Mark Tucker : Journal

Overheard in Ad Agency offices — from film to digital (and back?)

Posted in Personal by marktucker on January 19, 2009

It’s funny lately, how I’m reading these articles again about the joys of film, versus the clinical-clean digital files that everyone is now shooting. It’s almost like memories of an old girlfriend, where all you remember are the good parts about the relationship. It’s almost like some kind of Harmonic Convergence of a recoil against digital, when, for so long, it was such an uphill battle to get digital accepted.

The overheard conversations went something like this, (circa about 2002 to present day 2009). Feel free to send me your own Overheard Comments and I’ll add them to the timeline:

“What do you mean shoot digital? Digital pictures? Won’t there be those jaggy lines?”

shifted to:

“Wow, well maybe you could shoot digital, but if you want to shoot it, you’ve got to do a test for me, and shoot the same scene digital and film side by side”.

which shifted to:

“How come the picture looks so different on my monitor than it does in the CMYK proof?”

which shifted to:

“Wow, I’m not sure about this digital stuff, but it sure is nice to see it big on that 24″ monitor, instead of a little folded Polaroid”.

which shifted to:

“I know we’re shooting this job on Monday, but we go to press on Friday. Can we see everything you shot by 8am tomorrow?”

which shifted to:

“The AD can’t really get away and fly there. Can you set up a modem on the beach, and upload everything to his computer in New York, as you’re shooting it, frame by frame, for him to sign off on?”

which is now shifting to:

“Just so we make deadline, make sure you shoot the job digital, but if you want to, you can shoot a couple of rolls of 120 for yourself.”

which is now shifting to:

“Yeah, we got the uploaded web galleries of the stuff you shot yesterday, but these two rolls of 120 really are nice! We love the grain and the color!”

which is now shifting to:

“Why don’t we shoot this next job on film. Everything is starting to look the same with digital — too clean, too perfect, too normal…”

31 Responses

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  1. Jeff Singer said, on January 19, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    I just posted about going back to film:

    I hope there is a trend. I got back the rolls of film I mentioned in the post and loved them (more than the digital shots). The film shots where mostly backlit late afternoon no-lights stuff… which frankly digital sucks at.

    Although, I just got another editorial shoot and asked if they would pay for film/processing/scanning and they said “we’re a digital magazine, so digital is fine.”


  2. Stefan Rohner said, on January 19, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    ;)) feel free…

  3. tinybrain said, on January 19, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    As a film photographer first, who makes most of his living via Photoshop- I use film for all of my personal work. A few years ago they all laughed at me, but slowly they are coming back and realizing that digital just doesn’t have the soul of film.. I got a ton of flak about a piece I wrote, “Digital People just Don’t get it…” but I totally agree with what you’ve said…

  4. Scott Lightner said, on January 19, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Predicable too :P
    I like both mediums.
    Prefer the pictorial feeling of film for people, personal work.

  5. […] was inevitable. Film doesn’t face extinction. It […]

  6. Daniel said, on January 20, 2009 at 2:48 am

    And they wonder why we are all confused…..

  7. Sab said, on January 20, 2009 at 5:32 am

    I had a short lecture on photography at art college last week for documenting work, and all they talked about was digital. i dared to ask about shooting on film and the guy said ‘don’t even go there without taking a course in it’. plus they only have digital facilities! i’ve used film for years (go check out for film fun), i can see the efficiency of digital but film pretty much always looks beautiful

  8. luis said, on January 20, 2009 at 5:43 am


  9. 2manyphotos said, on January 20, 2009 at 5:47 am

    yes, please!

  10. tzugidan said, on January 20, 2009 at 8:39 am

    And LP’s have that scratchy background going on… This will last exactly one generation, then we’ll realize how environmentally friendly digital is…

  11. Stefan Rohner said, on January 20, 2009 at 9:18 am

    even if we hope and dream, film will be dead, why should a a film company produce film if the dont sell enough…

  12. david said, on January 20, 2009 at 11:01 am

    great post mark.

  13. Amanda said, on January 20, 2009 at 11:02 am

    I am NOT a pro so this may be a different perspective. I think that if you are a pro and know what you are doing, then film (and digital) is fantastic because you know what you are doing and can get the results. But if you are ‘the average person’ I see better results with my digital then film. Now that I am thinking though I think a good portion of that has to do with the fact that you can buy a decent digital camera for a LOT less then a good film camera. PLEASE feel free to correct me and give any other opinions.

  14. Stefan Rohner said, on January 20, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Amanda, and if your not a pro, you dont need a pro camera, even some pros dont need the millions of pixel they get ;) what you said is very good + learning photography is much cheaper with a digital camera.

    something else, out in the gallery world, most gallery visitor do not know what is a good print, if it as digital image on plastic paper, if it is film on plastic paper or fiberpaper.

  15. Stefan Rohner said, on January 20, 2009 at 11:08 am

    brrr these “smilys” are horrible ;(

  16. Dieter Gotzen said, on January 20, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Hello and greetings from Germany,

    i´am working only with film. :-)

  17. abh1wordpress said, on January 20, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    So much of photography is a racket but we keep looking for the “integrity” that has never been there to begin with.

    I too prefer the look of medium format film but realize that when the developed images are uploaded onto the internet they become digital images. Most likely, the film has been tweaked in photoshop or manipulated with some post-processing. So why is film inherently more “real” when it is viewed online?

  18. From film to digital (and back?) - *Snaps said, on January 20, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    […] Overheard in Ad Agency offices — from film to digital (and back?) by Mark […]

  19. robert said, on January 21, 2009 at 11:28 am

    i heart film !!

  20. Tobias Key said, on January 22, 2009 at 6:06 am

    Co-incidentally I did a little test shoot yesterday, where I shot no digital at all for the first time in ages. What I found amazing is that without any real conscious effort to change the way I shoot I only shot about 10% the frames I would have shot with digital. I never would have guessed that a simple change of hardware would have made such a difference.

    On a side note there was an article in the UK recently about the revival of 7″ vinyl singles. In 2000 the annual output of 7″ singles in the UK was 250,000 copies. Today it’s at the 1 million mark, so perhaps film will have a similar minor renaissance, enough at least to keep film producers in business.

  21. yaldnif said, on January 22, 2009 at 8:55 am

    This debate is getting really dull.- would suggestt that we get over it. Like, who really cares?isn’t it about content? You know, what you have to say with your image. Fim great,digital find something important to debate.

  22. Jeff Porter said, on January 22, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    which shifted to:

    The Wet Plate Collodion process is the way to go! Look at that natural aging! No more sitting in front of that computer for hours and hours adding “fake” aging. Get the real thing in an instant!

  23. Tom Meyer said, on January 25, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    In 1998 a catalog client handed me a Kodak DC220 camera and said “we want you to use this”… t

  24. marktucker said, on January 25, 2009 at 5:43 pm


    They’re probably RZ, but I can imagine in my mind that they’re Fuji 680, (the greatest camera ever designed). 8x8cm polaroids, and when shot with 665, the creamiest negs ever.

  25. Chicago Photographer said, on February 3, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    For me film is now and forever the new “F-word”. I remember trying to crank out B&W prints from wet negatives for a newspaper on deadline. I remember biting my nails to the stubs waiting for the E-6 run to come back, having bet everything on a few Polaroids. Most of all, I remember a time-pressed shoot, where the art director needed a quick turnaround and asked how long one-hour processing took.

  26. theresa m. said, on February 8, 2009 at 11:26 am

    it’s not just film….. i heard a story yesterday about vinyl LP sales rising 30% last year….. i’m ready to bulk load tri-x again!

  27. darrellm said, on March 22, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    The thing I like about film is the dynamic range. Although, the Fuji S5 is as close to “film” look as you can get. I like both and I don’t own a “pro” digital camera. There’s always Photoshop actions.

  28. rolo said, on January 9, 2010 at 11:00 am

    I recall a conversation with an editorial/commercial photographer friend a few years back when I (enthusiastically) started to shoot digital. He said that art directors would never go for digital because they liked to see chromes laid out on a light box. I argued back that they would quickly change their tunes and digital would suddenly be “the best” when their bosses came down and said they couldn’t afford the production costs of film anymore.

    He shoots digital now. I stopped (that enthusiasm died) and went back to film. I don’t work with art directors, so I don’t have to listen to anyone saying, “It has to be digital.”

  29. […] Mark Tucker Jan 21, 2009 Tags: digital, film tweetmeme_source = […]

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