Friday, June 22, 2007

A case for digital photography

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Digital Photography Has Created a New Visual Age, that is good!
In my opinion digital photography has done far more than give us a new way of creating pictures, it has moved up into an era of ubiquitous photography. Cameras are everywhere. Cameras are in our phones, on light poles and in other places and devices. You no longer have to even think to bring a camera. It is getting hard to find a cell phone that does not have a digital camera in it. Today, most folks just always have a camera.

For families, and for organizations, this means that instant images are available to capture all kinds of moments that previously would have gone unrecorded and to be able to globally share those images almost instantly.

This also means we get pictures of news events we never would have seen before. Plus, the very devices that take the photos can transmit them. Can you imagine the pictures we would have seen if this technology were more widely available on September 11, 2001? It was thanks to their cell phones that the the folks on Flight 93 learned where they were headed. Can you imagine if they had been able to take pictures of what was going on on that flight as well and had pic messaged them out before the plane crashed?

Digital Photography has many things going for and providing some clear advantages over analog "film" photography including:

It is virtually free and it is freely virtual
With film you pay for every picture you shoot. Your film is not reusable. Once exposed it cannot be reused. The consideration of cost can cause you to miss a magic moment as you ponder if the moment is worth the price of the film and processing to capture it. With digital photography you can shoot first and delete later. Then, if you find a photo you want to share you can share without having to consider the cost of printing and/or mailing the images. You can email or post the digital image to the web via a web server or a photo service like Flickr or ShutterFly.
Digital photographs are easy to manipulate
Using tools like Photoshop and InDesign you can easily manipulate images, mask them, add text to them and include them into documents. These digital images can be put into presentations or even into videos. You do not have to think about negatives and printing and all of the other mechanical issues involved with conventional imagery. This is very empowering to folks who lacked the skills and/or funds to do these things using analog means.
Film is dead, get over it!
Film photography is increasingly a niche market. As photography shops clear out their inventory, and/or have going out of business sales, film hardware and especially the cameras and supplies got cheap. But, once that process runs its course the supply will dry up. The price of new film stock will skyrocket as manufacturers drive up prices in order to make profits on lower volume orders. This will further force conventional "film" photography into being a boutique product for art photographers and retro grouches.
Digital is environmentally friendly
Conventional film photography relies on chemicals and creates waste streams that must be dealt with. Especially photo fixer is contaminated with silver that when dumped down the drain contaminates our water supplies with metals. Photographic film and paper has to be manufactured, processed through chemicals and, except for the images kept, it has to be disposed of. All of this creates an an environmental tax.

Sure, there are issues with digital photography
We have seen pictures taken of the London bombings, Tsunamis and of course Saddam's hanging be taken on cell phones and sent out globally. Cameras are ever present and yes, this does mean we have to rethink issues related to privacy and security. For example, college students can take a photo with their cell phones of an exam and send them to all their fraternity mates before the next period takes the test. The same technology that enables folks to take a picture of a tidal wave as it happens can also be used to take pictures in locker rooms or other inappropriate events and places.

But, its immediacy and flexibility are undeniable advantages. Even casual family photographers need to know how to organize, store and backup their image files. With a few precautions photographers can keep, share and save more pictures than they could ever dream of before we had digital cameras.

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