Is film obsolete?

Over the past few years I have been asked by both students, peers, and parents (concerning the photography program at Topeka West): "Are you shooting digitally, yet?" Or, "Why are you still using film?" Both questions are very difficult to answer. I try to remain neutral with my answer, stating one of usually three blanket answers:

A.) The district doesn't have enough funds to completely revamp the photography program from film to digital (i.e. digital cameras, computers, printers, etc.).

B.) I think it is important to teach beginning photography students where digital photography was formed by teaching them about film, developing, and printing.


C.) Do we need to teach digital photography at the high school level? (Which is my way of trying to confuse them by answering their question with a question of my own.)

Many of the advanced photography students choose to shoot with digital cameras if they already own one. The responsibility of getting their files printed is on them and there are several places around town that print high-quality digital images. The darkrooms at Topeka West are still available to them and a few of the projects assigned in Advanced Photography can only be completed with use of the darkrooms. Am I forcing students to continue to use film? Absolutely not. I understand that students enjoy shooting digitally because of its ease of use (versus rolling film in a darkroom, developing by hand, and printing on 5" x 7" paper). But I think it is very important for students to still use film in their portfolios.

According to a post at www.photographyblog.com:
"A survey of more than 9,000 professional photographers in the U.S. found that 75 percent of photographers say they will continue to use film. Black and white photography in particular was a popular reason for sticking with film, with 57% preferring to use film rather than digital to create a certain look and feel. “This survey indicates that film remains an important tool on which professional photographers rely to effectively create their work, so providing choice is of utmost importance. It’s an ‘and’ world where digital and film co-exist and complement each other.” said Mary Jane Hellyar, President, Film Products Group and Senior Vice President, Kodak. A similar survey run by Kodak in Europe also found that more than two-thirds of professional photographers surveyed plan to continue using film."

Still thinking of dropping several hundred (to possibly several thousand) dollars on a digital camera? There is so much to know about digital images before you decide to invest. Here are a few (very important!) ideas to keep in mind before you decide to give up film for good:

1.) JPEG images lose quality every time they're saved.

2.) Few digital cameras can compete with the resolution of film cameras.

3.) Many of today's leading photographers still shoot on film.

(to read more about digital photography versus film photography click here to read "What You Probably Don't Know About Digital Photography".)

Honestly, I am proud to run a program that still teaches film photography to beginning students. They always seem to really enjoy working in the darkrooms even if it is a bit more "work". Fortunately, over time, I have built a program that works for students that choose to continue to work with film or to give digital photography a try. I hope to never lose the darkrooms that I inherited but, at the same time, I am beginning to build up the digital equipment that students will be able to use. I already have two Nikon D40's that are itching to make their way out of their boxes and, hopefully soon, there will also be the addition of four brand-new Apple iMacs in the photography room!

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