How to Judge Whether or Not a Picture is Analog

2011-03-19 14

We’ve all seen digital photos on, but here are some tips on how to differentiate between the two!

Here at the wonderful, people from all over the world are allowed to share their analog joy by sharing film photos that bring joy to each one of our hearts. Although Lomography is strictly for analog film photos, they’ll always be those who think they can trick the community and upload digital photos. Some of us turn the other cheek while others start shoutbox riots which can end up in the throwing around of some pretty nasty words. So whether you’re an analog activist or someone who can care less, here are a few tips on how to differentiate analog photos from digital photos.

1.] Look for consistencies.
A lot of times people will put their digital photos through effect filters to give the photos an “analog” look. These effects usually include bringing out color in the blacks of the photo, fake light leaks, and over saturation or contrast. However, if people use these effects just by using premade filters often times their photos will have consistencies in them. For example, in the slideshow below the photos are put through a digital filter to give it the “vintage” look. The effects from photo to photo are almost exactly alike. Notice how the light leaks in the top and bottom right hand corner are exactly the same. We all know that sometimes our cameras have leaks that can produce very similar light leaks from picture to picture, but very rarely will you have a camera that produces the same identical light leaks from photo to photo no matter what the light conditions are. This rule also goes for vignetting, lens flares, and other photo proprieties like color cash and saturation. Again, there is the slight chance that this can be a truly analog effect, but 9 times out of 10, the effect is somehow digitally altered.

Photos grabbed from a friend of mine’s Facebook

2.] Do a background check!
Here at Lomography, it’s encouraged to creep all over people’s photos and homes. And if you’re ever suspicious about a photo’s trustworthiness, get studied up do a background check on the photo and Lomographer! If you’re suspicious of a particular photo, take a look at the meta data supplied by the Lomographer to the right of the photo. Some people will be honest and write big warning tag in all caps that reads DIGITAL. Sometimes there’s no harm in uploading a digital shot if it’s for the purpose of an instructional blog or for some other practical use. If there is no meta data at all, this could be a cause for suspicion. That said, DO NOT think any photo without meta data is digital. Many of us are just too lazy to enter in all the little details or some of us just plain forget to do it. But if people don’t write down the meta data, you might have some right to be suspicious. Also, be warned! Some tricky uploaders will add in false meta data to represent a camera that they are trying to recreate.

3.] Does it look too good to be true?
Although it’s something your mother might have warned you about when you were a child after you told her about some kid who’s in your class who’s going to sell you an ultra rare baseball card for free, this rule applies here. If there’s ever anything in a photo that just seems too good to be true, it might be just that: a digital shot or a digitally enhanced shot! Some examples of this could be perfect vignetting or HDR effects (which are nearly impossible to create using film). Unless someone can give you a plausible reason for why these effects are near perfect, you might have a reason to be doubtful on your hands.

Photos courtesy of @zero1photo and @berndsaller

4.] When you’re really needing to know, check the EXIF information.
If you’re really super curious there is one last way to truly tell if the shot is digital or not. When you take a photo with a digital camera, many will store what is known as EXIF information. This is where the extraneous data about the settings of the camera for that particular shot is stored. This information will include shutter speed, aperture, white balance, color mode, focal length, camera model and other things. On a Windows computer, the only way to see this information is to save the photo onto your computer, right click the image file, and select proprieties. The EXIF information is located in the tab that says details. I do not own a Mac, but I’m assuming you can find this information when you command click and select “Get Info”. If the EXIF information shows a digital camera model, shutter speed, aperture, and all that other stuff, you’ve probably got a digital shot on your hand. This rule does not apply if the film has been Ghetto Scanned in which case EXIF information will be retained. Also, if a version of Photoshop or similar photo editing program is shown, don’t get suspicious, a lot Lomographers use Photoshop to scan in their photos from their flatbed. If these digital tricksters are really sneaky, they might delete the EXIF information, but many times the info will be left with the photo.
*Notice: Since I strongly do not believe strongly in downloading other people’s photos from Lomography without permission, I strongly urge Lomographers to use this tactic sparingly and only when truly necessary.

What EXIF Information looks like.

5.] Ask the photographer!
Lomography is a great community full of really nice people, and sometimes the best course of action is to confront the Lomographer directly through a public or private message. Some people might have somehow missed the memo that is strictly for analog photos. If they admit to the photos being digital, don’t blow your top but just respectfully reprimand them and tell them to refrain from posting digital photos. Kindness is always key!
Sadly, as long as there is going to be an online community of film photographers, there will always be a trace of doubt about digital enhancement and digital photo. It’s just the nature of the beast. Just remember to keep these tips in the back of your mind if suspicion or doubt ever creeps into your head!

written by fivedayforecast on 2011-03-19 #gear #tutorials #film #exif #judge #tipster #digital #camera #top-tipster-techniques #analog


  1. fivedayforecast
    fivedayforecast ·

    Ahhh!!!!! Sooooo many formatting errors. Sorry LSI. I thought your articles still allowed for textile code!

    To lomographers: try to look past it!

  2. disasterarea
    disasterarea ·

    Personally I don't try to worry about this kind of thing. If someone wants to upload a digital image to Lomography they're only fooling themselves because they're personally missing all the things that make film fun and unique to the unpredicatable-ness of the camera's and how you never know what you're going to get until it comes back from the lab.

    But despite all these checks, anyone who uses film regularly can instantly spot a digital print from analogue. This is because film has a unique look that no matter how much time you spend in post-processing you just can't recreate. And this is in the subtlety of the colours, the slight softness of the edges, the smooth gradients, and the grain.

    ...It's hard to explain but you just know :)

  3. disasterarea
    disasterarea ·

    To conclude...
    Lomography is more than light leaks, whacked-out colours, and unconventional framing.

    (although they are part of the fun)

  4. mochilis
    mochilis ·

    So useful!! My eyes are still not used to catching fake analogue pics but I'll try and use these tips you gave us... not for pointing and getting angry with "digital lomographers", in my case, just to know and stop wondering how did they get those beautiful colours or vigneting.

  5. lakandula
    lakandula ·

    Informative read. Thanks for sharing.

  6. stouf
    stouf ·

    Interesting ! And it reminds me of our little debate of 4 months ago... (…)

  7. mikahsupageek
    mikahsupageek ·

    great article Ty !

  8. natalieerachel
    natalieerachel ·

    I still have some troubles finding differences between analogue and digital sometimes. Except for that zero1photo guy....that's pretty obvious.
    Good thing I got all of my digital ones off, haha I had A LOT when I first joined because I didn't have any analogue cameras :(

  9. lucide
    lucide ·

    Good article!
    'Analog activists' made me laugh a little :).

  10. eringreif
    eringreif ·

    Haha I love this article so much. I like to edit my digital photos to give them an analog look sometimes but when I put them on Flickr I tag them with "FAUX FILM" and I would never upload them on my Lomography page. And it's nowhere near as fun as film anyway.

  11. geltona
    geltona ·

    "hmmmmm... makes me suspicious" :)

  12. superkulisap
    superkulisap ·

    nice article

  13. berndsaller
    berndsaller ·

    nice - my pic above is a horizon-shot on film ... negative scanned and hdr-like filtered ... if you give your film to a photo-store to get some prints from it .. isnt there a man at the machine who makes it sharp, clean and colors it so, how he likes the picture? = analog ...

  14. fivedayforecast
    fivedayforecast ·

    Well I mean none the less it is still a digital filter. So it's digital manipulation of an anolog photo. Whig is fine sometimes. We all edit a photo every now and then.

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