You know what the difference is between a professional career photographer and an enthusiastic hobbyist is? Patience. I learned how to shoot originally with film, and when photography was a multiple-cost process of buying film, shooting and then paying for development you made your shots count. I love digital. I love how it’s finally maturing and how it’s bringing out a lot of talent in a lot of people. But as far as shooting goes, I hate how fast it is. People will shoot hundreds of photos and then dig out “the one” from this pile of what’s otherwise junk. When I shot film, I made each shot count. When doing portraits I would talk to my subject, get to know them and photograph them as they got comfortable. When I did still life I would study what I was shooting carefully and study the light and make it perfect before I even took a single frame. Ask anyone who has shot with a 4×5 camera – when it costs you about $8.00 per picture you slow down and work meticulously to make the image the best it can possibly be before you take that picture.
My advice to you is to put that digital camera away for a day and shoot some film. Pick up a Holga. There’s something very organic about loading, winding, spooling, developing, washing and printing your film by hand. You will learn a lot from this process and it may make you enjoy your digital photography even more so.
Digital Photography has come a long ways since it’s creation. There are a lot of things both the professionals and consumers looked at carefully before deciding to buy that shiny new toy that plugged into their computers, each had it’s own purpose. First it was megapixels. The first digital cameras were around 1 megapixel, some were even less than that. Competition picked up and soon 3 or 4 megapixel cameras were popping up. At this point, digital’s image quality was vastly inferior to film – so the pro’s stuck with their 35mm and 120mm cameras to get much cleaner images. When 6 megapixels rolled around, the pros became interested. With megapixels climbing and resolution improving, it wouldn’t be long before they could go to a camera store and buy one of these fancy things and not get laughed at. At 8-10 megapixels some pros started to convert – Digital was far less expensive and far more practical than film was for commercial applications. Some photographers stayed behind but now there was no doubt that a digital age was upon us. Resolution and megapixels grew almost weekly – 10, 12, 14, 24! It happened so fast, and us pros started to feel comfortable with digital’s image quality, finally.
Video was introduced next, with both 720p and 1080p HD video recording capabilities that is allowing photographers to put “Video” on their list of services to their clients, and currently there are several films being shot with Digital SLR cameras. The RED Camera shocked the world with it’s still photo and video capabilities wrapped into one.
Next up, came ISO. It used to be that if you went anywhere beyond 400 ISO you would get crazy noise and artifacts in your images. Then that was pushed to 800. 1600. Now with the Nikon D3S and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV ISO ranges are going into the hundred-thousands with virtually no noise or artifacts. It’s changing the way we photograph everything, and it’s revolutionizing Photojournalism.
The last frontier for digital photography was dynamic range. It was said that the human eye is capable of seeing detail in both high-lights and shadows, where a typical DSLR could only see detail in either one or the other. HDR photography has changed that significantly, but would require to use 2 or more images to gather enough information and then combine the images in photoshop. Astronomical ISO ranges and HD video was not going to solve this.
Old Technology, new application
Bear with me for a moment. I have a very active imagination, having grown up on Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
I am imagining a camera, tool or device that uses very old technology for something very new. Not necessarily just for taking photographs – it could potentially be used for making 3D models and it already has a military use – but the possibilities are endless.
Imagine a device that uses digital imaging with sonar technology. Of course, it would have to be more advanced than the blips you see on the sonars in The Hunt for Red October, I imagine that it could use some sort of low-frequency laser that could scan and recreate a scene rather than the sound waves produced by a typical Sonar. Think about it. It would solve the Dynamic range issues that have been the bane of some photographers existence, and it would make 3D modeling a breeze, at least for gathering information on textures and shapes. Photoshop would no longer be a 2D application, but would be an entire rendering program used for both photographic and 3D purposes. Digital media would truly come together in the same way that video and still photography came together, and it would be a good thing.
Of course, it would also bring bad things – I imagine that still photography would no longer be used in a court of law as evidence (Frankly, I’m surprised it’s still being used today) due to the amount of tampering that could be done with such a vast amount of data. It would be an age of 64 TeraByte compact flash cards, and Fire Wire would be up to version 25.2.
What I’m trying to say here is that the chances of this actually happening is very slim to none. But wouldn’t it be cool? And to be honest, I don’t think the idea is too far fetched with all of the 3D movie technology that is popping up or how we all gasped when it was first revealed that we could shoot images at ISO 2500. So maybe this won’t happen real soon, but the reason we are creative professionals in the first place is because we have active imaginations, and I’d like to keep it that way. Leave your thoughts and comments on the future of our profession!
With digital photography becoming more accessible every day, it’s more important than ever to keep up on the latest technologies and techniques – it’s more competitive than ever.
And once again, it seems that the field that has the biggest niche for work and the smallest for actual talent is the world of computers – or image retouching and manipulation.
Images like these are made up of over 100 photographs, all painstakingly tweaked to fit together with the overall idea. These people do not take photographs – they create them. They are professionals, working hundreds of hours on a single image. The images are used for magazines, calenders, greeting cards and just about every thing you can think of. And these retouchers are paid very well because a lot of photographers are great photographers – but they rarely have the time or skill to do complete image overhauls like the ones you see above.
I attended a talk by Kate Chase, a image retoucher-agent and she spoke of how digital imaging is changing. She and many others in her industry believe that it is more important now than ever to have a degree in your field and have complete understanding of post production. It will give you leg up on your competitors – people who still shoot with film, I’m looking at you.
So if you think that you suck at photoshop, you better brush up or it’s going to be a long cold winter for you.
Film is dead. There, I said it. There are some hardcore people out there who still believe it to be superior to it’s digital counter-part, but those people are not making any money. Digital is the place to be in today’s professional world of photography.
I admit, I own a Nikon F2, a Holga, and a few Polaroids. I love film in all of it’s formats, But these days, there is no real practical (or commercial) use for it. Film has a certain look or feel to it, as does using a low end camera like a Holga. But really unless you feel like using a damaged lens, you can get these same effects right in photoshop.
People may argue “It’s not the same!” and from a certain standing, they are right. But it’s cheaper, and isn’t that what every thing is about these days?
For those of you who cried the day Polaroid discontinued it’s film, you should keep an eye on Polaroid.Net, it’s a great free piece of software that when you import your JPEG’s, it spits them out in a remarkable recreation of a polaroid photo – complete with a flash, a sound and the option to “Shake it” with the mouse to speed up the development time. The finished pictures even have thumb-prints and dirt on them. The images are fairly high-res considering that it’s a beta, but from the looks of the website there’s a lot more to come.
Sorry to be so tough on you guys, like I said, film is great – but if you want to be in the game you need to accept that you will not make it in that world if you try. But I’m sure that wherever film is, it’s looking upon us and smiling.