Friday, December 01, 2006

Is Digital Photography Different?

For someone who has always used film cameras, especially large format or medium format cameras, the move to digital is difficult. It is difficult, not because they can't quickly master the technical stuff, but difficult because it changes much of the process of making their art. What they have seen is someone with a hand-size camera running through memory cards with the speed of a machine gun fire. Certainly large format image making is a slow process....time to observe and find the image, time to adjust the camera, time to insert to the film holders....all done with deliberation. Medium format image making is a little faster but typically those who shoot with a medium format camera also spend more time observing and making deliberate images. And there is also just the process...processing the film, looking at the negs, making contact sheets, making work prints. For most of us who have done that, there is a magic in some of these processes that we hate to give up.

Today, my friend Gloria Baker Feinstein wrote in her blog about her concerns of using a digital camera. It is a very thoughtful blog entry from a thoughtful and observant photographer who is betwix and between film and digital capture. I quote a small piece of the entry so I hope that you will go read it for yourself.

I just hope we digital shooters don't forget that we still have to do the thinking, yes, even though cameras these days claim to do it all themselves. Patience, thoughtfulness, a keen sense of observation, and oh, yes, heart... I don't think even the most mega-pixeled camera on the market today can offer any of these features.

She is so right. Just because we change from film cameras to digital cameras, if we leave behind patience, thoughtfulness, a keen sense of observation and heart, we will have left behind the making of our own images.


Anonymous said...


Since I'm not a member of "Gloria's Team" and can't leave comments directly on her blog, please see that she see this reply to her concerns about going digital that I've posted on my journal site:

Anonymous said...

It seems by the breadth of digital cameras available -there is something for everyone in terms of complexity of use and "tweaking" options.

That said - I have felt through about 5 generations of digital cameras (and I am a least one behind right now) that I haven't seen great landscape shots. Mine always seem flat. They don't have the depth of film. Is this just me?

On my fifth camera I am just turning over into 7000 plus shots. Even with just processing film and getting proof sheets - that is a LOT of film.

There are a lot of fun benefits to digital including the vast flexibility of post processing - I think this hobby will grow - we will have to wait for the technology to get as good as film - because it will and then WATCH out.

Juan Calypso

Billie said...

Juan, You don't need to watch out. The day is here. Take a look at these, especially the set,
Tree, the beauty is in the details.
Detail, depth, it is all there. I've seen Ellie's prints, large prints like 22x28 and film couldn't do it any better.