digital cameras and the evolution of the photograph

are digital cameras slowly taking over photography as i once knew it? i remember taking classes on photography not to terribly long ago and we learned the ins and outs of taking photos and developing them in a darkroom. i remember the smell of the chemicals on my hands and the anticipation that would swell up as i got closer and closer to the moment when i finally got to lay my eyes on the photos that i had waited so patiently to see. there was a lot of emphasis on learning how to expose images correctly and taking the time to develop a good sense of composition. these staples of good photography are still taught today but it seems as thought they may be getting pushed aside to automatic camera exposures (which are getting smarter and smarter all the time) and classes on photoshop and printing your photos well on an ink jet printer. as i started getting more serious about photography i remember digital cameras being this crazy up and coming technology but any real photographer you might talk to would immediately dismiss the idea stating that digital photography will never replace real film. and to some degree it might never get to that point but it seems to be getting pretty close.

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(this was the original photo i had taken for a desktop image on this site. i was kind of rushed as i took it because of circumstances beyond my control and the little things would not stay still long enough to snap a nice clear photo so this original image was composed a little sloppily and the exposure was a bit off...)

i should mention now that my family owned one of the early digital cameras on the market and it was made by apple computer. i still think we have it around somewhere. it was nice being able to take photos and store them on the computer but at the time that was about all it was really good for. the image quality really was pretty lousy and this new world of digital photography could not even begin to touch a traditional photograph. not even our second generation digital camera made by kodak (which does not even make film cameras anymore!), as impressive as it was at its full resolution could not compare.

as time passed i continued to use my film camera and my drawer full of photos kept piling up full of photographic experiments and the like and i began to notice a debate start to take place in the world of photography. the world of digital imaging had begun to lay claim of more and more and more photographic work. photoshop was starting to become more of a household name and it seemed as though anything was possible in photography because you could scan in your photos and alter them to your hears delight. more traditional photographers seemed to become more and more critical about the up and rising ability to go in and fix any amount of the traditional elements of photography that was once only accessible by those who had experience in the darkroom. this new digital darkroom had begun to take over.

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(... but a simple bit of photoshopping can go a long way. this image was transformed into a nice desktop image just by giving the jelly fish some breathing room so it would be more functional as a desktop image)

but the debate didnt end there. to my surprise, i started to read articles that spoke of digital cameras that had begun to match the image quality you could get from a film camera. this seemed to raise question of how long it would be until we would see digital cameras out in the field in place of film cameras. i personally was really exited at the idea of taking all of the photos i wanted and not having to shell out money on developing costs. this and i would be able to automatically see my exposures, make adjustments, and re-shoot, therefore cutting some of that anxiety caused by that waiting period between taking a photo and developing it and hoping that it came out the way i envisioned as i tool the photo. the ability to see a photo directly after it is taken is the reason i decided to write this little article and ill get to that in a second. this whole debate slowly morphed into acceptance of this new digital world and although there are still purists out there it would seem that the vast majority of photo journalists out there today are now using digital SLR's. that whole transition seems to have snuck in there so seamlessly that a lot of people havnt thought twice about this new world of photography. in fact, it would seem that this has bread a whole new slew of would be photographers that have jumped onto the digital revolution of photography like there was never any such thing as film or a darkroom. sometime that seems really strange to me.


getting to the point of all of this... i have realized recently that a lot of photographers have developed a reliance on the little lcd screens on the back of every single digital camera. it would appear as though it has changed the way photography is handled completely. i now notice that every time i see a photographer take a photograph you can immediately tell if he or she is shooting digital. there is always that little pause now to look at the back of the camera and then there is that look on the face of the photographer that means either its a keeper or its one that will cause that second pause and the reach around to delete the photo and forget it was ever there. there are all sorts of levels of these kind of photographers. there are those with a pretty modest set up and those with huge elaborate remote flashes and fancy add ons. its like hot rodding their camera. i myself would like a new lens a battery pack and a decent flash but thats beside the point. do you know what i mean about this whole digital camera epidemic? are photographers loosing touch with the roots of the art form or are we simply using the tools available to us as means to push the boundaries of what is possible with a photograph? does using a computer as a tool in photography cheapen the over all art? i am inclined to be much more sympathetic to this new approach to photography.

i was trained traditionally in photography on the eve of these huge changes in the field and i have seen the ups and downs of both approaches and find that there is no real winner here. i have been using photoshop and been thoroughly addicted since version 3 before layers existed (man did layers change the game or what?? remember making something as simple as a drop shadow in version 3??) and i can admit to my love of the ability to make little changes to images at times. this said i also love the challenge to get an exposure dead on the first time and get a really striking image with out using photoshop as a crutch. nothing feels better than that kind of moment. so that said i can totally respect a photographer that has a strictly analogue approach but i can also see the endless possibilities of using the new tools in this digital age of photography to push the art up above and beyond what was previously thought possible. its amazing really that there has been this total upheaval within the art of photography and all within the past five years or so. i could go on longer and into more specific detail about my experiences with these two ever changing and interlocking worlds of photography but its late and i think ive gone on long enough for now. so until next time....

p.s- leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on the matter!