Claire Yaffa: The Art of Making a Photograph – Digital & Film, Chapter 6

Claire Yaffa took her first photograph 45 years ago when her son was 18 months old and it was the beginning of her journey, first as a mother, then as a photographer. She has worked extensively for The New York Times and Associated Press. Her photographs have appeared in countless influential publications and have been exhibited at major venues in the US and around the world.


Leica Notebook, Chapter Six

I have returned to the darkroom, reminding myself of the chemicals to be prepared, diluted, stirred, measured and at the right temperature to develop film and make a print.
I pick up my digital camera and there waiting for me is the photograph I  have seen.  I carefully select what I want to photograph, whether I use my M6 loaded with film or my M9 digital camera.  One is instant gratification which can improve even more with the advantages of Photoshop. The camera with film  is a much  slower process. Holding my breath, I load film trying to avoid a catch in the spool, develop my film and wait to see if I have the photograph I hope for.  I have my negative, but not until I see the image developing in the tray, do I release my breath. It is then that I evaluate the possiblities of how to improve on the image I photographed, which will take place in the darkroom.

Which process represents the art in making of a photograph?  Is there a difference in the quality of a digital print and a print  from film?  The beauty of digital, is the ability of everyone to appreciate the making of a photograph.  One does not have to be a “professional” photographer to make an excellent photograph.  Everyone can take a photograph and they do!  However, for me, I value being exposed to both worlds, digital and film. Perhaps spending  memorable time in the darkroom, which I have done for 45 years, reminds me of the photographers whose work I have tried to emulate.  I still hold my breath whether I am photographing with a digital M9 LEICA or developing  my film from my  M6.  Does it matter if there is a difference which  camera one selects?  For me the “art of making a photograph” comes from the person behind the camera, representing  the heart and vision  of what they feel and want to say.

-Claire Yaffa

You can also see more of Claire’s work on her website,

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  • One seemingly insignificant aspect is forgotten, sorry – in digital photography the quality of camera turns out to be all too important – bad (unnatural, forced) colours, noise, pixellation – you name it – can easily spoil a potentially good photo.

  • Interesting article, but why is the film quality looking that disastrously bad? Nice subject’s, but that grey something can’t be the reference material in this comparison.

  • I have recently begun exposing film again in my M6. Actually it frees me from the necessity of looking at my image immediately to see if it meets some preconceived notion of adequacy or even excellence. I love the tactile quality of film. I appreciate your perspective on this old debate. Yes, I still hold my breath as well.

  • It’s really an analog / digital issue. Film is just the medium for analog. You could represent digital somehow on film, I suppose, by embedding 1s and 0s on it. True, you can shoot digital and make it look analog-ish, but deep down you know…….

  • I agree here and i have fallen back to film though as its more or less the Best , have the odd digital blast usually with a m8 or x1 now m5.

  • There is something wrong with the the photos on this post. The analog shots have a strange lack on contrast, clarity and gradation and the digital ones, well, they look like untreated out-of-camera jpegs. Unfinished, that is.

    And the analog/digital issue is totally passé. Photography is on film and digital capture is for beginners and slaves of the image economy. 😉

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