Film negatives are processed using chemicals.
Digital negatives are processed using computers.
I’ll start by admitting to never having shot and processed using film and chemicals myself. My first SLR was a digital one. I did, however, grow up with a father who ran his own little dark room in the guest toilet. So the concepts of what is needed and used in film processing is not entirely alien to me after all.
Right now, I only shot digital and I digitally process all my real photos.
Digital photography has been around for year and years now and it amazes me how people STILL think that post-editing is somehow cheating and proves that you’re a bad photographer. I highly disagree with this and here’s why:
If you think that people, before the days of digital processing and post editing, didn’t process their photos, think again. Strictly logical, there would only be rolls of negatives sitting around and no actual photographs at all.
If you think photographers just used to press the shutter in a moment in time and space, having no say in the result other than the focus. This is absolutely WRONG. I could even argue that this is impossible using a film camera, but more so in digital photography. *
Color adjustments, contrast, even dodging, and some much more were not introduced with Photoshop, but photographers have been doing just this for eons. This is not new!
My claim is this: Digital images makes post editing more important and this has mainly to do with the camera’s sensor. When using a film, there are lots of different films to choose from (remember, the sensor in you DSLR, is basically what the film is in a SLR), and these different choices can yield different results, of course. However, with DSLR the sensor you have is well, the sensor you have.
The difference between digital and analogue capturing, which I won’t get into, also contributes, as digital images usually comes out more flat compared to film which usually gives a more 3D feel, especially in B&W. The flat, linearly captured digital images in my opinion almost always need more postproduction to even come close to the depth of an analogue photograph.
Oh, and one more thing, technical aspects of photography has been a subject for debate since day one. I believe I dealt with what’s art and what’s not in my previous post. Photography has always been very driven by technology, and some people always have and always will struggle with adapting and/or embracing, whereas others like being in the front and help photography evolve.
* With film you always pick the film, no matter how this choice is made, but also have to process it somehow. With a digital camera, all setting can usually be set to auto, letting the camera completely process a picture as it pleases (when it comes to jpg) or you could let an image program do the same, as you convert the RAW file in the software. This is fine by me, if that’s what people want, but one shouldn’t confuse it with a more purist type of photography. Just because you’re not doing it yourself, doesn’t mean someone or something else is not doing it either.