Character In Digital Photographs

The more I take pictures of the life around me, the more I feel inclined to throw away information, add grain and muddy up the super clean files my camera creates, using VSCO Film and other tools.

Why though? What is it about the high quality images my X100s creates, like just about every other digital camera today, that feels lifeless? Why does film grain and reduced dynamic range of a print look so beautiful for photographs you class as memories? When I produce professional work for people, quality is a priority and I do all the tricks, but with my personal photography, leaving them clinical and clean feels wrong. They're not the same thing.

Location scouting for a music video I shot.

Location scouting for a music video I shot.

My use of these profiles and the "imperfections" they add continues to evolve as I look through them and experiment. In particular, I've recently found the Kodak Royal Gold 400 ++ (somewhat faded version with grain) adds a kind of "memory" or I suppose nostalgia to the picture, ageing it in a way that makes it feel like a real moment, and not a digital image produced with excessive noise reduction and perfect colour reproduction.

Genevieve / Melbourne

Genevieve / Melbourne

Is it the print aspect? Perhaps the sad part about a digital world is that we need to print images far less than we used to. I try to make a habit of printing out 4x6's of my favourite memories every now and again and add them to my wall slowly. It's a reminder that I've lived life and have met wonderful people and made friends along the way.

Connor and Keng on a recent street photography walk.

Connor and Keng on a recent street photography walk.

I think what it does is create a feeling the memory the photograph is trying to portray. The grain and the tonal response in these VSCO profiles and other processing tools like it add age to the photograph.

Simon

Simon

The Technical Stuff

While I'm currently in a Royal Gold 400++ phase (like all of these photos), the other "digital films" I've experimented and use extensively are the Ilford HP5 B&W and a Kodak Portra 400 colour profiles in VSCO's Film 01 pack. The Portra profile is much cleaner than Royal Gold and is very nice for a punchy but soft response on skin tones in particular. Ilford HP5 is also the only black and white profile I use as it does wonders with skin tones.

Levi

Levi

One of my favourite fashion photographers of late is Bryant Eslava. His use of natural light and processing is fantastic. Our very own WECC member Morgan Roberts also extensively uses VSCO Film in his wedding and other work.

Keep experimenting with your lighting, your composition and your subject matter, but don't forget to work and experiment with the way you process your images too. It's the icing on the cake.