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When you meet others interested in photography there are always same old questions; do you use film or digital? FX or DX? What is your favourite film /paper? And occasionally, which photographers do you like?

A few years back I went to a local camera club and was greeted by a committee member. We sat down and started to talk about photography. He asked me what camera I used and I replied. His response was amazing he said that it was only a DX and that I would get nowhere without an FX. What he meant was I would not win points for club as images from a DX camera would be judged inferior. I never went back.

I started teaching photography over 30 years ago and have very clear memories of the first class at a local college. They were a bunch of keen amateur men eager to move into professional photography. One guy asked, “what is your favourite film?” to which I replied whichever I need to do the job. His response was very strong saying there was only one film to use – Kodachrome 25, i.e. a 25ASA colour slide film. I tried to say that although that was a very good film it was not appropriate for many situations. He was adamant that it was the only film he was ever going to us because it was the best.

The point here is that the continual arguments about the best film, camera, paper, software is largely irrelevant. The best camera is the one you have with you and know how to use. If an image appears before your eyes it is no use thinking I should be using an XYZ and all I have is an ABC. It is the image that matters so learn to get the best from what you have.

I use film and, shock horror, a digital camera. When I use film I make silver prints. When I use digital I use an ink jet printer. I choose the medium to get the results I want. There is no way on earth I could have got this shot with film – it was taken on a digital camera and 25,600 ASA in available light.

copyright colin shaw 2014

I could have taken a load of supplementary lighting down the mine and spent several minutes setting up the shot but I would have got something very different to this. In fact I deliberately chose not to use flash as I feared it could have caused the subject to experience temporary blindness which would have been inconvenient and dangerous.

Think about the whole photographic process from original idea to end product and make choices based upon the image you want as the end result. Do not get stuck in the technology, find what works best for you, which will require some experimentation, and stop listening to what others think is best. Most of all stop worshiping the equipment and enjoy the photographs you produce because in the end if this photography lark is not about the image what is the point.

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