Matching Digital to Film | Richard Photo Lab | Shooting Film, Part 5 of 5

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If you’ve been following my blog and the Shooting Film series, you may know that I’ve been documenting all sorts of unscientific experiments in my venture into film. Part 5 was originally going to be about getting started in film, but I figure you can just go to Jonathan Canlas for that. And instead, I’ll blog my next experiment, which combines digital and film– beautifully, I might add.

It’s my favorite experiment yet. Though I am most comfortable shooting digitally, I do love the look of film, so in my ideal world, I’d be able to shoot a mix of both film and digital and post-process them in a cohesive manner. Other photographers do this sort of hybrid shooting already, but I was having a hard time pulling it off convincingly.

While I was in Los Angeles last month, I had the opportunity to visit Richard Photo Lab in person and get a grand tour from Bill himself. We also chatted about this little experiment of mine, and he was absolutely on board. I pulled out some RAW digital files I had from the same session in which I also shot Kodak Portra 400 film, and Bill set me up completely with the RPL digital retouching services and instructions to match the digital to the film as best as they could.

Disclaimer: digital will never look exactly like film. That isn’t even the goal. I just wanted the two to look cohesive and consistent. True to form, RPL pulled through with awesome results. See for yourself.

Set #1. The first image below is the digital file processed by me as I would normally process it.

The second image below is also a digital file– processed by RPL to match the film image.

And the third image below is the film image processed and scanned by RPL.

Set #2. First, the digital image, processed as I would normally process it.

This second image is a digital file processed by RPL to match the film photo.

And below, the film image developed and scanned by RPL.

Set #3. The first two images below are digital files, processed through my normal processing.

The next two are digital images processed by RPL to match the film frames

And below, two film frames processed and scanned by RPL.

Set #4. Again, the first image is my digital file with regular processing.

This is the same digital file processed by RPL to match the film image below it.

And finally, the film image processed and scanned by RPL.

There’s no doubt about it; RPL folks know how to match colors far better than I do. And while I may have tweaked the final products a bit more from the images that I received (that middle photo in set #2 did look a bit jaundiced to me), I think this proves to me that what I imagined is certainly possible– shooting film and matching it digitally is definitely something that I could do. I would just have to learn how to adjust the colors properly or pay RPL to do it every time (currently priced at $.50/digital file, minimum $100 order).

At any rate, there are plenty more examples where the above four sets came from, so I will leave you with a plethora of other digital and film images below. All of these were processed by RPL, but I have not identified them as digital vs. film– see if you can tell the differences yourself! It is very difficult after a while; they all look incredibly consistent!

So what does this mean for me? I will continue to shoot most of my work digitally, but I will also begin to integrate film selectively. I am refining my aesthetic as always, but I am incredibly excited for the possibilities!

A big thank you to Evy & Joe for being the goregous guinea pigs for this experiment– Joe even had to run out and buy a camera battery for my Canon EOS3 which I’d previously never used. You can view the (all digital) blog post of their engagement shoot here. I’m looking forward to their wedding coming up very soon!

And thanks again to Richard Photo Lab for taking the time to work with me on this grand experiment. I hope this helps many other digital/film photographers who have been just as curious as I about these topics. I will continue to blog about my adventures in film here. If you like what you’ve seen here, please leave a comment below or come say hi on Facebook!