01 June, 2020

I've heard this statement three times this week and it's only Tuesday.

"Film photographers don't edit, they shoot and what they get on the negative is what they get ... photography in it's purest form!"

Well that statement is pure something for sure!! I wish I knew where this came from because it's a total myth! I am a film photographer and my editing starts before I release the shutter. I begin by selecting the film stock that I want to use. We have hundreds of different films available to us each with their own unique look and characteristics. Different films stocks produce different results, similar to a digital photographer selecting a different image profile in Lightroom.

I compose the image in camera as much as possible by adjusting image placement and exposure just like a digital photographer will. We might take a bit more time with that process because unlike the digital photographer, we can't fire off dozens frames to get one shot, we have to make each frame count, but otherwise a very similar process.

Now that the image has been captured, the editing continues by selecting which developer I want to use. If I want a really fine grain image I will use a developer like Ilfosol3 or for a more gritty effect I might use something like Robinal to enhance the grain. I may change agitation schemes again to impact the film grain. Once the film is developed I will then examine the negative closely, and will probably do a couple test prints to determine further editing requirements.

Next I adjust the cropping on the englarger and select the type of photographic paper that will best suit the image. I will almost always fine tune the contrast by selecting specific contrast filters or by dialing in settings on the englarger to produce the look I had envisioned. Finally I may dodge and burn the image to lighten areas like shadows or darken areas like the sky. I may even mask entire portions of the image during exposure to change the effect. If this sounds like the changes you make while working in the Develop module in Lightroom, that's because it is very much the same. Adobe didn't invent most of those sliders and tools, they just created digital versions of what photographers have been doing for decades.

In other words "Every photographer ... digital and film ... does a certain amount of editing in their images". As photographers, capturing the image is only the first half of the process. The second half happens in the darkroom for film photographers or in Lightroom (or whichever editor you choose to use) for digital but we all edit our images. 
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