Digital & 35 mm Film - Black and White

At the end of last year I decided to reacquaint myself with 35mm film, with the intention of focusing on black and white film.

The Cluff Family 48 B.jpg
Cluff Family 15 35mm.jpg

The bulk of images delivered from my maternity, newborn and family sessions have been digital.

At times I took some film as a creative challenge and a bit of a bonus for my clients.

Angie Maternity 47 B.jpg
Angie Maternity 2 35mm.jpg

I’ve chosen to look at some of the images from client galleries to check out the differences between digital and film, specifically in terms of black and white photography.

Angie Maternity 51 B.jpg
Angie Maternity 20 35mm.jpg

Photos on the left (top on mobile devices) are digital

Photos on the right (bottom on mobile devices) are 35mm film

Harvey Family 94 B.jpg
Harveys Film 14 A.jpg

Digital gear

Canon 5DmkIII with a Canon 50mm 1.2L lens.

Film gear

Canon 1V with a Canon 50mm 1.4 lens.

b&w film mostly Kodak Trix400 with the occasional roll of Ilford Delta 400.

Harvey Family 63 B.jpg
Harvey Family 58 B.jpg

Although I’m pretty confident shooting digital, I feel like I have lots still to learn with film.

You’ll notice my film photos are not technically accurate and keep in mind they have not been edited in post production.

Whereas digital photos have been edited - I’ve applied my b&w settings, perhaps adjusted exposure, shadows etc…you get the point.

Sheppard Maternity 55 B.jpg
Sheppard Maternity 35mm 08 A.jpg
Sheppard Maternity 35mm 23 A.jpg

One of the biggest challenges has been hybrid shooting….making sure I am using my digital and film cameras at the right moments during a session.

The way I’ve approached using both mediums has evolved and I think I’m definitely keen to keep using both, as they both offer their advantages.

Elijah Newborn - Film 1.jpg

Some digital advantages

Reliable, my camera has two card slots, less likely data will be lost

Changing film speed/iso on a whim therefore better in low light

Flexible, I have full control how I deliver b&w images

Faster turnaround

Some film advantages

Stay with me…its wabi-sabi - perfectly imperfect

Knowing light has hit the film emulsion to capture a tangible piece of time as art

The grain, I don’t add to my digital photos but love it

It offers us the opportunity to all slow down

Clara St 10 B.jpg
Clara Street 10 35mm.jpg

For the purpose of this post, comparing digital and film side by side is tough. Perhaps it’s due to that fleeting moment where an expression or hand gesture is just right, becoming less about the medium and more about the content.

Sometimes I totally prefer digital, other times I love film that much I want to only shoot b&w 35mm.

Clara St 53 B.jpg
Clara Street 42 35mm.jpg

But, there’s no right or wrong, it’s purely subjective and both mediums have their place.

KR Jewellers17 35mm.jpg

Thanks for making it this far.

All I know is film photography has always and continues to offer a feeling that is hard to put into words, and as an art form, feeling is everything.

kym renay
Recently working with film

Three lessons learnt from my recent film adventures -

  1. The first few times I shot hybrid (digital and film) at a session, I leaned too heavily on my digital camera. Seriously. I only took half a roll?! I left feeling so deflated and I was so excited in the lead up, but I kind of forgot my film camera was there. I guess my digital was safe and familiar. Following sessions I made a conscious effort in taking more film photos. I even put my digital away for part of a session to concentrate on film, but really missed the digital shots that could have come from that scene. Anyway, lesson is, find a good balance with shooting hybrid.

  2. Getting my film developed. Talk about procrastination. To be fair, I am not doing any of this full time, barely part time and I have the young kids and excuses excuses. Life is busy. Remembering to take the film to be processed is not in my usual post production workflow and it took me WAY longer than it should have. But eventurally I got there, actually in person. It was nice to drop it off but then I spent the entire time refreshing my emails hoping to see the one containing the link to my film scans. What was I doing? Ok. Patience. Remember this is why I wanted to reacquaint myself with film….slow….down.

  3. Back on track. When I let myself accept my lab was working away at developing my rolls, I got the email. And I fell in love. I was on a creative high. They were not technically perfect but they were perfect to me. I’ve gravitated towards my B&W images. Just as I did back when I was a teenager and my dad let my bestie, sister and I go full throttle on whatever B&W stock was handy at the time on his Canon A1. The same feeling I got when I realised I could shoot, process and scan my own B&W film images when studying at ACP in Sydney in 2010. The kind of creativity that feeds the soul. Yep, back on track with this film thing.

kym renay

This is my first blog post ever, so thanks for checking it out!

Those close to me will know that I have been pregnant, nursing a newborn or madly chasing a toddler for the last five years. It has been an incredibly hard yet brilliantly sacred time. My youngest is still a baby, but he’s approaching 9 months and I’m starting to feel like snippets of the old me are resurfacing.

Lately I’ve been thinking ALOT about how I want to spend my very limited amount of spare time going forward. As all parents will know, time takes on a new meaning once babies and kids are involved. Where did the time go…the days are short but the years are long…I don’t have the time…but have all the time in the world to give to them etc etc.

Just as I emerge from the depths of sleep deprivation for the third time, I have quite a bit of clarity going on, surprisingly. I’ve come out the other end of a time warp, renewed and full of creative drive.

I’ve gone through a number of phases with my photography. The teen years of discovering film and darkroom, watching digital take over, the happy snapping travelling years of my 20s, learning the craft of photography, weddings, and lately I’ve been capturing family life including my own.

The last ten years+ I’ve pretty much solely used my digital cameras and I have many thousands of digital files. Its actually very overwhelming. I feel like I’ve been on autopilot for a while now, and its time to challenge myself again.

So in 2019 one of my main goals is to slow down and reacquaint myself with 35mm film and then medium format film.

At the point of writing this, my portfolio is all digital. I’d like to include film into future sessions and see how things go. I plan on doing some mentoring. Im buying a new 35mm camera (watch this space). Im putting that Contax 645 and Hasselblad on my wish list and one day I hope to offer exclusively film sessions.

A mantra I’ve kept coming back to over the years is ‘quality over quantity’ and how fitting it is for this new phase.

Join me on this journey if you like. I’ll post my progress here.

Manly, 2011  HP5, developed using Rodinal

Manly, 2011

HP5, developed using Rodinal

kym renay