How does taking pictures digitally improved photography (or not)? Why do some professional photographers still insist that photographing on film is better?
To the artist or professional photographer, a photograph is much more than simply a visual record of an object or event. While digital photography can record weddings, graduations, etc., etc., and multiple “exposures” are relatively inexpensive, and “forgiving” (in that they can be modified by computer software), they are also limited by the pixel size and subtlety of colors. Film photography, on the other hand, while physically awkward and expensive, allows for “texture,” the much more subtle shading of colors, and a sense of permanence (digital photographs are sometimes not even allowed as evidence in court). The difference, then, is artistic—subtleties, nuances, a personal “eye” that goes beyond simply recording an event. A comparison can be made to painting: Was Van Gogh simply trying to record a starry night or interpret it? While the differences between these two photographic media may not be noticeable to the layman, the “medium” is as different as the difference between an oil painting and a water-color. Add the collectability of film photography and its subsequent value, and the professional and/or art photographer will often prefer the messy possibilities of the darkroom to the sterile reproduction of digital pixels on a screen.
Which photographers? you need to examine who are they sounds like art photographers. What are they using film for? (the purpose)What are they referring to exactly? technically: ie contrasts better? highlights? or colour satuation?
Some say neither are better on an absolute basis. They both serve different purposes.
Generally speaking an art house photographer and commercial photographer have different considerations.
The professional "art" photographer is interested in the asthetics of the image as an artform. Detail is of the utmost importance: infusing it with atmosphere, and mood. To achieve certain "looks" they use a medium or large format camera (not widely used anymore) Scrupulous attention is paid right from shooting the image, through to the postproduction. They don't just snap away and print out at the Warehouse, or use one of those cheap photography shops. They either print it themselves, or use professional photography labs.
If you want to see some comparisons of film v digital take a look a the large format images by early photographers: Ansel , Imogen Cunningham Edward Western, Brassai, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, New Zealander Laurence Aberhart. Google them, or check out their photography in books.
Now, compare those to one of your digital snapshots, say of a landscape, or even a 35mm film photo.You will see immediately the difference in resolution between the images. It's all in the eye of the photographer-the detail, and the format one shoots on. The larger the format, the higher the resolution of the negative.
Back to digital, as a quick comparison, many commerical wedding photographers use digital. Some see it as a job, rather than art. Of course there is the exception to the rule, but I am talking generally.
These photographers are happy with the results produced on digital. It's convenient, it records the event, the people, and meets the clients expectations. With film, while the resolution, and highlights are more defined, and a higher quality- it doesn't allow you to see or change things while you are photographing.
Digital allows the photographer to see in front of them what is working or not, and correct any mistakes in photoshop later. Sports photographers and photojournalists tend to find the digital format works best for their purpose.
So, digital v film, it is all debateable - I think it all depends on persona preference, and what the photographer is trying to achieve.