Has Digital Photography Made Us Lazy?

Hats in Open Market
Hats in Open Market

The Old Days

I can remember when I was eight years old, rising early on Christmas morning to discover that Santa had left behind an unexpected gift. I anxiously shredded the brightly colored paper to ascertain what precious jewel lay within. To my utter surprise and delight the contents, though not as stunning as the wrappings, presented a vision of the future. That little brown Bakelite box that I held in my hands would eventually sculpt my destiny. Little did Eastman Kodak know that he provided me with an instrument of addiction that would find no substitute. That morning, in the twinkling radiance of the Christmas tree, I gazed down upon my new "Brownie Hawkeye".

Time Marches On

That was over fifty years ago. Since then I have utilized many cameras in various formats.I won my first photo contest employing a Kodak Instamatic. In 1972 I photographed my first wedding harnessing the potential of the Minolta SRT-101. As my skills and enthusiasm mushroomed so did my inventory of cameras and accessories. The 35mm format nurtured my desire for larger images, first with the Yashica Twin Lens Reflex, later the Pentax RB67 and ultimately the holy grail of photography, the Hasselblad.

The one thing that all these cameras had in common was that you had to understand and apply the fundamentals of photography. Every click of the shutter cost you hard earned cash. Every image had to be envisioned and the photographic settings had to be calculated to ensure an acceptable return on your investment. These mechanical devices were extremely accurate but functioned according to the potential of its operator. One mistake and the moment would be lost forever.

19th Century Church Door
19th Century Church Door


In those days, when all camera equipment utilized film to capture those elusive memories, photographic fundamentals were crucial to the finished product. Once the shutter was triggered, the process was set in motion and there was no repeating the event. Then it would take monumental patience waiting for the image to be processed, sometimes days, before you could marvel at the ultimate creation.

It was imperative for all photographers to understand the relationships between shutter speed, aperture, and film speed. Adjustments had to be made depending on the time of day, the weather, the light source, and most of all, the photographer’s artistic vision. Composition was achieved in the viewfinder, not in the post processor. Color corrections and white balance computations were determined in the creator’s head and heart, not on his desktop. All this and more was attributed to a thorough knowledge of the author, not the gadgetry in his camera bag.

The Digital Era

Please do not misunderstand my nostalgic recollections. My old Minolta now languishes on the shelf as a lasting remembrance of my youth while I have wholly grasped today’s technology. However, I experience moments of frustration when I hear other photographers complain about their equipment not recording their images properly. They have come to rely on the artificial cerebral matter of that electronic appliance rather than the personal computer that resides between their ears. They have yet to grasp the concept that the digital camera is the tool of creativity, not the author. 

Digital cameras have an enormous capacity to think for you, but without understanding the fundamentals of light and photography the user cannot take full advantage of these capabilities. When to adjust the exposure value, why change the ISO, what shutter speed and aperture to use in specific instances: all of these questions can be answered by virtue of understanding fundamentals. By getting back to basics, studying the photographic process, and understanding the rudimentary elements of composition, a photographer can graduate from taking snapshot to creating art.

Before snapping the shutter on that next photographic masterpiece, take a moment to determine what it is that you want to convey to your audience. Once that has been determined, study your surroundings to decide the best position or angle to more suitably present that subject. Meditate on the lighting and use it to your advantage. Ascertain the most beneficial exposure and then tell your camera what to do with this information. Learn to control your equipment and not allow your equipment to control you.

If you are not familiar with the fundamentals of good photography then acquire some authoritative material on the subject and study. Once you have read about the basics, put them into action. Practice, practice and more practice is the only way to ascend from taking photos to creating masterpieces that will delight yourself and others.

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Comments 49 comments

Pixel-Alchemist profile image

Pixel-Alchemist 5 years ago from Waitakere Auckland : New Zealand

Thanks for taking time to write this article I found it to be interesting and an enjoyable read, and agree upon some of the comments you have pointed out in regards to the persons ability's and knowledge in the foundations required to achieve a level of Photography, that is not only pleasing to the eye, but reaches out from its canvas and makes a connection to the viewer

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks PA. I love the DSLR for many reasons, but I sometimes find myself working too fast and not spending enough time creating.

guymclaren profile image

guymclaren 5 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

As I was very minimally involved in shooting film, I can't say it has made me lazy. I am my own worst critic so tend to be unhappy if I do a bad shoot. I try again and again till the results from the box are good. Photoshop is a cop out

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you for the comment Guy. I spent more time with film than with digital. They are two different worlds but apply the same principles. It took me a while to get use to digital but it has many advantages. The DSLR is a tool, just like a brush in the hands of a painter. It is the person using the tool that creates the art.

M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 5 years ago from United States

I'm not a photographer, but I get what you're saying. Good photos today are based more around what you can do in photoshop rather than what you snap a picture of in the field. A mundane picture can be made extraordinary with the right graphic design skills, thus eliminating the need for skill and artistic talent with the camera.

I have noticed that, while easier for photographers, digital cameras have made taking pictures harder for the everyman. For example, in the past, I could go to the store, purchase a disposable camera for cheap, take my pictures and get the film developed. That would be the end of it. Now you need to by an extremely expensive camera, a digital storage device and a cord to connect it to your computer. Then you need to figure out how to get the photos off of the camera which can be an extremely frustrating process for people who don't understand file size. I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone try to upload a photograph from their camera that was too big to fit in the place they were trying to put it.

So, while digital cameras have made it easier on professional photographers, it has made it harder on amateur photographers, in my opinion. Good hub!

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

I appreciate your comments. I remember when "Popular Photography" magazine stated that digital would never take the place of film. Now, you see very little about the old processes. Things are changing and we need to change with them or be left behind.

Butch News 5 years ago

Could be my life. First camera was a Kodak Starflash and my second camera a Minolta SR-7 which was a VERY expensive camera for the times.

Would eventually have a Nikon F2 and several other Nikons and a Hasselblad as well as a Sinar 4X5.

Digital photography seems to have devalued photography as an art form that required a lot of skills to do.

But times change and I welcome the digital age. Also I can't see well anymore so auto focus is most welcome and I'm enjoying learning to video now with idiot proof cameras.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Digital has brought better photographic quality into the hands of the amateur. But we were all amateurs at one time. The great photos are still going to be created by the artist behind the lens. Thanks for the comments Butch.

Rastamermaid profile image

Rastamermaid 5 years ago from Universe

Awesome hub!

I'm truly feeling this question and hub.

I asked myself this question and had to be really look at things to get my answer.

I had photography in school ions ago when we used film,used developer and a darkroom with a 35mm Kalimar camera.

Yes, you had to make manual adjustments to get the shot as you wanted.

I considered myself a purist when it came to photography.

Step in Nikon D60!

I've been changed I use to frown on photoshop until it was well explained what it does and how it works.

Photoshop and other apps can only enhance what's already there,it's all up to the eye of the photoprapher.

Great hub again voted up!


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks Rastamermaid. I sometimes find myself working too fast and ending up with a lot of deletes. I couldn't afford that with film. I have to push myself to slow down and end up with more keepers. We all need to step back sometimes and think about creating instead of taking pictures.

MoneyCreator24 profile image

MoneyCreator24 5 years ago

Fantastic article. voted up

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks MC24. Appreciate the feedback

hossainnoa profile image

hossainnoa 5 years ago from Bangladesh

Nice article.

I am amused to read it.thank you.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you Hossainnoa, I am glad you enjoyed it.

Adventure Colorad profile image

Adventure Colorad 5 years ago from Denver,CO

I held off on buying a digital camera for several years, also hearing Popular Photography's claims that it wouldn't be as good as film. I have gone through several digital cameras since and recently started using a Canon 60D. While I can see how digital could make you lazy, if approached correctly it can actually help you to be a better photographer. Never before could you try out new techniques and get immediate results, with no cost. You want to compare shutter speed or aperature effects, just take a series of photos with different settings on them and check them right away.

I still have a couple film SLRs, but haven't taken a photo with them in years.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks for your comment Adventure Colorad. Digital photography has definitely brought great advances to the art. It took me many years before I was willing to give up the film for the computer. Now I would never go back. It forces us to develop a new set of skills in order to produce that image that originated in our minds. We just need to keep up with the technology.

Jadran Transcona 5 years ago

An example of an excellent topic seldom copied

People get carried away with all the technology and that there is no apparent cost to shots

On the other side of the equation I remember years ago reading of a exceptional photography course where the students were given what was then a cheap plastic 35 mm camera and rolls of 35 film ( from bulk film loading)

The purpose was to have them think as an artist not to get carried away with all of the gee whiz film technologies including fstops , shutter speeds and depth of field

You would think to some degree since there is no apparent cost of developing and printing with digital cameras as compared to pre-digital times yet it has not worked out that way at all

Its become a case of 200 channels and yet nothing on TV

Thanks for the insightful article again

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks for the comments Jadran. The first thing a student of photography should do is build a pin hole camera and try to create a masterpiece. They would learn more about light and its affects in a few days than they could learn in months with all that technology. After that they would make a much better digital photographer.

paulgc 5 years ago

Thanks for sharing this article.

Your article clearly points out the need to remember past film practices, however there is now a new generation of photographers who have never picked up a film camera in their life and the birth of their photographic career has begun with a digital camera of some sort.

This new generation are not interested in the good old days of silver halide and seem content in machine gunning the shutter button in auto mode with the hope that they get a worthwhile picture from the riddled memory card.

I hope that one or two of the new digital era happen upon your article because there is a lot to be learnt from utilizing past techniques etc.

I for one came from the film era and have had to embrace the digital age in order to keep up with media neccessities( i supply pictures to my local newspaper)however i would love things to return to the good old days of film as my beloved Canon SLR now languishes in its original box with just an instruction book for company.

Thanks for sharing.

Dexter Yarbrough profile image

Dexter Yarbrough 5 years ago from United States

Great information coming from a professional such as yourself!

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks for your comment Paulgc. It is sort of like teaching someone to use a calculator but never teaching them basic math. You go through the motions but never quite understand why you are doing it. If the calculator breaks you are lost. But the true photographer will always ask the question "Why?" This person will go on to greatness.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you Dexter. I appreciate the feedback

TajSingh 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi ColibriPhoto. Excellent insights. We can also look at it this way: digital photography makes the photographers life easier and opens up various creative possibilities. Technology does not replace the skills of a good photographer but instead complements it.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

I agree TajSingh, I can do things with my digital that had to be done in the darkroom with film. It surely makes some things easier to create a great image, especially to those who understand the basics.

s.wilson profile image

s.wilson 5 years ago

I do not think that digital has made the actual photographer lazy, whether professional or amateur. Those are the photographers that want to learn how to create striking photographs, learn the rules, and take pictures that have meaning.

What it has done is created a new type of hobbiest that believes creating a picture takes a fat wallet. It has allowed more people to purchase a camera beyond a point and shoot, and then wonder why they can't take a photo as good as Ansel Adams. Digital has made photographers lazy. It has made lazy people think they can be photographers.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

I agree with you S.Wilson. A true photographer will lean his craft and understand it thoroughly, regardless of the amount of work to do so. The difficulty comes in not allowing oneself to rely too much on what a program decides is best. With Ansel Adams it was a process. He first saw the finished image in his mind, he then recorded it to the best of his ability in the camera, but the final creation emerged in the darkroom. We have to maintain this same process but apply it to a digital world. The new photographers need to understand not only light, but also know how to use a computer program to transform that light into what they originally imagined. This separates the artist from the picture taker.

ChrisJohnsonArt profile image

ChrisJohnsonArt 5 years ago from Mexico

Digital photography lets us focus on creativity instead of technical specifications. Its like asking if a content management system makes you lazy when writing.

The goal in either case is the output not the process. People who read a blog or buy art usually don't care how it was made. They care about it meeting their needs and wants.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks for the feedback CJArt. I agree with you up to a point. I believe the creativity should continue through the entire process, from conception until the final image is printed. The camera does not always produce the product we want. We have to make adjustments to fit the environment.

Case in point. Yesterday I took a birder to the rainforest. He bought a new DSLR before he came down and had limited experience with it. We came across a Masked Trogon perched in a tree with the sky breaking through the canopy. I immediately adjusted my exposure value to compensate for the backlit subject. My new friend was having a hard time getting the proper exposure and I told him what I did. His response was "What is exposure value?" Without a knowledge of the basics he lost a great shot. It was a learning experience for him in two ways. He learned how to compensate for a backlit subject and he learned the limitations of his digital camera. Not every situation can be covered by a computer program... at least not yet.

The DSLR has provided us with many benefits, but it can't create a perfect image every time. That is the responsibility of the photographer.

s.wilson profile image

s.wilson 5 years ago

I agree with your comment about using your programs to transform photos. It is the modern day equivalent to the darkroom. It also allows a whole new way to manipulate the raw photo into something original. It takes at least as much time and experimentation to learn to use the programs as it did to learn the way to use the chemicals and development equipment. And it is more eco-friendly.

As far as the technical aspect is concerned, I believe that there were always cameras that had that capability. The old point and shots were camera that had a built in flash in the corner, and the only setting you could change was the ISO when you put in the film. These were the old models of current CoolPix type camera. I had many of these that I had won from various fundraisers or got for a present. The SLR, and dSLR, are an expensive point and shoot if technical details are not learned. It doesn't take a better picture if the shooter can't expose the photograph correctly; it takes the same type of picture my old 35mm p&s takes, just with a $1200 price tag. Messing with the technical stuff can also give us creativity. Doing things such as changing white balance to create a bluish photograph may not be conventional, and allows the photographer to set a certain move. These technical pieces can help add to a photograph.

Addressing earlier comments, the lack of film may also allow you to take more pictures, but I have found that the money saved from lack of film can cost more time if the shutter is carelessy pressed. If I take fewer, better pictures, I will still end up with the same amount of keepers, but will spend less time sifting through the thousands of pictures that I take.

ChrisJohnsonArt profile image

ChrisJohnsonArt 5 years ago from Mexico


It also depends on how much you have to spend. If you aren't a freelancer getting paid for specific photography jobs (or someone with a regular office job to pay for the hobby), then you probably won't have the fund for the super cool DSLR with lens attachments.

In that case the skills with Photoshop and other software including free software take their place to compensate for the camera's limitations including fixing lighting, focus, etc.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author


I know of many people who buy a DSLR and never move it off of "P" mode. They take everything at JPG with maximum compression so that they can take 1,000 photos on a 1 Gig card. They saw something different about photos taken with DSLR that they didn't see in the P&S and they thought they would get it if they bought a new camera. But they kept coming up with the same images although with a greatly reduced depth of field. Its great for the camera mfgs. Those who get the bug will start studying and improve on their art. The others will continue to take nice snapshots.

I am still learning about my camera. Unfortunately, at my age, I also forget. But the basics save me every time.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author


I bought my first SLR for $220. That was almost 40 years ago. I still have it although it is more of a nostalgic decoration now. It was heavy and cumbersome, but it was a great piece of equipment. Coming up with nearly two grand for a DSLR took a lot of thought and savings. It was not something I did lightly. I believe before the economy took a dive there was more discretionary money to make such a purchase. It is much more difficult to make that decision now. When you buy something like that you do it with the idea of getting a return. It will be including in my will to be handed down to my children.

As for PhotoShop, another large investment, both in money and in time learning. But there is only so much you can do with an incorrectly exposed image. It hurts my brain just thinking about it.

ChrisJohnsonArt profile image

ChrisJohnsonArt 5 years ago from Mexico

I doubt I will ever have the money for a DSLR camera, they are so expensive and I focus on artwork. I really don't want to shoot weddings and graduation photos. Since I'm not taking photos to document events I've found that the highlight/shadow adjustment works pretty well for improving poor lighting from a digital point and shoot. Also many painterly and texture enhancing filters help (since any fine detail is lost when you give those effects anyway) when you have a good composition that didn't quite get the right focus.

Of course if you have a professional camera, it is best to just take the photo right in the first place.

I guess it is easy for some people to be photo purists when they have the fancy equipment. I agree some people will never take advantage of a pro's features, but then again I know people who can't take decent photos with a point and shoot either.

Lazer317 profile image

Lazer317 5 years ago from Canada

I always stand by how I was taught, shoot it right the first time and you won't need to edit in post production...digital or film. I agree digital photography has made it easier for the amateur to feel more comfortable taking shots, but you still have to understand light, ISO, shutter, and aperature and how they effect eachother before you can truly be a professional photographer.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author


Much depends on what your end purpose is for your work. If it is going to go in print it has to be super sharp with no noise. If it is going to be for a web page then the sharpness is not quite as critical. You adjust your photography to your needs. But in the end, the results reflect the knowledge of the photographer.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Your absolutely correct Lazer317, the best place to correct the image is in the camera. After that very little post processing is necessary. If a photo takes more than 5 minutes of post processing I probably did something wrong.

cd tabor profile image

cd tabor 5 years ago

I just finished my first hub now and then came upon this article...what a follow-upper! thanks ColibriPhoto..more power to you and your talents.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you Cd Tabor, I appreciate the comments. Welcome to HubPages. Looking forward to reading your articles.

jvedonia 5 years ago

nice one

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks Jvedonia

mannyrolando profile image

mannyrolando 5 years ago

Great hub... very informative! I definitely understand what you are saying! My favorite line came in one of your comments, "The great photos are still going to be created by the artist behind the lens" This is very true. I never received any professional training, except for a one day class that I took with a friend once. I did own a film camera at one point but never developed my own film. Now I love my inexpensive digital camera and do use my computer to crop and adjust the lighting if needed and I am usually happy with the results... and if I'm not, I just delete it. Thanks for this great hub!

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks for the comment Mannyrolando, there are many people out there who never took any formal training but they create thought-provoking images. They learned their trade through a passionate interest in photography. Some take pictures to satisfy themselves while other need to satisfy their employer. I think the former enjoys the art more.

tim-tim profile image

tim-tim 5 years ago from Normal, Illinois

I think it is such a wonderful discovery of digital photography! Yes, we got a lot of help from Photoshop and some of the other editing programs but it enhances whatever precious moments we captured! Sometimes don't you wish you can go back and retake? I love photography! Thank you so much for the great hub!

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you Tim-tim for your comments. I often wish I could retake a photo, thinking about what I could do differently. I can take 100 photos of one bird and then try to find the same bird again so I can take a better one. A camera is a gift that keeps on giving.

mailxpress 5 years ago

Great article filled with excellent comments. I still feel getting film developed gives me a great picture. My got my first digital camera about 3-years ago and I've printed out some great pictures but the colors seem to fade away compared to getting film developed. I just learned that CVS now prints out pictures from Facebook and planning to get all the pictures I've uploaded to Facebook developed so the pictures will last for years to come.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks for the comment mailxpress. Digital has brought many advantages but it has lost some of the passion that was part of film. We have to roll with the punches and find our own enjoyment where we can.

Agnes Penn profile image

Agnes Penn 4 years ago from Nicholson, Pennsylvania, USA

Wonderful hub. I used to work in B&W medical photog. darkrooms (now can't even get the chemicals or paper).

With the advent of digital pix people have stopped thinking indeed. You can get by in regular digital photo's missing info since the computer will fill in, but in medical photo you need the good old reflex. The science community, however, decided to forgo the old, use digital and allowed computers to fill in info for diagnostic pix. It gives you a real warm, fuzzy feeling inside. It also shows that there's a time and a place for everything.

One should never underestimate "the old" and question the purpose and results of new tech instead of just following the crowd.

BTW love your name. Colibri's are the helicopters of nature.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 4 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks for the comments Agnes. Technology is great but we start relying on it too much. People can't add 2 numbers together without a calculator. Cashiers can't count change without the register telling them how much to return to the customer. It is sad at times. But those who really study the craft will learn, grow and succeed.

Thanks also for the comment on the name. Colibri's are unique birds and that is what I try to be.

Maximo 24 months ago

Amazing aznimag aznimag. Watching and reading with friends as we sip coffee on butt ass freezing morning here in the 303. Sending you all our love and prayers, looking forward to the next adventure.Sammy, Cielo, Cassandra

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