Tip of the Day: Film’s Not Dead: Film Terms as they apply to Digital Photography

There are terms that were standard for film photography that are still hanging around and can be confusing for people who have only used digital cameras. Here are a few such terms you might run across and have a vague idea of what they mean but are afraid to ask. Pushing/PullingPushing film or pulling film is using an ASA or ISO that is different from what the film is intended. Using ASA 100 film and setting your camera to ASA 200 or ASA 400 is pushing your film. Going the other direction using

There are terms that were standard for film photography that are still hanging around and can be confusing for people who have only used digital cameras. Here are a few such terms you might run across and have a vague idea of what they mean but are afraid to ask.

Pushing/Pulling
Pushing film or pulling film is using an ASA or ISO that is different from what the film is intended. Using ASA 100 film and setting your camera to ASA 200 or ASA 400 is pushing your film. Going the other direction using ASA 200 and processing it as if it was ASA 100 is pulling film, not done as often as pushing. When it is developed you must inform the lab you have pushed the film or pulled the film and by how much so they can adjust their development process. For pushing, it would be left in the developer longer or use an slightly different chemical developer. The end result of pushing the film would be an image that has more contrast than it normally would.  There is not an exact comparison to digital but one example of using a similar process of pushing with digital would be when you need a higher ISO than your camera is capable, you can underexpose the image and adjust it during editing. The difference is the lack of consistency in the contrast digitally which results in more digital noise than grain. Instead try using an editing program that gives you control in adding grain. One such program is Nik Software's, Efex Pro.   
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Dragging the Shutter**
Dragging the shutter is a process of using a slower shutter speed when combining ambient light with flash or strobe light. This is important when photographing people in low light in front of something you also want to see in the photograph. Your flash will light up your subjects but often when you shutter speed is set at or near the synch speed you will get a dark background despite the low light in the scene.  You can use a slower shutter speed to allow ambient light into the scene while the flash will freeze your subject and keep them in focus despite the slower shutter speed.  This isn't always perfect and can introduce ghosting into your image but it can be effective in showing the scene and the subject. With a point and shoot try the night setting for a similar approach.

Filters
Traditional film photographers use filters to create different effects in their photographs.  Filters are attached to the front of the lens and the image with the filter's effect is recorded on film.  With digital photography some filters like neutral density or polarizing filterss are still used with better results when making a photo in camera than in post processing but editing software programs often offer other filters that are very effective in post processing.

Format
Small, medium and large format film cameras relate to cameras depending on the size of the negative they produce.  Small format cameras were the smaller 35mm cameras that often were all automatic. Medium format cameras produce negatives that are larger than the small formats of 135 film but were still easy to carry around.. Autofocus did not become available for medium format cameras until the 1990s. Large format cameras are totally manual and produce very large negatives using film that is 4x5 inches.  Large format cameras display the image upside down and reversed left to right in the view finder and you must block all light from entering the view finder.  Remember photographers sticking their head under a black sheet to look in the view finder?  See Toyo's large format page for more information .   Many of these cameras can accommodate a digital back which sits on the back of the camera instead of the film holder, allowing a digital image to be created.

* ASA, American Standards Association assigned numerical  ratings of American made film’s sensitivity but  gave way to ISO, International Standards Organization in 1982.

—Melissa Macatee
 Contributing Blogger

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