Tom Wright3 Comments

The Digital Lab

Tom Wright3 Comments
The Digital Lab

The Film Advantage


From the beginning of my career I have been a film shooter. My very first portrait session was shot on Kodak Film and, despite moving much of my work to digital, I always had a film camera in my bag.

Over time I found myself using that camera more and more. My heart was telling me to move back to film.

No matter how hard I tried I couldn't find any digital camera that came close to the colour or dynamic range that I found in film.

So I followed my heart: I invested in a Mamiya medium format camera for portraits, and a Leica (my dream camera) for everything else.

Life was good... until I had to find a lab.


Scanning and other art forms


Scanning is an art; it takes a skilled eye to produce great results from the film you send to the lab. To get the results I want for my clients, you need to choose a lab that cares as much about your work as you do. A lab that won't let you down and that can be relied on to produce the best results every time.

This comes at a cost.

The only film lab that I could trust to produce the best results roll after roll was Richard Photo Lab. They are regarded as the best in the business and after years of trying different labs and hoping to get the same results from a lab elsewhere, I can honestly say they are in a league of their own.

This skill comes at a price (and a very fair one at that) but sending film to Richard Photo Lab requires that I send my film overseas. For personal work I have no problem with that, but for paid work I couldn't shake the fear that something might go wrong. Even losing one roll in transit would be totally unacceptable.

My clients deserve to know that their images are safe.


The Hybrid Theory


There had to be another way. I was sure that there was a way I could still shoot film but use digital cameras to provide a supplement to the film work I was doing. That way I could cover the day on digital, and focus on using film in the situations it really shone.

So my beloved Leica was hung up and I made the switch to shooting with my Mamiya and a DSLR.


Preset Problems


I have always used Lightroom to edit and have been striving to find a way of making my digital images look closer to the film that I love to shoot.

When VSCO released their first film pack, I was sure that this was the solution I was waiting for. Like many others, I bought the presets and they were amazing! Finally I could shoot my digital cameras in a multitude of lighting situations and get consistent and vivid colour...

... but it was nothing like film.

Kodak Portra - 20131022-01258.jpg

Mastin Labs


Mastin Labs presets are what VSCO Film promised but failed to deliver. The presets are subtle but beautiful.

After years of shooting digital cameras and feeling like I was missing something, I had finally found something that came close, really close. I could shoot an engagement with my Mamiya on one shoulder and a DSLR on another.

But that wasn't all.

They provided me with a way to get the look that I loved from film without the need to send my images half way across the world. The results were so good I did something I thought I never would.

I sold my film cameras.


The images in this post are a mixture of film scans and digital files.

Film Images

Leica M2 | Zeiss Planar 50mm F2 | Portra 400

Digital Images

Nikon DSLR | Nikon 50mm 1.8g | Mastin Labs Portra 400