Fujifilm Neopan 400 film cansiterSince getting back into film photography, one of the things that I’ve noticed is that more and more film brands seem to be disappearing. Often, before any formal announcements, there are discussions on online photography forums. For example, it appears that Fujifilm might be discontinuing Neopan 400 film.

For photographers who develop their own film and also take this through to darkroom enlargements, I can see how the ongoing loss could be a serious loss. The inability to get hold of their preferred photographic tools could force photographers and artists to adapt their style of working. And obviously, the less products in the market, the less choice. Which can lead to price rises and product shortages. And, let’s face it, (hipsters aside) the market for film photography is probably only going to get smaller.

From a personal point of view (and that’s all this blog ever is), I wonder how much this will actually affect my own photographic workflow. I scan my negatives. From then onwards, my photographic practice is fully dependent on a digital workflow. So, with black and white film, the subtleties of Neopan 400’s possible higher contrast, versus Ilford HP5 supposedly having a more ‘traditional look’ are generally lost on me. Quite honestly, I’m not a good enough photographer to fully utilise the subtleties of different brands of camera film. Indeed, for black and white photgraphy, I prefer to use films which have a lower contrast and perhaps even less ‘character’ – and I also scan my negatives ‘flat’, without any scanner software filters enabled. This allows me more leeway to adjust them within Photoshop – for example it’s much easier to add contrast digitally than remove it, in my opinion.

For colour film, it matters more to me what film I choose. This is from a ‘garbage-in garbage-out’ point of view. And actually this probably applies to digital colour photography also. Obviously, the colour hues and shades that my camera captures in the first place, affects how the post-processing will go later on.  The more post-processing that is required, the more colour noise that can be aded, for example. That said, I rarely use colour film, as I find that digital is so good these days.

With that in mind, should I really be looking for information about dynamic range, levels of grain, sharpness and how well certain films scan? Well, actually, stuff that! In practice, I often simply enjoy experimenting with different brands of film, to see what effects I get. And this, perhaps, is the crucial factor. I don’t take photographs simply to get a clinically superior result. I enjoy the tactile nature of film photography. I enjoy having a choice of films, and camera styles – SLRs and rangefinders. I also enjoy the wait, not being able to preview each photograph, and seeing the result come up on screen from my scanner. I  enjoy the frame of mind that film photography help puts me in and also how it improves my digital photography.

So, yes, I think it’s a crying shame when another photographic film disappears.