Chandler Effing Arizona

I’m in Chandler, Arizona today teaching a workshop. This is one of our shots from today. All you need is a dumpster.

Yesterday I spent about three hours walking the streets around here shooting 2 rolls of film. Well, I shot nearly two rolls. I shot 22 images and finished the other 2 images today. I’m working on a mini portfolio currently called “Chandler F*cking Arizona.” It’s inspired by a t-shirt that my previous studio manager, Erik Dixon, would wear. It looked a bit like this but with better typography. I have no idea really why I want to call this mini portfolio by this name. It’s kind of against my style yet it’s just something I feel like doing. Who knows. I’m sure I’ll play it safe when I’m actually putting it together. (I really hope I don’t)

So yeah, more walking around with film. Why film? Here’s the deal…

Film costs money and film takes time. So when I’m out shooting with film I’m asking myself a series of questions.

1 – Is it a good picture?

2 – Is it worth the money?

3 – Is it worth waiting for it from the lab?

4 – Is it worth giving up this frame of film for a shot that I might find later that I’d rather have than this one I’m about to shoot?

5 – Will it be worth cleaning the scanner, loading it in the carrier, and making a scan?

6 – Will it be worth spotting in Photoshop?

7 – Will it be worth posting or printing?

8 – Is it a good picture?

If I answer “no” on any one of these questions then it’s not worth shooting in the first place. It’s not worth the money. It’s not worth the time. It’s not worth giving up that frame for a frame I might get later. It’s not worth sitting at the scanner and dorking with all that. It’s not worth waiting for. It ain’t worth shooting in the first place.

How much do you think I concentrate more on each photo? A lot. When you shoot digital who cares? Just go ahead and shoot it and if you don’t like it later then no big deal. So you shoot and shoot and shoot and don’t really stop and think about the process. You also don’t feel really invested in it. At least, for me, right now in my life, I don’t feel invested in digital. I’m just in that phase where I’m adding limits to my work and simplifying. I need to grow. I need to move forward with my craft, my vision, and my work. DSLRs bore the shit out of me right now.

Boy, I’m getting a potty mouth. Probably due to shooting film. :)

Not only that, but I want better quality. Back in the days of film 35mm was for run-n-gun photography and newspapers. Medium format was the ruler of the pro field. Of course large format has even better quality but MF was the format that could give great quality and still be portable. 4×5 and up isn’t all that portable and you sure wouldn’t shoot a wedding with one. Or would you? If any wedding photographer out there would attempt it, it would probably be John Michael Cooper. :)

It used to be a $5,000 or so investment gap to move from 35mm to medium format. In the days of digital that canyon to cross from 35mm format DSLRs to MF cameras and backs has been $30,000 or more until recently. MF manufactures are getting the prices down. You can get into a system for about $10,000 and that is really amazing. Just as amazing as when the Nikon D1 came out and an unbelievably low $5,000. $400 Rebels shoot circles around the D1 these days. I’ll move these Hasselblads to digital as soon as I can but I got into the classic 500 series so that I can switch from digital to film with a click of a release button. The back I’m looking at is $14,000. That’s a heck of an investment but a few years ago it would have been $30,000 or more. Prices are coming down. Pentax and Mamiya both have systems starting at $10k and I know one of you (@MikeSeb) is rocking that Pentax. You need to do a review on your blog!

If you ever shoot digital MF and nail the shot then DSLRs will seem like toys. DSLRs have their place in my bag. They always will but I shoot portraits for a living. I’m not running and gunning through events so much these days. I don’t need to spray and pray anything right now. I sit my subject in place and do my thing. I can work slower and be more deliberate with what I shoot. That’s what I need.

The image above? Digital. Just shot that a few hours ago. The film I shot yesterday? I won’t see it for at least a week. At least. Then I have to scan it and I won’t have time for that for another two weeks. And then I’m going to want to print it. Really print it. Myself. In a darkroom. Damn it. Stupid film.

Cheers, Zack


12/09/11 – UPDATE – I was looking at the Hasselblad CFV 39 back for the V series cameras. It sucks. I’m not spending a dime on that stupid back. Sometimes it works! Sometimes it doesn’t. All for the low low price of $14,000. Yeah, no thanks. I am however moving to a Phase One it looks like. I’ll know in a week or two and update this entry and make a new one about it.


  • Ethan Garrity said on April 18, 2011

    Spray and pray… Run and gun. Those words seem to define photography these days… and cheapen it. Film is now art. Film creates time now where digital seemed to take it away. Film creates patience in us (or demands that patience be brought back).

  • PJZ said on April 18, 2011

    I totally respect it….and it’s really great to ask yourself all those questions before cilckin’ shutter.

    But I feel like you did that BEFORE you put the restraint of film on yourself. 2 minutes into any video you’ve done and it’s obvious you know your shit….you’ve always had that self restraint. The discipline was there.

    On the other end of the coin though, it’s tough for me to understand because I came into photography at the advent of digital and so when people switch back like this, it’s like driving stick shift instead of automatic to me.

    Either way….you’ve got some light sensitive, week long wait, balls of steel, sir.

  • Dale Matthews said on April 18, 2011

    So if I was smart I could pretend my dslr was a film camera. If I was clever I could buy 1Gb CF cards and get 36 shots per card. Or I could choose to shoot mindfully. : )

  • arttriq said on April 18, 2011

    That’s the real deal. Print your own prints in the darkroom!

    Scanning your rolls of film is half half photography. There’s so much more in a wet print -it really is the proof for craft

    Show us your results Zack – can’t wait to c them

  • Matthew Carter said on April 18, 2011

    Hey pal. Glad to have you back at a crazy blogging pace. I just bumped into a super crap TLR about a month ago an haven’t made a go with it yet as other things are more pressing. But I’m looking forward to shooting something that scares me a little. I shot film in college, but never medium format and never on a camera from the 50’s. There is an uncertainty that I haven’t had in years about it. I’m a great planner and a horrible trigger puller. I believe that shooting in this format will help me jump into things a little quicker… I’ve played things so safe for so long that maybe shooting with this will help me become a little more responsibly irresponsible. This is sort of like a paid version of my iphone. A way to get out and just have fun shooting but with a price tag. Looking forward to seeing your port.

  • Carsten Hempelt said on April 18, 2011

    Sure, film has a different quality, but you know what, I´m so glad that I moved to digital just two years ago.
    Before I used to travel around the world, brazil, japan, china, america, europe. And whenever I came back with my rolls of films I bit myself in the ass for spending the same amount of money on film what I would have spent for a camera or a nice glass at the time. Also I mostly took pictures of landscapes or slowly moving objects, as I didn´t dare to try new things, as every wasted picture would have cost me a lot. I can´t tell you how glad I am, that I made the transition just “recently” and how much further my skills and understanding of photography developed since.



  • Staton Carter said on April 18, 2011

    Thanks for blogging about returning to shooting film. I’m new to photography {in the grand scheme} and like many, only began shooting with digital. Recently I acquired a Nikon FM2n, and while it is no medium format, it has made me
    Stop –> Think–> Shoot …rather than digitally Shoot–>Stop–> Think.
    Thanks again. Look forward to the results.

  • Yahel said on April 18, 2011

    Hey Zack,

    As much as I understand the process of trying to reach a new plateau by shooting film, I wouldn’t want to go back to film only ever !! Sure, mastering film is about complete control over every parameters.

    But what about serendipity…I mean how many time have you been pleasantly surprised by something you wouldn’t have tried but since 0’s and 1’s are free(as DH would say : ) you went for it.

    Don’t you think shooting film only has a risk of making you a “chilly” photographer ? A master at something you already master ??

    Anyway can’t wait to see how it turned out and thanks for the inspirationnal posts and all 😀

  • Aaron Hardin said on April 18, 2011

    I’ve regressed to shooting film for about a year now after you recommended reading Daniel Milnor’s blog (genius). I couldn’t agree with you more about this whole process. I’m a newspaper photographer and it seems like the modern mindset is having everything five minutes ago even if it is a hot steamy pile of horse shit. And boy can I crank that horse. But starting to shoot film forced me to slow down. To actually MAKE a frame instead of hope to God I CAPTURED one. People here (Tennessee) think I am off my nut. I just got back from doing a bit of work in Ethiopia and I brought 2 cameras: a Leica M4-P (with one lens) and a borrowed Widelux. Everyone thought I was CRAZY and still do! But you know, I haven’t got my film back from the lab but I know that I have some frames that I am extremely proud of. I know because they are burned into my mind, just like on each negative. I firmly believe that art with no limitations begins a downward spiral into nothingness. The artist needs confines so that he/she may really explore those confines and truly make art.

    You are do a great job, of course. Philosophically you are being a voice that photographers need to hear. They aren’t going to listen to Aaron from Tennessee. So bring light to the process of CREATING and MAKING a frame. Capitalism in the camera (read that TOY) world has hurt us more than we know.

    Keep truckin’,

  • GregK said on April 18, 2011

    At the Imaging USA Expo in January, I was walking around w/ my Rollei 35. It sparked a conversation with “Sam” from Nikon while visiting the Nikon booth about how film is dead and I was wasting my time. I presented him the very argument you stated above. I personally think shooting film as also made me slow down while shooting digital, being more selective and living in the mindset of “is it worth it?” We decided to agree to disagree and then I went back to the Kodak booth for the third time to gank some more rolls of the new Portra 400.

    I’ve been shooting film for the last year, both MF and 35mm, and have amassed a pile awaiting development. I’ve tried Dwayne’s, and wasn’t happy w/ my results, anyone have any suggestions? All the pro shops in DC seem to have gone w/ the wind.


  • jacob mengelkoch said on April 18, 2011

    glad to hear you do a bit of MF shooting. i find it very relaxing. something about feeling the entire guts of a camera move when you hit the shutter just feels great.

  • Ned said on April 18, 2011

    Totally understand it…intrigued as well. Not unlike a fisherman that ties his own flies. Effort and attention to detail increase satisfaction for sure!

    THAT SAID, couldn’t/wouldn’t do it. I shoot a lot of people/kids etc and 8 frames a second allows me to capture “the moment” and adjust settings quickly based on immediate feedback. Studio work, shooting an immovable landscape OK then.

    Call me crazy but strikes me that the subject, composition and light still rule the day. That leaves me with film renders a better finished product…
    Readily admit I’m not speaking from experience with film.

  • Pete Rezac said on April 18, 2011

    Zack – Awesome post and well said! I had the opportunity to pick up 500c/m, 3 lens, 45* prism finder, 3 backs, doubler, extension tubes, close up filters, etc for $600 about a month ago from a photographer that “I just don’t know how to make this stuff work” Amazing how undervalued these legendary image tools have become. I’m finding since picking up this kit that I’m using it more and more and more. It’s making me re-think everything and realize how lazy I’ve become in this digital world. I’m finding that the time it takes to process Tri-X for 12 well thought out images takes roughly the same time to download a 4 gig worth of RAW files that may contain roughly 12 good images (less the film drying time). It’s also brought back a feeling of hand craftsmanship by hand making photographs every step of the way. Thank you for your inspiration and motivation.


  • Zack said on April 18, 2011

    @Pete – Whoa! That’s a steal.

  • Robin Stone said on April 18, 2011


    While I can agree that that film cost money, I don’t agree with the fact that it makes you a better photographer. I’ve been making photographs since 1979 first with film and now with digital and I still shoot cautiously even though my cost per frame is near zero. The equipment you’ve chosen is what will make you a better photographer because it will open up your field of vision (providing your not cheating and are using the waste level finder) and you’ll see more of the possibilities around you. I miss my 4×5 to this day because once I framed the subject I could back out of the dark cloth and look around.

    Yesterday I brought along my D700 and a 85mm lens to my daughters soccer game. In the end I made 36 images of which 27 were real keepers, but I probably spent collectively 1+ hours just looking through the view finder trying to anticipate the next image just like I would have if it were a roll of film.

    I guess summing up my point is this… Train yourself to not think digital or film, but to think as a artist viewing the canvas framed by the view finder edges. If it takes twenty frames or one frame to realize your vision then that’s the price paid for ART! Ask M. how many sheets of music paper does she go through in writing or arranging a song? How much money does a chef go through in creating his signature dish? etc. etc.

  • Amanda said on April 18, 2011

    Bought a Contax 645 last year after shooting Nikon digital for years. It is the BOMB!!! Film is the BOMB!!! I was like you and felt like I hit a wall shooting digital, so I started exploring film options and I was blown away at it’s amazingness!!!

    The best thing is, I am not spending hours siting at my computer editing images anymore. Time, and freedom to shoot more film!!!

  • Gary / G-Photo Design said on April 18, 2011

    I grew up on film and I shoot it now for “ALL” the reasons you mentioned above. Digital is great and is very convenient, commitment comes in the form of film or wet plate for that matter, now that is a commitment.

  • dtbsz said on April 18, 2011

    I wonder how long this will last. Even cweeks the darth wader of film went digital… and does more and more so. I think you just simply can’t keep up with this world via analog (I find it hard even with digital)… I guess it’s a question of “want” or “need”. I’m really curious how you’ll feel about it in 6 months or so.


  • Megha_P said on April 18, 2011

    Hey, I’ve been a lurker on your website for a while and finally decided I’d leave a comment. I’ve an old 86 Yashica 35mm film camera and I’ve had it for about 7-8 months. I’ve only finished ONE ROLL of film!! What you’re saying about a particular picture being worth that frame in that roll is absolutely true and it turns out for me atleast that the pictures are not worth it…so I just use my DSLR.

    Glad to see your new blog up and running. Looks awesome!

  • Jeff Rivers said on April 18, 2011

    I enjoyed talking about this with you over the weekend. Among the many things that I took away from the OneLight was your challenge to the gang from last night…

    “What if you concentrated on your digital photos the way someone shooting 4×5 does?”


    “When you shoot digital you’re always thinking about your last photo. When you shoot film, you’re always thinking about your current/next photo.”

    I’m going to keep shooting DSLR, but I’m going to concentrate and think about what I’m doing more.

    Looking forward to the “Chandler F*cking Arizona” set and the rest in the series.

  • Zack said on April 18, 2011

    @Jeff – Thanks for all of your hard work. It was a great workshop!


  • Nasir Hamid said on April 18, 2011


    You pretty much listed all of the reasons/points that I came up with for going back to film last month. I dusted off my old RB67 that I bought back in 1990 but haven’t used in over 10 years, loaded a roll of film and I was up and running. No battery to charge, no sensor to clean, just compose, focus, click. I wonder if I’ll still be using my D700 in 2030?

    One big reason for me going back to film is archival reasons. Recently I got out a PhotoCD containing scans I had done many years ago but Photoshop CS5 doesn’t recognise the file format any more. Despite my best efforts I can’t get the files to open. It got me thinking, will I be able to open my RAW files in 10 or 20 years from now?

    Once upon a time I swore never to go back to film because of the time and expense involved but here I am, back at it and now processing my b&w films by hand. It’s a whole different level when you are literally making your images by hand. Perhaps processing your own film should be your next step? There are so many different developers to try, as there are films. Sending out to a lab limits your options for finding a dev/film combo that is just right.

    The first roll of film out of my (new to me) Pentax 67 that I shot yesterday is drying as I type this :-)


  • Zack said on April 18, 2011

    @Nasir – I too swore that film was dead. #stupidme :)

    That Pentax is a beast! Send a link with some scans some time!


  • Moritz said on April 18, 2011

    My father just gave me his old Nikon FA with several lenses, plus i found my old Yashica T5 at the bottom of a drawer last weekend. The T5 has traveled through Japan with me and fifteen years ago I might have killed someone for the FA. Both were given fresh batteries and are even loaded with film now. I am asking myself exactly your above mentioned questions and the scary thing is that this even keeps me from taking one of the two cameras on a walk. I have to be careful not to have myself daunted by these two guys.

  • Mike said on April 18, 2011

    You know, you can buy used backs on eBay for much less than $14,000. Within a couple of years. I expect to be able to buy a Phase One P25 or P21 for $2-3K. I’ll have to buy a different Mamiya body (I currently use a 645 Pro) but I expect to spend no more than $4K for a used digital MF system.

    So why bother with Canon/Nikon?

    Plus, these backs will always have resale value because they can be traded in for credits of several-thousand dollars towards new models.

  • Jim said on April 19, 2011


    Another good post. You list some good points for things that should be considered before making an exposure. Ansel Adams used to say that you should always have a clear vision and concept of what you are shooting, and every frame should be well thought out. That holds true regardless of format; 35mm, medium or large, or medium; film or digital.

    Photographers need to beware of exalting film or vilifying digital. It’s a childish concept. Also, there are valid reasons to shoot various formats and it seems absurd to hear some people try to knock one down in order to elevate another. They need to shoot with the tool that does the job and makes them happy. And shut up about it.

    Cameras and medium are simply tools and are neither inherently good or bad. It’s the photographer who needs to analyze his/her shooting style and decide whether or not it’s satisfying the photographer’s ultimate goal, and whether they are “capturing the decisive moment” or simply cherry picking usable frames from hundreds or thousands randomly taken.

    Regardless of the camera, format or technology, there will always be photographers who put great thought, consideration and a bit of themselves into every exposure they make. Likewise, there will always be those who spray the subject as though they were wielding a machine gun and taking no prisoners. The fact that film extracts a financial toll for each frame seems like a low-brow incentive for making photographers do what they should be doing in the first place, assuming they actually care about their art and craft.

  • Chad said on April 19, 2011

    I recently bought another (after many years) film body and a negative scanner. And a bunch of film – some color, some B&W. Hopefully that will keep me busy for a while, but if not I still have my enlarger and tanks somewhere. It’s counter intuitive, but I find shooting film more relaxing sometimes.

  • Brian said on April 19, 2011

    Last Fall, I bought a new copy of the Nikon FG-20 that I first shot on back in 1999. Haven’t been able to slow down enough to really process it though…. I want to be able to do it all in house soon, but digital pays bills. :). not all of us can afford to slow down like that yet!

  • Daf said on April 19, 2011

    Hey – I wouldn’t be too hard on D-SLR – it doesn’t make you want to take crap / spray and pray pictures – it’s just the medium that you have in your hand.
    Yes it makes it easy(er) to take pictures but the doing so is all your job.
    Doesn’t mean you can’t take your time or use your skill.

    I’ve borrowed my bosses’ old Hass 503cx with an Imacon back (old 16/22Mpx thing with a battery/hard drive pack) – and ye gods it’s difficult to focus! Even when I did use film/trannies on 35mm I was used to the split-screen focusing aid thingamajig – none of that on this thing! Found trying to focus on f2.8 was a game of chance (or could just be a skill which I’d not yet grasped ;). Instead I turned to landscapes and hit it up to infinity – ha.

  • claude etienne said on April 19, 2011

    Hi Zack,

    It’s good to see you blogging again. It’s pretty cool that you’re shooting film. I’m old enough to remember a world without digital. My first camera was a Pentax K-1000, which is a camera that many people started with. I shot mostly black and white, and I loved the look of the images. Nowadays, shooting film has become very expensive, and where I live, using film, especially black and white, was already expensive before digital. The following question is off-topic. When are you gonna give us a tour of your studio?

  • Garrett said on April 19, 2011

    I feel ya, I haven’t used my D700 in so long I had to stop and thinking about changing basic settings the other day when I picked it up.

    Digital MF is getting really cheap these days. I picked up a P1 AF, 80mm, Aptus 22 all demo w/warranty for under 6k, added a 150mm and a film back. That 6yo back runs circles around all the latest DSLRs, it’s phenomenal. Yet, since owning it I’ve shot more frames on film than I have on the digi back which has also led me to the joys of developing my own film (b/w only so far). I don’t know why but the whole process from start to finish watching the images appear finally makes me feel like I’ve created something. I feeling I’ve been lacking in the digi world. I’ve since also picked up a 500C/M and an old yashica electro range finder. Good times.

  • malik m.l. williams said on April 20, 2011

    Love this.

    That is all.

    Except the part where i was just [virtually] screaming something similar and telling people to check out your work and your words. BEFORE i read this. So yeah, love it.

  • Andy said on April 20, 2011

    Oooh, here come all the film v digital arguments.

    I don’t think Zack is saying one is *better* than the other, just not to forget the advantages and processes of shooting with film (or am I wrong Zack?) :)

    They’re different machines and therefore should be used for different things surely? Neither can replace the other, only do what they are good at well, and do what the other is good at less well.

    Personally, I shoot mainly weddings and kiddies. “Thinking and carefully framing before creating the perfect image” kinda doesn’t work with 3 yr olds. If they do wait for you, they look wooden and bored. If (when) they don’t, you have a beautiful, well thought-out shot of an empty set. Instead I do my thinking and research before the shoot, and am then very thankful for the drive motor and free deleting that digital gives me.

    But then why use a drive motor, bracketing (unless you’re an HDR junkie) and 100 shots of a landscape or something largely inanimate in your studio, and then chuck 10 Actions at it in Post? That’s where I enjoy thinking through the shot carefully, analysing, framing, waiting for the perfect light and nailing the exposure 1st time. Yeah I could use the Bracket button, but where’s the enjoyment (and art maybe?) in that?

  • Zack said on April 20, 2011

    @Andy – Yeah, I’m not saying one is better than the other. I still love digital and embrace it fully but I’m changing tools to change how I think and how I work. It’s like giving up the electric tools for manual tools for awhile.


  • TomOnTheRoof said on April 20, 2011

    Zack, hasn’t the resolution of FF DSLRs already reached that of analog MF? Sure a digital back would be a different story. But film just to slow down? I see your point that it makes you concentrate more on the creative process, though i doubt in better quality of the scans. I won’t believe until i see them… So in a month? 😉

  • Juan Carlos - H said on April 20, 2011

    Hey Zack,
    Do you think you’ll feel the same way about taking a photo when you eventually switch to Digital Medium Format?

  • Scott Mc said on April 20, 2011

    I loved your concept of shooting film slows you down, makes you think. I had a REAL hard time going digital because it seemed to easy. I came from a background of shooting 4×5 in studio – products, still lifes and outside B&W using a modified zone system. Sure I shot 35, I had an RB and a Blad for portraits which I loved. But the 4×5 was magic. I had to find the shot, compose it, selectively focus, calcluate exposure and shot. Then I had to calculate the development time and develop each sheet individually. Very methodical. It was a long process with a lot of points to sit back and consider and adjust. Plus, everytime I pushed that shutter I thought – there’s $4. Every click cost me something in time and money so I made ever click count. My percentage of strong pictures was significant.

    Now – I love digital. I love seeing the result immediatly. I love what I can do in post production. But I still shot slowly. I pull the camera up a lot and bring it back down when I don’t see the shot. There’s still a cost in sorting through all of those crappy maybe shots. I did a photo trip a year ago. Each day I’d fill my 4g card up about half way. Another participant filled up two or three 4g cards. Was her stuff significatnly better? No. We were very close. But I had a lot less to wade through to find those shots. I used to try to get 2-3 solid shots a roll. I still look for that percentage, though I have slipped a bit. But there is still nothing as depressing as shooting 200-300 shots of crap.

    It can be done on digital. Remember what you’re learning with the film and carry it back. Remind yourself there is a cost everytime you click the shutter. It may not be as significant money wise, but it is still significant to you. It takes disk space, it takes time to download and even more it takes time to review and sort through all of that crap to find the great stuff.

  • Anthony Martinez said on April 21, 2011

    To be honest, I don’t shoot digital any differently than I shoot film. Well, that’s not entirely true. I hardly ever shoot digital anymore because my DSLR bores the shit out of me too (unless I’m shooting video, then it’s the coolest thing since sliced bread). I find it much more enjoyable, magical even, to load a roll of film into any of my older cameras and go shoot. My Mamiya C3? Never disappoints. My walk-around camera right now? Kodak Retina IIa or an Agfa Isolette III. Leaf shutters on all of them! The slowest max shutter is a less than fast 1/300s, but I can sync there if need be.

    As far as the cost goes, I’ll have to shoot and develop far more than 1000 rolls (120 or 135) of film before I even approach the initial cost of my digital equipment.

    Of course, it doesn’t matter what tool you use if you enjoy the results. When I need instant gratification I reach for the Canon. When I can take a day or two I go for the Mamiya. When it stops being fun… Well, when it stops being fun hopefully I’m in the ground.

  • Zack said on April 21, 2011

    Anthony – Ha! Love your closing statement. :)


  • Nasir Hamid said on April 21, 2011

    Hey Zack,

    I just processed the 2nd roll from my Pentax 67, shot two days ago. Here are a few scans. All shot on a 105mm at f2.4.
    It’s a beast of a camera, that is true, but it feels right. It’s just a massive SLR :-)


  • Zack said on April 22, 2011

    @nasir – Sweet, sweet, and sweet.


  • Karel Kremel said on April 22, 2011

    I like your attitude towards film vs digital very much. I was in similiar mood a few years back, now I’m still using film (bw) and digital and that fills me completely.

  • Bryan Mitchell said on April 22, 2011

    I have not shot a roll of film in almost 9 years and don’t miss it all. Most of my career has been as a newspaper photographer and a wedding photojournalist although I’m shooting more portraits these days as well. I still don’t miss film. Definitely don’t miss the darkroom, (I use to get chemical burns on my eyelids) don’t miss printing, don’t miss spotting, none of it. I think the quality of DSLR’s is just fine and I love the speed and having a “digital darkroom.” Believe it or not I was probably a “spry and pray” photog with film. But I was young, learning and not paying for it out of my own pocket. I think much more about what I shoot now. I don’t want all those MB’s clogging up my computer anyway. And lastly I am a true believer of “its not the camera it the photographer.” -Bryan

  • Rick Barry said on April 24, 2011

    I so miss shooting film so much!
    E6, like Provia, E-100s, Velvia and black ‘n’ white like T-Max3200.

    I went from a Nikon f-100 to a D1x late in the game around 2003 and then a D3 in 2009.
    I could not stop drooling at the thought of owning my own damn DSLR!

    Now I get put out of a good gig by a punk kid with a D-90 and his super cheep crap lens!
    I want to shoot film again. Develop it myself and hide it all from the rest of the world.

  • Rob Davidson said on April 25, 2011

    Hi Zack,
    I’m a long time lurker/reader but haven’t spoken up – the timing of this post made me stop. I’ve been feeling the need to slow down, think, watch the details and truly compose my shots. Exactly what you’re talking about above. I came to the same conclusion – time to go back to film. I just picked up a used RZ67 with a couple of lenses. I may pick up a digital back for it some day, but not for now. I need the discipline of film to help me move forward and become a better photographer. I’m in the middle of my first roll now; looking forward to seeing the results.

    Thanks for putting my thoughts and feelings into much better words that had entered my mind. The confirmation that you are heading down the same path is reassuring!
    Thanks for everything,

  • Chris Bergstrom said on April 25, 2011

    Zack, I still shoot film! I especially love shooting slide and B&W film with my trusty F5 and a medium format 120 film camera by Bronica. Why? Velvia 50 gets me some 25 megapixel equivellant shots when scanned with my Canon scanner and film has more dynamic range. I don’t mind the wait, but when I shoot in the studio, I use a light meter for sure. Glad you’re still shooting film too!

  • Mike T said on April 26, 2011

    Zack, you’re definitely making the right the decision in shooting film for a while. I shot film for a year (a little overkill perhaps), but it slowed me down and now I’m a better photographer. I come back from a shoot with 20 good shots, instead of 250 dull shots. I look forward to seeing yours. Listen though, I’m a fan of your work, but you need to clean up the potty mouth a bit, man. It is not becoming. Occasionally, you used to make mention of going to church with the family…..remember where your heart lies and stick with that.

  • Roger Overall said on April 27, 2011

    Hi Zack,

    One sentence in your post resonates with me: how boring DSLRs are.

    Sure, people will argue that is all about the end product (the photograph), so the camera and your feelings towards it don’t matter. Yet, there is a place in photography for affection towards the equipment we use. Cameras from the film era had a character that is lacking from modern cameras, which tend to be soulless devices. I remember a definite connection with my old Canon AE-1. Similarly, there is a tactile joy in holding and shooting with my Voigtlander Bessa-R, a plastic piece of tat if there ever was.

    None of the digital SLRs I’ve used have given me any satisfaction in that regard.

  • matt haines said on April 27, 2011

    Sheesh. Thought I’d leave a little comment and see you’ve actually stirred up a hornets’ nest. Good on ya!

    Being a back-to-film shooter myself, I’d like to suggest you quit the home scanning bit and have a good lab do it. Sure it costs more, but what’s your time worth? I love waiting a week – ok I don’t love that part – and getting images to download that are just about perfect. Color corrected, exposure spot on, no muss, no fuss, ready for the client to see. That is one of the bennies of film for me, the vastly improved workflow that results from having a lab in the equation. The oodles of money I save on camera equipment also helps (used medium format gear is sooooo cheap…)

    Email me if you want a recommendation on a lab who caters to the modern film shooter. Otherwise, keep up the excellent work!

  • Pelicanman said on April 28, 2011

    This little “Zackeasy” doesn’t strike me as a hornet’s nest at all. In fact, the film vs. digital comments are minimal and there has been a lot of thoughtful commentary and observation. It’s a shame that mention of film frequently descends into pointless flinging of superlatives on both sides.

    While I’m astounded at the quality my D700 can get, especially at high ISO, there really is something about the film camera bodies that compel me to keep reaching for them. Even the super advanced F100 is more tactile, and there’s nothing like the joy of looking down the viewfinder of a TLR. I’m just glad that film and processing are still quite affordable where I live so it’s always a viable option.

  • Colin McAuliffe said on April 29, 2011

    In regards to your wedding photographer shooting medium format, Heidi Huber does shoot a fair amount of her weddings with medium format.

  • Brad Trent said on April 29, 2011

    “…When you shoot digital who cares?”

    Some of these comments have me laughing so hard I’m gonna fall off my chair! Film is now ‘art’….prints hafta be made in a darkroom…film is more ‘archival…?!!

    Boy…do we need to sit down and talk!


  • William Bay said on April 30, 2011

    First time here. I like your thoughts on the subject. Funny how mine have similarly paralleled over the past year or two, and have been more and more disenchanted with digital.

    I’ve been waiting for an opportunity and apparently 2011 was it. I was given (yes, GIVEN) a Hasselblad 501 and 80mm by a very generous person that doesn’t use it anymore. And just a week later I was given about 40 rolls of expired film.

    I plan on blogging about this thought myself, but the process of loading the camera is ritualistic. You form a bond with this silver substrate that was mined from the earth to capture the essence of your subjects. It’s all very Lion King “Circle of Life”-esque even. OK, that might be getting a little nutty. But I do feel that I get better pictures because I have a closer relationship to what I used to get that picture. I had my hands on that roll, it takes a few minutes to deal with it, it takes practice to do it right.
    Just as a Yogini practices her yoga, and forms a closer relationship to mind and body.

    And I got those scans back and they really are great images. I feel connected.

    But no matter what I shoot with, this Hassey, or my super old and busted up Fuji S2 Pro, I’m always concerned with the image over the tool.
    I guess I want to photograph like Jack White plays the guitar.

    Thanks for the topic. I’ll have to pop back in for some more.

  • Tamara Watson said on April 30, 2011

    Hey Zack, as I type this we are on a break from your creativeLIVE course, which I am loving by the way. I have a 500CM which I have debated selling for a couple years, but this blog has convinced me to no way do that. Really, it is my most loved possession. I still remember how excited I was the day I brought it home 15 years ago. Now I mostly shoot with my DSLRs but I don’t think the work is as good as when I was shooting film (but I’m a hack to begin with, so that’s not saying much, ha haha), mostly because I’m not putting as much into it. Gotta change that mindset and pretend I’m shooting film all the time. Thanks for the CL course, I’m loving it, and thanks for this post. In addition to spending the next months getting closer and more personal with my DSLR gear, I’m going to pick up a couple rolls of film and go balls out with my Hassie.

  • Mark said on May 1, 2011

    Zack—I am sorry I missed that you were in my own backyard this past week. I love your work and teaching style. When I’m shooting, I hear you in my head.

  • Becky said on May 8, 2011

    Your list applies to film and digital, really. I feel a lot more freedom with digital to try things that might not work the way I think they will though. Since I am spending a lot of time experimenting with new ideas and styles lately, that part appeals to me! On the other hand, I learned to process film many years ago, and I miss working in the darkroom instead of staring at a computer screen.

    Love your work, and enjoyed learning from you at PSW last year.

  • Caroline Hancox said on May 8, 2011

    What you just said about why you are using film and ow you feel about DLSR’s is so spot on. If I was more eloquent then this is how I would describe why I love to shoot film! I normally just say something like:

    “well I like it and it seems more special”

    So thanks for putting onto words what I can’t!!

  • Rob Oresteen said on May 13, 2011

    Zak – thanks for speaking up on this…a forum I used to belong to thought I was *really stupid* for even thinking about film…even to the point of chiding me to produce “something good” made from film. I guess they never saw a picture before 2000.

    I was spoiled shooting my brother’s M3 with a Zeiss 50 2.0, Fuji 400 Pro H. Zeiss + film = magic.

    It’s easy to spot a digital frame from a film one…and not because of “grain”…just that digital is a bit to literal in my opinion, given similar circumstances. Buissink’s digital is good; his film work is off the hook. Sorry, there ain’t an action that will change that, 1D, D3 or any pro glass.

    I get images out of a $125.00 Bronica SQ that blow away anything made from D3, 5D, et al…all day long…

    I don’t hate digital. But there are few who’s digital work is a joy to look at..DuChemin for one. He is really the only photographer who I can say knows what the hell he’s doing when it comes to post…

  • T. C. Knight said on May 14, 2011


    Just a couple of months ago I got on ebay and bought TWO Nikon film cameras. My D3 hasn’t left it’s back pack in over a month. I didnt’ realize HOW MUCH I missed film. All of a sudden I don’t DREAD taking out the camera.

    So, I’m not alone. I don’t have to hide it anymore. Great.

  • Donna Flores said on May 24, 2011

    Hi Zach, great article. Loved your three day seminar on Creative Live. Your words keep ringing in my head this weekend as I did an engagement shoot. I really slowed myself down and made sure that I shot each shot with purpose and although I shot fewer shots, the quality was right where I wanted it. Thank you so much for your help.

  • neal carpenter said on May 30, 2011

    2011 marks my complete return to film! It has changed my life. Try Richard Photo Lab. Completely worth the money. AND, check out Wedding on 8×10! He wasn’t the primary photographer, but it is still pretty amazing.

  • Joel Collier said on May 31, 2011

    Your comments are spot on (to my experience)…although I feel that I’ve figured a way to have my cake and eat it too….a year ago I hunted up a RB67….hunted a bit longer and got a great kit (2 backs, great case, 3 lenses) for just over $400….but from there I moved into 4X5 and now 5X7 LF….most of which I shoot in black-and-white and develop in an old Unicolor Drum…then scanning the negatives on an older Epson scanner…I think in LF I am spending somehat south of $1.00 a shot (by buying outdated film online)….and shooting a SINGLE image means so much more than before when I shot just digital. Having both available to me allows me to shoot each, respect the value of each and cross over the lessons of each. Yes, it sucks to have the holders loaded with black and white and see a fantastic “color” picture…and they can be VERY different…anyway, a friend sent me a link to your blog…thanks to him and thanks to you!

  • Alex Solla said on July 2, 2011

    I guess I would be curious to see side by side, the difference folks who shoot with MF digital see in their finished images, as compared to a DSLR. Anyone have anything they can show side by side that really demonstrates how a MF image is worth 10-40x as much as a DSLR image? Even as prints, I haven’t seen it. Just curious to see if anyone can really point it out. Same scene, same lighting, just different bodies. Heck, if we could get the same focal length, that would make it even more interesting. Anyone?

  • Don Crossland said on July 18, 2011

    I hear you.
    I went through all my old film to send some out to get them scanned. After looking through them I realized I used to be a better photographer. My lighting, exposure and composition were all consistently better. Not to say the keepers were better, just the quality over the entire shoot. Now, I set up, shoot, move things around, shoot, move more things around, shoot, etc.
    Recently, I dug out my Contax 645 and my Leica III so I could get back to basics. I love my Contax and often fantasize about getting a digital back for it. I’m going to start shooting film more often but I I’ll have to send it out to get scanned because my film scanner broke. I’m glad that there is a renewed interest in film these days. I live in LA so I don’t have to worry about finding someone to develop and scan film.

  • Evan Felts said on July 19, 2011

    Man….Do you i feel you more than ever right now about being bored with digital…I’m so sick of editing to make it look classic and real….I’ve been geeking out for the past 2 weeks over medium format film. I am ready to grow and learn more about my craft.


  • james tourtellotte said on July 26, 2011

    Noticed your check list about film. If I could, let me offer this. Scanning film is okay and sometimes it can give you above average image quality. However, you can never fully grasp the full potential of an image created on film if you are not a master of the darkroom. This is particularly the case with Black and White. Either seek out someone who is or spend time in a wet darkroom enviroment if you are going to continue to shoot film. I shoot 99% of my imagery digitally although for well into 35 years I shot film. When I did it was mostly Black and White and I tried to live by Ansel Adams code that only half of photography is actually shooting. The other half is in the darkroom. Now of course the darkroom is Photoshop. Remember that some of the greatest shots have come from out of nowhere without planning. Great imagery keep it up. Cheers.

  • Julien said on October 17, 2011

    Your blog is definitely appealing to me Zack !

    I had an old eos 1 (the really first eos 1) along with my 5D2 but it doesn’t want to work anymore…
    I’ve decided -correction : I need- to replace it, and this time I’ll get a MF too.
    What do you think of something like a mamiya 7 ?

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