I often get asked this question by people who tend to prefer the look of film over digital, similar to the look of movie film over video. Based on many years of shooting both film and digital, on this point I would have to agree – film has a wonderful latitude and look which can be only partially duplicated with postproduction work on a digitally captured image.
However, on almost every other point, I would have to say that I vastly prefer digital over film, even though it has increased my workload and equipment cost. Here are five reasons why I prefer digital to film:
1. Post Production. As a career photographer, I am responsible for the final image, which ends up in my the hands of my client. Film allows me control over the front-end only, whereas digital capture opens up an entire spectrum of control over the final image using Photoshop and Lightroom. I can remove distractions, retouch faces, and adjust just about everything from colors to sharpness. For a creative person, this kind of control over the image capture and processing is essential.
2. Online viewing and sharing. As you know, digital cameras are the perfect medium for posting to the Internet. Film must be processed and printed before it can be shared at all, and must be scanned before sharing online. Our culture of immediacy and sharing has helped to render film obsolete.
3. Environmental concerns. Although there are questions about the environmental impact of digital camera electronics (and computers), there is no doubt that film chemistry is highly toxic, and overall digital is greener than film.
4. Limitations of film. I used to carry separate cameras for b&w film and color film, plus separate film backs for different ISO films AND tungsten vs. daylight film. All of these are now simply menu setting adjustments in a digital camera. Additionally, I can shoot approximately 900 high-resolution RAW digital files before reloading, vs. 36 frames on a roll of film (or even worse, 10-20 frames on a medium format film camera).
5. Processing and storage. Film is processed and stored once. Raw digital files may be reprocessed many times (called non-destructive editing) and then stored in multiple locations.
I am convinced that many years of shooting film have made me a better photographer. Film shooting requires us to execute the perfect shot with regards to composition, lighting and exposure, all without the benefit of an instant preview or postproduction enhancements. Shooting film requires a lot more training and previsualization, yet I would recommend it to almost anyone who is serious about shooting better photographs, whether film or digital.
I prefer digital capture to film for my clients as well as my own personal work for the reasons cited above. Digital and film cameras are essentially tools of the trade. In the end, whether your image contains pixels or grain is not as important as whether it elicits an emotional response on a deeper level.