Analog vs. Digital


Photography by Paul Martens using a Poloroid SX70 (Not digitally manipulated)

This image was taken with a Poloroid SX70. I love this image as it serve to show what was possible with special film types before Photoshop – and what inspired many Photoshop techniques to take shape.

This is a fun one! I found some of the old printed news letters The Lab Works used to generate. My, how have times changed! Here are some old terms we used in the early 1990′s:

Internegative – a negative made from a slide or transparency in order to make a colour print.

Copy Negative – a negative made from an original print where the negative is not available.

Cibachrome  – a direct slide-to-print process which does not require an internegative.

Full frame – to print the full image without cropping onto a standard sized sheet of paper.

Bleed – an image that has no border, as  “the image bleeds off the edge”.

Push processing – to prolong the time of development in an effort to compensate for underexposure.

Pull processing – to reduce the time of development in an effort to compensate for overexposure.

You may or may not be familiar with the film related terms. Processes like cibachrome and interneg became obsolete as scanning became a more viable (and less toxic) option. Dodging and burning, while still a popular method, is now performed with “tools” in Photoshop. A very cute story was recently told to me by Ian McCausland about a young woman who didn’t know why Photoshop had icons of the “lollipop and OK sign”. Ian explained they are the dodge and burn tools -  explaining how in the darkroom dodging is generally done with a circular piece of card attached to a thin wire while burning is accomplished by making a circular opening with your fingers (allowing the rest of the hand to prevent the light from affecting the rest of the image). Naturally she understood, however never having been in a darkroom – the connections were never made.

But I digress.  As it goes with change, people made some fuss and the collective “we” fought the notion (as some still do) that anything could do better than film.

Some opinions still rest on the notion that a person hasn’t really learned photography until they have learned on film. I believe many newbies to the craft, who are only learning with digital cameras would beg to differ. After all, the task is still the same – use light to expose an image. Exposure can be on film emulsion, emulsion based photo paper or a digital sensor. The effects are similar – if you don’t expose the frame right you will blow out highlights, block up shadows and struggle to make a good print.

As it also goes with change – luckily -  comes the psychological flexibility and our ability to adapt.  The digital learning curve was steep and somewhat painful in those early years, but you managed to figure it out and become the photographers (and then some) you were with film! Nothing to stop anyone now! Darkrooms were sold, film camera’s were set aside and consigned. It seemed like no one was ever going to look back (or smell like chemistry ever again.).

Clearly the shift to digital has had an enormous impact on the industry.  As a lab, we had the extraordinary task of keeping up, and you as photographers, pushed us to keep maintaining the status quo. Now that film is disappearing faster than the polar ice-caps, I wonder if this immediate threat of extinction of a historical process is causing some collective regret. Or rather a secondary shift in thinking? Film actually is that great but so is technology. Instead of  re-inventing the wheel, technology is blending what was incredible about film and putting it in to digital camera’s. Fuji and Leica make a digital rangefinder that look and feel like analog camera’s and software companies like Nik have profiles that are meant to mimic film types.

One serious advantage of digital technology is how it encapsulates the camera, film, and darkroom all in one. Perhaps not as much with DSLR’s when shooting RAW, but fact remains with files “out of the can”, dodging, burning, contrast, and colour adjustments can be completed in one action. Sure, a few slides on levels and a tweak in brightness and contrast may be necessary, BUT. Digital filters make effects simple and creative where as back in the day, if you wanted special effects, you either learned  them in the darkroom, or you took up an interest in the myriad of lens filters available to add or subtract colour, polarize, vignette, blur, even “star” (wow!). Never MIND what was possible with some of the Poloroid films. Nowadays Snapseed is taking smartphone editing to new heights with filters like grunge or drama – but do not be mistaken – these are all inspired by the blood, sweat and tears of the film shooters who worked endless darkroom hours to get unique effects that were different from the norms.

So, what exactly am I trying to say? I suppose simply that the worlds are not different but parallel. They compliment one another – acquired traditional skills are used in the digital world and the creative freedom in the digital world inspires techniques to be used in analog methods. It’s actually kind of exciting.

I’d like to know what you think. With or without consequence, the analog-digital discussion is sure interesting and fires a lot of debate.

Happy Shooting!












Black and White Film Challenge


Photography by Tristan Fast

What do you have in store for July? Long summer days and nights means swims in the lake, cool drinks on the patio, and shooting film!

We know you probably look at your film camera and feel just a little sad for it each time you choose you DSLR. The remedy: pick up your awesome old gear and get shooting! Recall the satisfying feel of the shutter click and whirl, the manual wind of the film spool, and then the slightly-anxiety-inducing-but-mostly-excited-sensation of waiting to see what exactly you shot…..

The Lab Works wants to help facilitate your new romance with old technology.  During the entire month of July, 2012, when you order a set of black and white proofs at the time of black and white processing, The Lab Works will take 20% off the order!

To make the deal even sweeter, when you pick up your print order you will be invited to share one favorite image from each roll processed and printed with The Lab Works where it will be posted to this blog site. You will also be entered in to a draw that will get you 5 rolls of black and white film courtesy of Prairie View School of Photography OR 1 – 8×10 hand made black and white print of the image you selected to be shown on The Lab Works blog!


For complete terms and conditions, please read on.

If you choose to allow The Lab Works to scan and post your print to our blog site, these are some things you need to know.

1. This is not a contest. Images are not being judged and there is no prize to be awarded. Participants are however, entered in to a draw. There will be two names randomly selected in the draw. Prairie View School of Photography and The Lab Works, will provide one individual whose name is drawn first, their choice of one pro-pack of black and white 120 roll film OR 5 rolls of black and white 135-36 film. The second individual whose name is selected will get one (1) 8×10 traditional black and white print of the image chosen for posting on the blog – made lovingly by The Lab Works.

*The draw will be held on Friday August 3rd, 2012 and the individuals whose name are drawn will be contacted by phone or email by Tuesday, August 7th, 2012. If the selected individuals do not confirm contact to arrange collection of the film or print within one week of contact, two other names will be drawn and the same process will be undertaken.

2. Only images processed and printed in the July, 2012 sale promotion are eligible to be chosen for submission for The Lab Works blog site. Participants are invited to submit one image per roll processed and printed.  The Lab Works retains the rights to limit the number of images selected and posted per participant.

3. The image submitted will appear in a gallery on The Lab Works blog within one month of original submission.

4. The photographer retains 100% of the copyright of the image chosen for posting to The Lab Works blog. The Lab Works will credit the image with the photographers’ name. The image will not be used for any other promotional or advertising of The Lab Works or it’s affiliates beyond the dedicated blog post.

5. The Lab Works has the sole discretion to remove any images from the blog site as deemed appropriate or necessary.

6. Images will not be accepted for posting if they are determined to be offensive, obscene, provocative or otherwise inappropriate in nature. The Lab Works reserves the right to refuse any photograph they define as unacceptable.

7. The photographer certifies that the images submitted as their original work and they have never been copyrighted or, if copyrighted that the photographer is the sole copyright owner.

8. The photographer must ensure that they have the written permission of any recognizable model or person in the images to grant The Lab Works the right to publish their images on The Lab Works blog site and they will produce the written permission upon request.


If you agree to these Terms and Conditions and would like to share your image with The Lab Works blog site you will be required to sign this form in writing upon release of your image.

We want this to be a fun way to celebrate you, the photographer, who makes our lab so great. We also want to celebrate the time-honored tradition of black and white film, which marks the beginning of photography, as we know it today. We hope you will participate in making an awesome gallery for you, your friends and family, and the community at large to enjoy!

So, unearth your film camera, get some film and start shooting!







In my efforts to keep this blog not just about The Lab Works but about the Winnipeg photo community around us, it is only fitting that I include a little something about our friendly neighbors, Prairie View School of Photography.

Many of you already know how fortunate we are to have Prairie View right here in our own back yard. They offer a great range of classes from learning the fundamentals, creative courses, classes for teens and  even smart phone classes! In addition to these individual courses, they offer a full time, 10 month diploma program of intensive training where students learn everything from film and printing from negatives, digital techniques, the history of photo imaging and creative processes to industry how-to on the business side.

Prairie View draws a national and international crowd; this year alone boasting one student from Indonesia and another from Hong Kong!

Until Tuesday June 12, Pixels 2.1 Gallery is hosting a show from students in the full time program.

The images posted below are from the students in the diploma program. Please get out and support the local scene and be inspired to get out and take some shots of your own!

Thank you PV for becoming a Winnipeg Institution!

Black and White Prints from *Film*



1. a thin layer or coating: a film of grease on a plate.
2. a thin sheet of any material: a film of ice.
3. a thin skin or membrane.
4. a delicate web of filaments or fine threads.
5. a thin haze, blur, or mist.
6. Photography
a. a cellulose nitrate or cellulose acetate composition made in thin sheets or strips and coated with a sensitive emulsion for taking photographs.
b. a strip or roll of this.
c. the coating of emulsion on such a sheet or strip or on a photographic plate.
Well, at least film, the emulsion based type, has not completely left the public consciousness. Phew! Why would I be relieved?
Oh, only because The Lab Works is now printing traditional black and white proofs directly from your film!
We still offer our scan-to-print service for those of you who like the marriage of traditional with technology. But for the rest of you who never quite got used to scanning and printing, now you don’t have to with your black and white rolls!
So, shoot to your hearts’ content (well, you should be doing that no matter what) and get your scrumptious, truest, bluest, blackest and whitest 4×6/4×5, 5×7/5×5 proofs made right here at your favourite lab!
(We will update with new prices soon!)
Happy Shooting!