Reflection #2 – Photo’s, Photography and Photographers

Posted: November 20, 2009 in Digital Photography, Innovation, Media, Photography, Reflection
Tags: , ,

This reflection post finds its origins in a tweet requesting links examining the impact of digital technologies on photography.

I have had an interest for photography since my high school days but it was during my undergraduate degree that I developed a deep passion for all things visual, especially those that included the capturing of light.  During my uni degree I studied a plethora of areas and techniques in the Visual Arts but specialised in the medium of photography and early digital media. I was fortunate that I studied at a time when Digital Art was still in its infancy and Digital Cameras were rare to say the least.  I was taught photography from a purist’s perspective using film.  Artistically, I started to explore the digital realm about 1996 when I had my first play with Adobe Photoshop V3.0. Since that first play I was intrigued by the digital medium.  The potential possibilities were immense. The limitations of this time though were computer processing speed, available memory and presentation methods. 

Where does all this sit in regards to photography and digital technologies?  For me it was the turning point.  A point where I started to realise that I was going to be one of the last of a dying breed.  That is, those that had been educated in the skills and techniques for taking photographs and using a camera.  Those that understood the light spectrum and lights impact.  I became one of those that were able to shoot what I call ‘high percentage keepers’ and finally someone that sees the difference between a digital or film sourced image.

The above may be regarded as things relating to deskilling from technological development but on the flip side there are many bonuses.  Photography has become more affordable.  Cameras are more accessible, you can shoot what you like and only keep what you want.  The idea of a taking photos to print and keep every one has gone. You can see all your pictures before working with them or getting them printed.  And printing, well you can print as many or as few as you choose.  We can share pictures globally at the click of a button.  People in general are showing better pictures (as they take 5 times more) and are better documenting their lives.

From a purists perspective I do miss; the organic feel of a film printed picture (especially in big enlargements like 40×60 inch), knowing the differences between the characteristics of film brands and types, Pushing and Pulling film, the development process, Dodging and Burning, the skill of multi-negative printing, being able to take 9 out of 10 pictures as keepers and the patience people had for others to compose and take a picture.

So the impact of digital technologies on photography…  We have more pictures than ever, we share them globally easily, we collaboratively document the world and more people have access to photographic technologies than ever before because it is more affordable.

In time I may reflect upon the impact of digital imaging, editing and manipulation, the emergence of digital multimedia, the aesthetic of sound as analogue and digital etc…

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Comments
  1. darcymoore says:

    Tim,

    Thanks for this reflective post. Do you think that people learning digital photography seriously need more skills than one ever did previously? All th etraditional knowledge + the new is needed. Of course, some will set to ‘automatic’ and fire away but a sizeable minority will explore the finer art.

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  2. Darcy,

    Personally, I think the quantity of skills is equal, just that the skills are different. Digital photography is bound or limited by less constraints as I mentioned in the post above. The skills of camera technique and composition will always be similar if not the same between digital and film. Wet Darkroom practice and knowledge has become redundant but skills in a Digital Darkroom are required. The learning between darkrooms is different. Wet requires specific instruction and research. Digital can be learnt, to a great degree, through experimentation and trial and error.

    In regards to ‘all the traditional knowledge’ is needed, I’d disagree. Why with digital would you need to know about the different effects of film re ISO and image clarity? Digitally, the ISO speeds are more directed at special or deliberate effects in the image. Through my experience using an ISO setting of 25 in digital does not make for a smoother grained image. It just allowed me to capture cool stuff like the effect of running water in bush creeks, movement etc…

    I also suspect that the extent of knowledge about light is different too. This information is useful to any photographer, but in digital why would you shoot specifically B/W when you can shoot colour and them manipulate it to be any range or limit of colours/shades you like. On the flip side, this is where the knowledge of colour and reflective theory is important. From the Digital workshops I have participated in or observed this information has seldom been taught, let alone mentioned. Anyway, you can change all of this virtually in the digital darkroom process.

    For those that are interested in the purity of the art of photography though it is difficult to compare the two. One is basically the circle (film) and the other the square (digital). Atleast that is the shape of their grain/pixel…

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