There are times I feel a sense of loss for photographers who never had the benefits of shooting with film - back in the ooooooolden days. True, photography has come a long way technologically since then and even I can see that the quality of images I am producing with my well worn, 4-year old Nikon D700 is better than I ever achieved using my 35mm Nikons. However, learning the ropes using film had one distinct advantage - especially transparency film. Why?
Well, we learned that a transparency was the last word, the final result. What it revealed was the direct result of your shooting skills and your ability to produce an image using the camera and its direct accessories during the actual capture process. That lesson has been one that I have promulgated as a trainer and teacher of photography over the last 15 years, and also one that I still endeavour to maintain as a photographer.
Do I love PhotoShop? Lightroom? Yes! Do I love manipulating and finessing a RAW file? Absolutely! But I would never want to walk away from a shoot not having produced an image that I am proud of in camera. That is especially true when shooting portraits, corporate headshots and weddings. In this 'see it when you shoot it' age, a bride is encouraged to work with her photographer even more enthusiastically when she can see what you are producing there and then. For commercial clients, the advantage is obvious. Your reputation as a photographer who can produce and satisfy on the job is only going to win their hearts and cheque books.
The other advantage to this is, quite simply, time. The hours I hear photographers putting into their post-processing is often horrendous - chewing through their personal family time, destroying relationships, eating up profits and frustrating their customers. Aiming for the image in-camera reduces that workload dramatically.
The image above was recently shot in our Living in Pictures mobile studio, and produced entirely in camera, shot in jpeg fine and using the D700's monochrome mode. It is a straightforward and simply produced image and is a jpeg straight out of camera - downsized for this blog. It was achieved using a simple two-light system with a Photek Softlighter on the main light and a grid on the hair light. That's it. As an in-camera jpeg, it certainly does its job and prints beautifully.
I metered as I always would have in my film days, using my Sekonic flash meter. I balanced the ratio between the hair light and the main light as I always did, using my Sekonic flash meter. I added a Lastolite reflector, as I always would have....because the process and the principles haven't changed. To add antiquity to the mix, I used a 30-year old 135mm Nikkor manual focus lens I picked up at a Camberwell Camera Market a couple of years ago for $150. Damn, that thing is sharp.
We underestimate the humble jpeg and the cameras that produce them. I am all in favour of a RAW file, which is why I usually shoot simultaneously producing both. But twenty years shooting transparencies is a hard habit to break, even after ten years of shooting digitally. I still aim for the finished jpeg, in camera. I wonder if I will ever change. But then, I wonder why I would need to.