I like both film and digital photography and welcome both. But, why is it that film aesthetically looks better than digital photos? My theory: it has to do with the randomness of the grain structure of film, the imperfect colors, and the random “beautiful mistakes” that happen when shooting film, as well as the organic nature of film.
I think with film, the reason why it looks better is that the photos are rougher and have more texture. Digital photos tend to look too clean, unless you apply some gritty presets or filters to your digital RAW files.
Stochastic Resonance: concept is asking some noise and randomness/chaos will improve the signal of something! For example, adding random white noise to a phone call improves our audible hearing.
From the Wikipedia page, an interesting thing about stochastic resonance and image processing:
A related phenomenon is dithering applied to analog signals before analog-to-digital conversion. Stochastic resonance can be used to measure transmittance amplitudes below an instrument’s detection limit. If Gaussian noise is added to a subthreshold (i.e., immeasurable) signal, then it can be brought into a detectable region. After detection, the noise is removed. A fourfold improvement in the detection limit can be obtained.
And seeing the study, the abstract is:
We use stochastic resonance to measure weak transmittance amplitudes that are below the instrumental detection limit. Gaussian noise is added to the subthreshold (chopped) transmittance signal () before detection by a crossing detector that uses a dc reference signal >0. Without noise, no measurement is possible because ()<. A fourfold improvement has been obtained in the detection limit, permitting the measurement of amplitudes that are as small as 0.25
Stochastic Resonance makes film photos look better!
Film photos also exhibit “stochastic resonance” by adding random film grain to our photos, which improves the aesthetic rendering of the picture!
Aesthetics are personal to you
I’ve experimented a lot over the years, and of course the philosophy of aesthetics is that it ultimately comes down to you. Aesthetics is all personally subjective.
So once again, ERIC KIM’S opinion is that film looks better than digital photos, but this is my subjective view. You must discover and master your own aesthetics for yourself!
Some film photos:
I ultimately think film will always aesthetically look better than digital. But, I’ve been able to make my digital RAW photos look pretty similar to film! For example, ERIC KIM MONOCHROME preset on RICOH GR II raw files look great. See more in my street photography starter kit >
Some of my favorite digital Ricoh GR II photos:
Personal photography on film
When I photographed my grandfather’s funeral, I shot it on monochrome film, and I am glad I did. The photos still look beautiful to me:
I visited his grave and shot in digital monochrome, but didn’t have the same aesthetic and feel to me:
Also, I find shooting your loved ones on film is more meaningful, because every click is worth something — we shoot more conscientiously and with more appreciation, like these timeless photos of my umma:
Experiments with film
Shooting with a flash saturates the colors and looks way better with color film!
More flash shots:
Under exposed flash (flash power wasn’t strong enough):
Long range flash:
Flash through a mirror:
Close range flash with black and white trix film:
Flash glare (I like it):
Selfie and flash:
Conclusion: Cultivate your own taste
With digital, use presets or make presets which suit your own taste.
Film is generally easier for me: I shoot it, get the lab to scan and process it for me, and then move on.
But ultimately experiment for yourself, and discover what brings you joy in your photography!
JUST SHOOT IT.
Film Photography Articles
FILM PHOTOGRAPHY by ERIC KIM
If you’re interested in learning how to shoot film, start with this guide:
- FILM PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS by ERIC KIM
- Film Street Photography Manual
- Introduction to Shooting Film in Street Photography
- What I Learned Shooting 100 Rolls of Black and White Film
- What I Learned Processing 164 Rolls of Film After Waiting a Year
- My Experiences Shooting Medium-Format Film in Street Photography
- A Guide on How to Shoot Street Photography on a Film Leica (or Rangefinder)
- Why Digital Is Dead For Me In Street Photography
- Video: Why I’m Switching Back to Black and White Film for Street Photography
- The Zen of Shooting Film Photography
Videos: How to Shoot Film