First posted 30 October 2009
Nearly five years ago I was kindly given a Canon G3 on semi permanent loan. I had never used digital before and my first impressions were how advanced the technology had become and how easy it was to take pictures which were perfectly exposed and automatically colour balanced.
I particularly enjoyed the freedom it gave me to shoot anything and everything that caught my eye, as cost was no longer a consideration.
It also focussed very close and had a screen that could be angled in many directions, providing the possibility of shooting from unusual positions. All in all, I was seduced, and began using it more and more.
I knew that I had abandoned my friends, the film cameras, but convinced myself that the digital images I was taking were just for reference, and that I was still a film photographer.
The truth of the matter was that I did not touch my film cameras for one whole year and during this time I became lazy. I was shooting hand held and not bothering about distracting, small details because I knew I could rely on Photoshop to tidy up after.
The pictures I produced were nothing special, but I was kidding myself that I was still a real photographer and contemplating the purchase of more and more gear to get the best out of the new technology.
The turning point came when I was trying to photograph a vase of flowers on the kitchen table, I could see too much of the background, even with the lens open to its maximum of f2. -This was because of the small chip size.
I remembered my faithful and trusty Mamiya RB67 which was languishing in my other bag and went to fetch it. The camera was heavy, the metal was cold and as I held it and looked through the viewfinder I was in ecstasy!
Looking into the LARGE viewfinder, seeing the crisp focus and the sudden fall-off in sharpness was like being given the chance to travel back in time! I was suddenly transported back to how I used to take pictures.
From that moment on, I realised that film cameras had a magic that modern cameras had somehow lost. Going back to rich, deep, fibre based prints was also a very satisfying experience.
I had invested in a good ink-jet printer and quality ‘fine art’ papers, but although the tonal range was there and the prints were sharp, the finished prints had no value, I felt that they were disposable because they could be repeated effortlessly.
Since then quite a lot has changed, digital has come on so much that no professional can afford to be without it. Commercially it does make perfect sense; no more worry about exposure, or the film getting damaged at the lab. No more ruined shots because of slight overexposure or unforeseen colour casts (transparency film).
You don’t have to send off your originals to clients and you don’t have to be tied to one film speed at a time.
There are lots of other reasons why digital has become so useful in commercial photography, but I don’t need to list each one here, suffice to say; I understand why professionals use it.
Amateurs on the other hand, have adopted digital for entirely different reasons. The main one in my opinion is laziness, the second reason is because of the (mainly male) obsession with gadgets and new toys.
The third reason is because it appears to increase ability – everyone looks like a brilliant photographer.
The wholesale acceptance of digital by the amateur end of the market has meant that film has become the poor relation in creative photography and all photographic magazines except for a very small few are just equipment catalogues peppered with poor quality pictures.
Why is it that the easier photography becomes, -the poorer the results? Photographers these days seem to be very pleased with second and third rate images, I’m constantly getting twitter messages which say ‘awesome shot by ….’ and when I click on it, the image is a pile of shit.
In the five years since I first picked up a digital camera I have shot a lot of digital frames (although not a large amount by many peoples standards) and have lost quite a few of those due to broken laptops (3) and hard drives (1).
I don’t care.
The pictures were not for clients, they were just digi shots; throwaway and forgettable.
I still shoot a bit of digital, mainly for illustration purposes such as magazine articles or ebay, but I never print any of them. I gave up printing digital images ages ago because they never felt special, as soon as they came out of the printer I lost interest in them.
Does anyone remember the magic of watching an image come up in the developer? -Is it the same magic when a print edges slowly out of the printer?
I rest my case.