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Digital Photography: Good, Bad, or Just the Next Progression

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Digital Photography: Good, Bad, or just the next Progression

I was completely zoned in. My favorite album was on and I was the only one in the dark room. The soft red light was soothing as I developed film and began to set up the enlarger to make prints. I made the test strip and figured out how long I need expose the paper so that there was perfect contrast. As the proof sheet began to appear in the chemical solution I was able to see my pictures in there true form for the first time. That was almost an hour after I had stepped into the darkroom. I didn't even realize how long it had been until the bell for class rang. Shit! I hadn't even made one print yet and I needed three perfect prints for my project that was due the next day. In movies they make it seem like it takes a few minutes to get a picture that is perfect. However In real life it takes multiple tries and hours to get perfect prints.

As photography has advanced and the process has become easier certain qualities have been lost. In the photography circle many debate whether digital is bad for the industry. Since the introduction of digital photography in the late 90s, the techniques have slowly begun to change. With the ease of taking a picture and being able to see the outcome immediately, digital photography has taken over the photographic industry. The process of developing film is slowly disappearing into the history books along with the other past photography techniques. The quality of digital is still lacking though. What I want to know though, is if what is being lost in this change is bad, or if it is just a natural progression that will lead to the betterment of photography?

As digital photography gains popularity, film has slowly lost its place in the world. Professional photographers have slowly given up there old cameras and have replaced them with digital to keep up with the times. In the beginning this caused many problems because the equipment was extremely expensive and the quality of the prints were not as good compared to film. Quality has doubled and price has split causing a massive switch that has affected all aspects of the industry.

With the rise of digital film, signs of struggle have begun to appear in the film industry. Many of some of the leading name brands in photography are suffering in the digital age. Some of these companies include Konica Minolta, Kodak, and Fuji. On January 12th, Nikon announced that it would stop making most film cameras, (Unfrozen in time, 2006). This is a huge blow to film shooters because Nikon is a top supplier for cameras. Minolta, after over 100 years in business, began removing itself completely from the photography industry in March, (Down with shutters, 2006). Kodak has also shown signs of struggle. Kodak lost almost $1.4 billion last year (Graham, 2006) and announced recently that it will stop making black and white paper, (Kodak stops making B&W, 2005).

Digital not only affects the photographers or the companies who make the product though; printing industries suffer as well. Reports show that 80 percent of digital photographs are printed at home. That leaves only 20 percent of the population to go to printing stations in places such as Wal-Mart and target, (Change the composition, 2005). This will change as prices continue to drop and more and more people buy computer, printers, and digital cameras, which are the three main tools you need to shoot and print digital images. If you have these three things you to could be a photographer.

The Pros and Cons of Digital

One advantage that digital cameras have is that everything needed is all in the camera, (Gero, 2003). When a film photographer goes on a shoot he must think ahead for what all he will need. One of the most difficult shoots is a wedding. The film photographer must be able to carry all the equipment he needs without it being too heavy. He will need all his film, which he must choose so that it will work well with the lighting situations of the location. If he is shooting in different light situations he must account for that and have more than one type of film. This means that he will either have to switch out film and remember what he has in at the time or shot with more than one camera. You also have to carry around your lighting and lenses. These last two apply to both digital and film, but it's the actual film that causes problems. With a digital camera you can deal with different lighting situations by simply pressing a button on the camera.

Other benefits of digital photography include the unlimited amount of pictures you can take depending on the size of your memory card. You can also delete the ones you know you won't use. This allows photographers to experiment without wasting film if they mess up, (Gero, 2003). You are also able to turn color images into black and white photographs, which you wouldn't be able to do with film. If you want a black and white photo on film, it must be shot on black and white film and then printed on black and white paper. Digital photography also allows you to have digital workflow, (Gero, 2003). This can be done with film, but it requires the images to be scanned in and this can lead to quality problems.

Though digital is finally taking hold, the prices for professional quality is still extremely expensive. A professional digital camera costs two to three times more than a film camera that produce the same qualities. Because of the high costs, many of the photographers have trouble switching over to the new technology. Also, the equipment used to develop to the prints cost much more. For a digital camera you need a computer and the programs to edit the photos. The programs alone can cost over $1000 dollars. When you combine the cost of the programs and the computer and the digital camera which probably wont accept the same lenses as your old camera, the end cost is well above the cost of a film set up.

This technology also poses another problem for most of the photographers in the business. Because film has been the preferred method for the past 100 years, most photographers don't know how to use the technology of today. When I worked for a photographer he didn't even have a computer. He was scared out of his mind because he knew that the only way he could stay in the business was if he could learn how to use all the new technology that was emerging. This is a major concern with many of the photographers out there today. Because everyone wants what is new and they demand it, if the old photographers are not able to learn ho to compete in the technological world they will be left behind. This happened to many of the other professions that older generations held positions in when the computer was introduced into the work place.




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