The pros and cons of shooting both film and digital for street photography
Street photography can be a lot of fun, and it’s something that a lot of people all over the world really enjoy doing. But street photographers can be a strange bunch, usually very set in their ways. They have a workflow that works for them, and they don’t want to differ from that. Many still choose to shoot it only on film, while others are happy to just work digitally. Some do both.
But what are the advantages and disadvantages of each when it comes to shooting street photography? Photographer Robin Schimk shoots both and in this video, he talks about the pros and cons of shooting both film and digital for street photography.
To be clear, Robins’ video isn’t a film vs digital argument. He shoots both, and both have their advantages over the other. And whether you choose to pick one over the other or shoot both, there’s really no right or wrong, just what works for you and what you want to create.
So, let’s look at some of Robin’s advantages of digital…
- Instant feedback – You can immediately judge if your exposure, focus and composition is correct and adjust if necessary and shoot again
- You’ll fail a lot – It’s going to be cheaper while you’re learning street photography
- Burst mode – While you probably won’t want to do this all the time, it’ll be good while you’re learning so you can figure out timing and how to anticipate what might happen
- Outstanding image quality – Digital cameras now have a ton of resolution, high dynamic range and good high ISO performance
- Ability to share online very quickly – Instagram, yo!
Those aren’t all of Robin’s digital advantages, but they’re some of the bigger ones, especially if you’re just starting out. As for shooting street photography with film…
- A bigger challenge – Because you don’t get that instant feedback, and you’re not entirely sure if you’ve got the shot or not until hours, days or even weeks later, you get a greater sense of accomplishment when you finally see the developed images
- You’re not overwhelmed by features – Many film cameras are very basic, allowing you to focus on the shot without being distracted by settings and superfluous features
- Grain and imperfections – Flaws in film can add character to an image that digital just can’t replicate
- It can prevent burnout – If you normally shoot digital in your regular photography, it can be a nice change of pace and you don’t have to keep buying new gear to keep up. If you regularly shoot film, you can switch things up by just trying a different film stock
- The magical feeling of developing your own rolls of film – It never gets old
Robin mentions a few other perks of both in his video, so it’s well worth a watch if you’re interested in street photography.
Personally, street photography is something I really enjoy, although it’s not something I get to do as much as I’d like. It’s something that until very recently, I only really ever shot on film. Ilford FP4+, usually. I like my street photography to be black & white, and I never really felt that black & white digitals did it for me. At least until recently.
Lately, I’ve started to find a digital conversion workflow that works well for me, and I’ve started to embrace digital more for my street photography. Given the choice, though, I’d still rather shoot it on film.
Which do you shoot for your own street photography?
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.