Is Shooting Film for Photojournalism Still Feasible? Photojournalist Mike Drew Weighs In

Mike Drew is a Calgary-based photojournalist who's worked for the publications such as the Calgary Sun and the Toronto Star since 1978. Recently, Mike was challenged by the guys at TheCameraStoreTV to try and shoot film for a day while working as a photojournalist to see if it was still a viable option for the type of work he does.

As pointed out in the video, for newspaper work the difference in image quality between digital and film, whichever you tend to prefer, is negligible, the film was able to resolve just fine for a font-page color photo. The trouble, however, with using film for this sort of beat photojournalism is its inherit inefficiency. In the video, Mike had to drive across town to get his images developed and scanned before he could send them to his editor. Back in film's hay-day, he would have been able to quickly process and scan everything back at the newspaper offices but those facilities have since been closed. Now with his digital kid, he'd be able to import, correct, export, and send them all within a couple minutes while still at the site.

Below is one of the images he submitted that the paper decided to run.

While film is by no means dead, it has clearly been supplanted for this sort of run-and gun, fast turnaround photojournalism. 

[Via TheCameraStoreTV and Pop Photo]

What did you think of this little experiment? If you're a photojournalist would you consider taking the film challenge for yourself? Let us know in the comments below.

Also, if you clicked into this article, odds are that you're a film shooter yourself, I'd definitely encourage you to take a peek at our interview with the guys at Cinestill Film about the creation of their new 120 format 800 speed tungsten balanced film.

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Austin Rogers joined Fstoppers in 2014. Austin is a Columbus, OH editorial and lifestyle photographer, menswear aficionado, pseudo-bohemian, and semi-luddite. To keep up with him be sure to check out his profile on Fstoppers, website, drop him a line on Facebook, or throw him a follow on his fledgling Instagram account.

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As much as I love film there are times when shooting digital just makes more sense. I've talked to a lot of old timers who shot high school SPORTS on fixed lens TLR Yashicamats and loathed them so much that they would purposefully kick them on the ground in an effort to destroy them so that the newspapers would replace them with 35mm SLR's. Of course they were so well made that they failed in flying colors! On the other hand David Burnett shoots the Olympics on a 4x5 press camera and he's not complaining. The results he achieves by using the camera's movements and limitation of the fixed focal length are breathtaking!

Especially with color and larger images, digital just makes sense. I remember oh, like 14 years ago the small paper I was working for had bought an Olympus digital camera. You know the type, when Olympus made odd-shaped cameras. The thing was like a 3 or 4 megapixel. We needed a shot from a softball game, and we were two hours from deadline. I decided to shoot with the digital. The lag on it was like you wouldn't believe, and timing a shot was slow-going, but I got a 'usable' image.

Film still made sense for sports, and whenever you needed something for telephoto or low light situations, but once 6mp APSc DSLRs hit the market, newspapers using film was done en mas - they were affordable enough, and quality was sufficient. 12mp basically meant the flash could stay in the bag (or back at the office), and 16mp+ are to the point that the digital DSLR, for a photojournalist is now superior for newspapers.

I fought AF - foregoing the early EOS film cameras for my trusty used ME Super, and still shoot focusing manually (always change out my focusing screen) but the last time I shot with film was 2002....

I love film but you really have to be digital for photojournalism these days if you're covering live events. Even shooting DSLR is being edged out in favor of iPads. Being the first to post pictures is what publications are looking for. Gone are the days of quality.

Perhaps if you're shooting a series and you have time to spend, sure it can be done. This guy ran all over town for things I have in my bathroom closet.

This all makes perfect sense. Although for me and the point in my life. I only shoot film for hubby or personal. Anything $$ related or client is done on digital.

I just love film. I love how it slows you down and makes you think. You think about taking the picture...every time. Not saying digital makes you dumb...just my personal experience ..not even opinion :)

If you send your negatives and have them drum the quality is amazing. Of course i never send 36 neg. to be drum scanned. Only 2 or 3 if that...I really need to love them.

In 1999 if you shot the NFL by the end of the game the sidelines from the 30yd line to the end zones were covered by film canisters by the end of the game. By 2001 the canisters all but disappeared from the sidelines.

In 2001 the paper I was working for switch from film to digital. The main reason was not timeliness or quality but expense. The $30,000 Noritzu film processor cost $500 a month in chemicals was sold to a south american company for $600.

One the last fun news film shoots I did was in '90s shooting. I had rebuilt a Graflex 4x5 camera that I used on a photo story on a handicap trail in Sequoia National Park. At one place I worked out a new editor decided to throw out 75 plus years of negative because he saw no use for film because everything was digital now.

Today I could see film for documentary work but not for daily news coverage. I like the physicality of film that you don't have digital. but I really at this point and time just see digital as that different from film.

I see digital as another medium like B&W film, color film and slide film. I don't see it as much a separate entity though. The nostalgic part of me misses the alchemy of the darkroom and watching prints appear in the developer. A computer and Photoshop does not have the same magic. One thing about film it made you pre visualize your image before shooting where digital tends to be more reactionary.

I do in some ways miss shooting B&W because it was a powerful medium not just because it is on film but because B&W images are powerful. I will say that B&W film images do have a timeless quality to them.