I hear this complaint about digital a lot, and I don't quite understand it. Allow me to explain...
"[In 1973] When I shot in black and white, the printer who processed my film, Chong Lee, saved me. He would inspect my film under a red light in the darkroom and push it until he saw something." - Annie Leibovitz, "At Work" ........................................
....................................... the amount of post that digital requires? Is it just a shift in expectations, where photographers are now responsible for their own post-production? That is, would Annie be fixing her own underexposures if she was starting out in digital today instead of having a Chong Lee to do that for her? Do the wide-open possibilities of a RAW file mean you can no longer trust anyone else to develop it for you? Or is it something else I just don't know about?
Yes on all accounts.
Chong, a great lab, printer, film manufacturer, had decades of experience working within a given style and tool set. Also Kodak, Fuji, Agfa had a century of experience color engineering the look of film. Now with digital it's a roll your own look and all of the cameras react differently in different conditions, especially with ambient color.
Line up three cameras and shoot the same scene (especially with continuous light on location) and even at the same settings it's more than just shooting 3 different films, it's the way they react across the board.
Some do well in backlight, some high key, others low key, but few digital cameras are consistent across a wide range of lighting. The see all color of digital backs are great at shooting fruit, but put them in shaded ambient light and if a orange dodge challenger drives past the scene three blocks away they will pick up the orange color. I'm slightly exaggerating, but they are very, very sensitive.
Consequently it's very difficult to get the look you desire to translate to a third party digital lab or processor, especially in the initial view where we batch process in numbers.
Now Chong is replaced by the retoucher and they can hit the color and look you desire, problem is they can't do it on 1,000 images per day for the first view in web and on contact sheets. Well actually they can but the cost will be prohibitive.
A long days shooting on multiple locations, multiple lighting can take huge hours to batch process, up to 20 hours per shoot day and some things digital just doesn't do well, like that backlight flare that is so golden and smooth on film. On digital it is either blown out, under exposed, or the transitions are so abrupt it takes layers and layers to get the look film gave out of the can. A simple flare can take 4 hours in post with digital, I know because we just shot something with that look and if I had a dozen rolls of film that one would have been shot sans digital.
Sure you can just click balance on a grey card, but if you care about the initial view, your going to have to tweak each session, sometimes each image. On something as simple as shooting on white with multiple subjects, multiple skin tones you would think one click and you'd be there, but it's far from like that with digital, especially the digital backs as they are uber sensitive.
And the initial view is what sets the tone for the shoot. Some skin tones in digital are just brutal. Some are orange, some are golden perfect, others are just grey and colorless and each one requires a lot of correction, usually localized, not global. Sit down and do this with 4 cameras and you'll see such a wide variety of differences that you'd think you changed the light source.
Then there is just the way we are required, or better put "can" work with digital that we never really did with film. Shooting two people walking in a Moscow train staiton can now be 11 images rather than 1.
You shoot the subjects in the perfect spot and in the same perspective shoot the train that is parked 50' back then in the same perspective shoot the roof that is 200' forward, the lamps, the signage, the background people. Yes you could, or we use to do this with film but the shooting time do do something liket this with film is 4 times as long as digital. Problem is the post time to rough comp, manage the retouching, match the colors, get to a final can be 5 rounds of 4 hours per image in retouching. We do it because we can, though there is no cheating mother nature. For every minute you save in shooting you can have 10 times that amount of time in post.
In complicated retouching, someone has to manage it. Usually the AD plays a roll, obviously they have the final approval but since the photograher shot it, knows all the pieces, has the basic vision of how, where everything should fit it is usually the photographer than manages the reoutching, whether the do it themselves to finish or even outsource it the managment of a complicated image can be as time intensive as doing it yourself. In fact sometimes it's just faster to do it yourself.
Still, the toothpaste is out of the tube, so there is no going back. For commercial work and a lot of eidorial, there is no way to meet deadlines, and transfer these back and forth retouching instructions in analog. It can be done, but in analog the fedex time would be a month, vs. digitla where it's hours instead of days.
Regardless of the above the thing we are missing with film is the overmanagement of digital. We have lost the "pleasent surprise". Those images you see, you try and nobody knows whats going on between you and the subject. With digital it's all there in it's 30" glory along with the input and review. Everytime I shoot a project I wonder how Guy Bourdin would have shot digital. Would he have shot to a 30" monitor, look at those legs against a yellow wall and said, hmmm, I think the shoes need 10% more magenta and I'd like to see the shadow 4 more degrees to the left? I doubt it, but on some projects that is now how we work, so the "pleasent surprise" is missing.
Even if your are non tethered and shooting only for yourself you see it then, you correc it then and somwhere in this translation spontanity can get lost.
Maybe that's why I enjoy the Leica. It always looks different on the back vs. what I see in the camera, so there is those pleasent little surprises. Also if you tether the leica in thier software the preivew is like 3" tall, which is kind of perfect when you really think about it.
So the above is the long answer.
The short answer is digital requires a lot more post work than film.
But as other's have mentoned this forum is based on digital capture and is in it's own little world. Outside of web there are many photographers that still view digital as a strange and not so pleasent experience and would never shoot anything of importance on anything but film.