Film photography at a gig may at first sound as though you’re making life needlessly hard on yourself. Without the aid of digital technology, even in the best of lighting conditions, film photography always provide uncertainty, a shot-in-the-dark if you like, unlike digital photography which only requires a click of a few buttons to understand exactly what light is hitting your sensor and exactly what your results are moments after firing the shutter. Furthermore, film is expensive, time consuming when shooting and it physically takes up a lot of room in bags, pockets etc. One is almost guaranteed to make a fraction of the images while shooting that they would when shooting digitally.
However, part of what makes shooting film so effective is the fact that each image takes thought, care and consideration. When shooting digitally, it becomes all too easy to become a robot that is programmed to senselessly fire away at the performing band. But with film, the sense that you’re rapidly running out of images, the sense that you’re spending money each and every time you fire the shutter makes each shot count so much more. Compositions, focusing, “decisive moment” images all take on a much better quality because of the photographer’s ginger intervention. Not to say that one couldn’t shoot in exactly the same way or make equally as good photographs or far better using a digital camera. It all depends on what kind of way you make images. In my case however, my hit-rate of usable, print worthy images skyrockets with film when compared to my digital shoots.
The hit-rate is not solely improved by the lack of exposures a photographer is able to make, though. This, again, depends on your personal disposition, but I tend to find I have a particular fondness to film images, a fondness that digital doesn’t boast for me. The colours, the grain, the sharpness and the softness all makes for a feel of character that digital doesn’t necessarily have.
My favourite images may not always be film images, there’s every possibility that a digital image will enter my view and topple everything, but an old photo book from the 80s, a contact sheet or simply a photograph on Instagram made on film has a feeling that is hard to quantify and hard to explain. Digital has ample opportunity to rub my snobby pretentious in my face and I wouldn’t mind if it did at all, but there’s something in film that collections of ones and zeros can’t grip.
Of course, I can’t use film all the time when shooting gigs, that would be somewhat irresponsible and wouldn’t work well in a business-type scenario. But in an ideal world I would sell my DSLR, buy a little rangefinder, revel in the grain and the colours, and never look back.