I agree - although I certainly would use the term "clinical" for modern digital output. It is this which has driven me back to film (for the most part). I'm horrified when I recall the countless hours - over a period of 10+ years - spent trying to get a truly satisfactory emulation of the film aesthetic, via post-processing. Having tried just about every trick in the book to emulate film, I came to the conclusion that if you really want the 'film look', the best (and easiest) way is to shoot film.
In case digital enthusiasts are readying their flame-throwers, it's worth saying that this isn't an anti-digital rant. It's simply an acknowledgement that these two different types of media produce different results - and that I happen to prefer (generally) the aesthetic of images made on film. I still own and use digital cameras - but I've now returned to using film, when I want THAT look.
It's certainly a different aesthetic from film to digital. What I like most about film, and what can't be replicated easily in a digital file, is the transition in highlights from bright to pure white. With film, this looks more like real life to my eye, it makes pure white more easily trick the mind into seeing it as very bright. With digital, you always get ugly color and saturation messes as the photosites fill to capacity. The only real way to get something similar is to underexpose and carefully edit the file brighter.
Obviously, for some sorts of photography, the razor sharp clarity of a good digital sensor can be a great thing too. But there isn't much of an aesthetic to just trying to be 100% photorealistic.
Of course, film led to either slides or prints. Most of the photos I saw growing up were prints that were pretty lousy or the family portrait from a photography business. Then there were magazines, which were the primary place I saw good photography. My father was a barber so I spent some time visiting him in the shop and when he got busy I would sit in the back and look through the magazines. Time, Life, and Sports Illustrated with a helping of Field and Stream and maybe Popular Science. When I did daydream about being a photographer it was primarily for a magazine. That’s all but gone now. Most news is electronic and so are the pictures. The look I saw in the old magazines doesn’t really have a medium any more for many to see. I had a darkroom in the back room of that barber shop and made many prints. I actually have access to a nice darkroom at the University and could try film again. My thought is always “what would I do with the prints?”
Well, do you currently print your digital photographs? If so, then I would guess that - whatever it is that you do with those prints - you'd do the same with your darkroom prints! Conversely, if you currently view your digital photos only on screens, then you'd view the scanned film images on-screen. Simple!!
No printing currently. I could scan the prints and show them that way but I could also directly scan the negatives. I guess my question was mostly rhetorical. Film has kind of passed for me and I've been thinking more of what has gone with it.
I get that. Once digital had 'arrived', I thought it had for me too - for a good number of years. However, since resuming shooting film, I've been really enjoying it.
Of course, it's much less convenient than digital, but then - we're supposed to 'suffer for our art'........ aren't we?