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Apr 06, 2022
Having spent the first 25 years of my photographic journey using film, I have a great appreciation for digital cameras. I know everyone loves digital photography, hell some of you probably don’t remember film at all, but I believe that you have to have worked with film to truly appreciate the marvels of digital cameras.
Let me try to explain.
When you work with a film camera your opportunities to capture an image are limited. Limited by the space on a roll of film. With usually only 12,24 or 36 images, you had to limit the number of pictures you took of each subject.
Your knowledge of your success is limited to trusting your own expertise as you planned out each element of your shot and hoping that everything worked the way you planned to catch your #imageofopportunity. You worked through every element of the picture, but there were still things that were beyond your control.
Did you have the focus just right, yes there was a time when autofocus wasn’t an option? Did any of the subjects in the picture have their eyes closed? Did they move at the last moment creating a motion blur? Was the light reflecting off of something creating an image flare? The list goes on, and on.
There are so many little things that can effect the final image that you miss when the shutter snaps.
After all the planning and effort put into taking your pictures, you then had to take your film to the local drug store, camera shop or Fotomat to be developed.
What’s a Fotomat?
Thanks for asking, and now I feel old.
For those of you too young to remember, Fhotomat was a chain of photo-developing kiosks across the country. You could pull up to the kiosk, usually in a mall or chain store parking lot, and drop off your film to be developed. You put it in an envelope, filled out the specifics of what you wanted back, generally print size, and handed it to the clerk.
And then you waited for a week or two or three for them to send your film back to the Fotomat developed, where you swung by to pick it up.
I’ll admit, there was a certain anticipation in waiting for the finished pictures to come back.
It wasn’t until you got those pictures back from the processing company that you knew if the images were what you planned. That was the moment when you either felt the incredible exhilaration of getting the image right, or were crestfallen to see that the image you captured weeks ago was slightly out of focus. Or the subject’s eyes were closed. Or any other of a dozen little things were wrong with the final image. You missed the shot and you would never have that same chance again to capture the image that was in your mind.
And then, cue the heavenly host, the boy's choir, benedictine monks chanting, digital cameras became affordable on the consumer market.
When digital cameras hit the market so many limitations in the field evaporated. For the first time, I was able to get a sense of how the picture looked just after snapping the shutter. You could take the picture and look at the LCD to see the results immediately. Granted, the screens on those early digital cameras were small, but they were more than enough to get a sense of how the picture looked. And best of all, If you didn’t like it, you could delete it. No more taking pictures and waiting weeks to find out you missed your opportunity!
Think about it, I’m sure most of you will have trouble remembering a time when an event photographer didn’t snap a picture and ask everyone to hold still while they check to make sure everyone was smiling and had their eyes open. If they aren’t happy with the shot, they take it again, before the opportunity fades away.
Seriously, just think about that one advantage of using a digital camera. The opportunity to look at your images while you’re standing in the field with the #imageofoppertunity right there in front of you.
And then there is image storage. I just can’t stress how important this one is for me. It may be more important than the ability to view images immediately.
? … ? … ?
No, considering I’m looking to buy a field monitor so that I can get a better look at the images I capture before packing my gear up, seeing the image is definitely first for me.
But, storage is a close second. I mentioned this in my first blog post when I talked about how much money I would spend developing film after a vacation. I clearly remember spending over $700.00 after one vacation to develop all of the pictures I had taken.
As I mentioned earlier, the memory limitations of film also meant I usually only took an average of 2 shots of a subject. It had to be really important to me to take a 3rd. When I had to ration 8 or 10 rolls of film through a whole week, I just couldn’t risk snapping 3 or 4 images of the wind filling a sail that had caught my eye.
Now with digital film, snap away! 3, 4, 8 shots of that sail, it doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to. Sure storage is still limited, but not the way it was when you were working with film. Every film canister snapping closed ratched up the anxiety that you were running out of film Would you make it to the end of the week, or would you be paying resort prices to buy a roll of film.
Of course, when it comes to storage, I may just be a photographic goldfish. Even with all the added memory of digital, there have been plenty of times when I ran out of digital storage on a trip, just like I did when I was using my old 35mm. But a full digital storage device doesn’t mean full. You can always go back and delete some of those duplicate images to free up space.
I know I haven’t talked about editing your digital images, which is probably more important than the first two advantages combined. But since I’m old school and stubborn, it took me a long time to finally get serious about digitally editing my work. I’ll save editing digital images for a later blog post.
But I will finish up with this. The last thing I truly love about digital photography is the flexibility in printing. I don’t have to spend money printing every image I took on a vacation to find the ones that came out the way I expected. And then take the negatives back to the Fotomat to put into another envelope, that I write new instructions on, and once again send away for processing again.
It’s so wonderful to be able to upload my pictures to my computer and pick just the ones that I want to print.
Yes, I know this post is 15 or 20 years late to the party, but these are the Thoughts of an Old School Photographer, so once in a while, you have to join me on a walk through the dark corridors of my mind.
Thanks for reading my post and please follow my blog so you don’t miss the ramblings of a photographic goldfish!
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