Street Photography: Analog or Digital?

My favourite analog gear: a Leica M4-2 with a Summicron f2/35mm, a Mamiya 645 1000s and a Rollei 35. The light meter is less oldskool: a Sekonic Twinmate L-208.

With the resurgence of analog photography this topic seems to be quite alive again. Sometimes discussing this topic and being on one side, can make you feel like you are defending a religion. Shooting analog or digital in street photography. Here is what I think.

Although I shoot both I lean very much towards analog. I’m not religious about it and I think both mediums have their own use cases.  Of course it’s different for everybody, with the vast majority of people choosing digital over analog anytime, simply because it’s more convenient, less hassle.
And of course shooting sports events analog just doesn’t make any sense in these times, when your picture has to be in a paper or online within minutes. But we are talking street photography here.

And I must say: especially for colorshots I am still more ambivalent and might even prefer digital too. More richness in color, a tonality that better fits my style.  But maybe that’s just because I haven’t found the right colorfilm yet.

So why do I prefer analog for street shooting in black and white? Isn’t going out on the street always about capturing that true unique moment? And doesn’t being at the right place with the right light on a compelling subject within your viewfinder at the right time, just require some luck? Of course you can increase your chances to be lucky by improving your skills. That’s what we do everyday, learn and improve. But it’s still like a game of poker: some are better at the game than other but you still need to be lucky.

Now doesn’t shooting more frames increase your luck? Especially on a fast modern digital camera with continuous shooting, which is almost like shooting video if you ask me :) My answer: no! The right shot doesn’t come with quantity. Apart from the more than tedious job of having to go through all these similar shots to pick the right one, for me there is another reason to shoot analog. And that is the a kind of magic you feel when intuitively doing that one click. Or less romantic: the predator-like precision targeting that analog shooting is. It’s hit and miss, if you miss the prey is gone.

Now you could say: ‘Hey, but you can also do this digital!’ Yes but no, if you ask me. Because there is another reason why I prefer analog over digital: digital photography and especially the lcd is distracting you from being focused, because you want to see how you did. Everybody does it: you shoot and automatically look at the result on the back. But if you look at results you are out of the moment. Just like when videorecording a concert with your smartphone might save you a memory, but you missed the true moment it was actually happening. Because at that time you were too involved with your smartphone. Or when you see the picture didn't quite turn out the way you expected, something we all go through. Gone is the magic.

So I love the excitement of planning, waiting, shooting, maybe doing one another picture in the same setting and then moving on to the next scene. And than procrastinating the final result: the waiting until the film comes back from the lab. And in the mean time staying in the flow and moving from scene to scene, with at least the sparkling hope that the shot you just did may worked out the way you envisioned it. Or not, but this is then something of later concern :)

Posted in: