VSCO Film recently released their newest set of film emulation presets, a lovely set of slide film reproductions that model classic Fuji, Agfa, and Kodak positive film.
And while the digital version of those classic films doesn’t exactly mimick the original, it’s enough to feed into the back-to-our-roots photographic trends that Instagram, Hipstamatic, and VSCO itself kick-started. Pros, amateurs, iPhoneographers – a lot of us are using film-style presets these days.
That got me thinking: why does it take a company like VSCO to come out with these film simulations? Why the hell didn’t Fuji, Kodak, and Ilford – with their diminishing film stocks and questionable financial future – come out with this kind of product?
Why leave it to a digital competitor to develop a copy of your signature films?
No, VSCO-style simulations won’t keep New York cities humming with manufacturing, but they could’ve helped film companies ease into the digital realm.
I take it that Fuji is doing okay with its new X-Series cameras. They’re supplementing their film business with a great series of cameras – cameras that, yes, are simulating Fuji films like Velvia and Astia.
But Ilford? Kodak? Agfa? How are they doing in this modern photographic age? Are they comfortable with staying a hyper-niche product for hobbyists and the declining number of professional photographers who still use film?
Why not say, “Hey, no one knows our film better than we do. We’ll help photographers simulate our classic films with a set of presets that we can sell for real money.”
It used to be that film stock, with quality glass, was how you achieved a certain look. Velvia was different from Portra was different from Polaroid. Now, in the digital age, it’s a combination of camera, software, lens, and (for those who use them) presets.
For film companies, their role in that process should be in the software/presets realm.
“Great photo!” an imaginary film company representative says. “Now make it look how you want it to look with our specially-engineered family of film simulations.”
Instead, companies like VSCO swoop in with the right mixture of finesse and quality and eat the film companies’ lunch. They also offer options for today’s photo enthusiast: desktop and mobile software.
Kodak? Their mobile app offerings look like a messy discount aisle in a dimly-lit drug store: nothing but apps for purchasing film(!) and printing photos (that last one is pretty handy – at least they’re encouraging people to keep printing photos).
Fuji is at least doing a bit better in this space. But still. Why keep those X-Series film simulation modes exclusive on the cameras? Why not make a few bucks selling a mobile camera app with those simulations, and beat VSCO at its own game?
Don’t get me wrong. There are tons of photo filter apps – more than one could ever want or use. But shouldn’t the film companies be in this space and doing it better than anyone? Shouldn’t they have been here first, for crying out loud?
Developing software and apps doesn’t replace the film business. I get that. But what else are the film companies going to do? Wait it out like some passing phase?
When the world switches, you switch with it. As it stands, disrupting upstarts like VSCO are taking the film companies out to the darkroom woodshed.