When I first read about the Acros film simulation when it came out with the X-Pro 2, I was more than a little worried about the much-publicized “grain effect.” I didn’t understand why I’d want to simulate graininess in my images. With every new digital camera generation, advances in technology allow for cleaner images, not noisier/grainier images. So this seemed like a contrived attempt to take advantage of the current trendiness of retro looks (cough Instagram filters cough).
After shooting with Acros for a couple weeks, though, I no longer feel this way. In my comparison of the Acros and Monochrome settings, I took a scientific approach at understanding Acros. Now, I’d like to try to understand it from an artistic perspective.
As camera technology gets better and better, technically sound images are easier to achieve. I ran into a photographer named Ed Darack in Fort Collins the other day, and he mentioned that a picture he took with his iPhone was recently printed on a full page in the New York Times. This sort of thing seems commonplace these days. These advances in technology have also lowered the barrier to entry. Compared to previous years, we have more photographers who don’t have to work as hard to achieve technically sound images.
The effects of these joint phenomenons are quite interesting to me. It seems they have produced a lot of cookie-cutter images. When I go onto Instagram or 500px or wherever, I see so many beautiful images, but I don’t see many images that surprise me. I mean, when’s the last time you saw an image of waterfall that didn’t have a slow shutter speed and blurred water?
People seem to have gotten caught up in the game of optimizing the technical aspect of photography, and in the process they’ve forgotten about the artistic aspect.
I’m not immune to this nasty effect, and my decision to shoot film this summer was the by-product of a deliberate attempt to worry less about the technical quality of the images. I knew shooting 35mm film was going to result in some significant grain, so I just didn’t worry about it and focused on my compositions instead. That had a very liberating effect, and I’m noticing a similar phenomenon when I shoot with Acros on the X-T2.
I think letting go of the urge to achieve technical perfection has some powerful secondary and tertiary effects. If you stop caring about perfection in one area, it’s almost as if you’re letting your subconscious that it’s ok to not try to be perfect in other areas as well. This frees you from going down the path of trying to follow all of the “rules” of photography and ending up with images that have strong composition but look like every other shot of its kind on the Internet.
With Acros, I know there’s going to be grain in the JPEGs. This was shot at ISO 200, and even at that low ISO there’s pretty noticeable noise/grain. It’s not intrusive or destructive to the image quality in any significant way, but it’s there. And the fact that I know it’s going to be there is like a little signal to my brain telling it that it’s ok to not be perfect. I like that.
Besides, if the grain does bother me, I can always go to town with noise reduction on the RAW file in Photoshop… 😛