe I just spent too many hours in the dark with my hands smelling of developer and fix to want to go back to the wet darkroom. LOL

    Thank you for your comment,

  14. I shot and developed colour, slide and b&w back in the ’70 when I attended photography art school. After that I worked in a lab for a few years printing hand made colour prints for professionals. Went back to school and became something in IT and I became an amateur photographer. I shoot digital since 2000 but I have recently started shooting b&w film again and do my own developing and scanning. I love it. It slows me down, makes me look at the world in a different way and creating an image has become work in stead of elusive.
    There is indeed a place for both. To me color = digital but monochrome is film and I’m not going back ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. @ Stephen, more power to you. Find what you like and go with it!
    Thank you for visiting and commenting,

  16. And then there’s the art gallery world, where it’s art just because it was shot with a film camera. Doesn’t matter that they then scan the negatives and do everything else digitally the same as you or I, or that the images are complete boring garbage! LOL….yep, I’ve got rolls of film in my freezer too. I should give them to one of those superior film ‘artist’s’.

  17. Hi Roberta, I remember the first time I naively approached an art gallery so many years ago. The person I spoke with so so full of pretense and self importance. At first I thought that it was just me seeing things wrong but upon speaking with friends who are watercolor artists learned a bit more about the “gallery game”. Excuse my French but like we used to say in high school, “It’s who you know and who you blow,” in the gallery world.

    Most photos that I have seen in galleries are more about how bad you can be and convince your audience otherwise by telling a “story”.

    Most art galleries are about the gamesmanship and not about the art.

    Nice to hear from you again,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: