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Digital Photography, Creative Tool or Shortcut?

Updated on May 22, 2014

Digital photography vs. film photography, what an interesting subject. I read a very interesting hub recently that got me thinking about how digital cameras and technology have changed photography. Depending on your experience with photography before digital arrived I am sure that you probably have your own opinion on whether digital technology has improved the art of photography. If you are just learning, you will find that almost all how to photography sites are dedicated to digital cameras and techniques.

When digital photography was in it's infancy, it was difficult to convince many of the professional photographers that they should give up the film cameras. Early digital cameras lacked the quality of film and were prohibitively expensive. As the years have gone by, digital has improved by leaps and bounds, while film has seen fewer advancements. Most camera manufacturers are focus on digital cameras and ignoring film altogether. In fact, if you wanted to start shooting 35mm today, you would have a hard time learning how to shoot film, as most guides are tailored to digital photography.

Some of the arguments against digital are that it makes people lazy because they can just look at the results and take more pictures until you get one that is a "keeper." I would guess a lot of people take photos like this, not that there is anything wrong with it, I do it too sometimes. Many people don't have an idea how shutter speed or aperture will affect their photo. I'm sure many people don't really care to know how a camera works, they simply want to be able to get photos of their families to show their friends.


Using Film

When using film, you always had to be careful setting up the film in the camera. Any exposure to light could ruin an entire roll. Yet at the same time, it was kind of nice to know that when you took the roll out of the camera, that the pictures you took were physically on the roll. It was frustrating, however, knowing that you would not be able to see the pictures until after they were developed. This was especially frustrating on a trip away from home or when you were try to take difficult photos.

I experimented with taking star trail photographs with my original 35mm SLR. Though I ended up with several great shots, it took a lot of attempts to get the final look that I wanted. I would often take several photos during one night, wait until the photos were developed, then go back and try additional shots, adjusting my exposure according to the prints. It was a very time consuming process.

Switching To Digital

For those that want to pursue photography more seriously, digital photography offers many advantages over film. With film you had not only the cost of the film itself, but then you had to pay for processing as well. While it was a nice feeling for me to know what my images were physically on that film, it was a pain to go through a dozen or more rolls of film during the course of a vacation.

Then to display the photos you would need to buy prints, or if you used slide film, a projector. With digital you need to have one or several memory cards, but those can be used over and over. Also, instead of only holding 24-36 exposures, like a typical roll of film, you can choose memory cards that hold hundreds if not thousands of exposures.

Digital gives you the ability to instantly review your images, that can become a crutch for some people, constantly reviewing each photo before taking another. I like to take a number of photos before checking any of them. The exception might be if I am trying a different technique, or shooting a scene with difficult lighting.

That ability to instantly review also makes new techniques easier to achieve. As I mentioned above, when I first wanted to take long exposures of star trails with a film camera I had to guess the length of the exposures, then vary the exposure time and aperture to find out what effects I had achieved. Then I would have to wait until I got the prints or slides back before I could adjust my setting and tried again.

With digital I can use an educated guess to take a photo, then using the built in LCD I can check the image and make adjustments for the next photo. This way I can reduce the number of unwanted photos and take more that are similar to the end result I am looking for. It doesn't mean I take fewer photos, it means more of them turn out the way I want. That can be very important if you are getting shots of a rare event, or a scene that you may not have a chance to photograph again.

Digital Photography can be a short cut for the lazy, or a tool for the creative. It all comes down to the way you choose to use it. Share some of your thoughts about the matter in the comment section below.


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    • Adventure Colorad profile image

      Adventure Colorad 7 years ago from Denver,CO

      I agree, the instant gratification may make some shots easier, but it also gives you a chance to experiment and see the results of different techniques.

    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 7 years ago

      digital photography is both a short cut and a creative tool.

      I used to use film in the early days and never knew how my shots would look after waiting to get them developed.

      a digital cameras are perfect for the instant gratification era! ;-)

    • Adventure Colorad profile image

      Adventure Colorad 7 years ago from Denver,CO

      You are right that Photoshop can be an art in itself. It is similar to using a darkroom to adjust your images, but gives the artist options that could have only have been imagined in the days of film.

    • profile image

      paulgc 7 years ago

      I have just trashed approx 200 prints from my film days that were poor at best and were printed because i had no choice but to get them printed when i dropped my roll of film off to the processors. Nowadays of course using my digital camera the bad pictures can be deleted either in camera or at my pc, making digital camera's a fantastic way of saving paper and time.

      As for storage,well, i use dvd disks instead of cd as dvd holds 4.7 gb of data and i store them in a rather large cd case.

      Digital is great and has made me a much better photographer, it has also made it easier for me to do digital art using photoshop which i beleive is the second most important part of photography after image capture.

      Check out my latest hub for a great fashionable photo technique.

    • Adventure Colorad profile image

      Adventure Colorad 7 years ago from Denver,CO

      Although I don't think film is dead, I think you are definitely right. And though you are right, CDs can clutter up your desk, I like to use a CD case to store them. I am also storing more of my photos on an external hard drive to keep them all together. I also set up my laptop to access the drive connected to my desk top while I am at home.

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I love my digital camera. Although I loved my film camera as well. The problem with film is that it was always so expensive. Now I can take great amount of pictures without worrying about how much it is going to cost me. Because of this cost, I still occassionally come across an undeveloped roll of film. That is lost memories. Although I will admit, the quality of the photo is much better on film, but digital is getting closer and closer every day.

      However, the sheer amount of tools offered on a good digital camera are priceless. On my camera I can add special effects, crop and do numerous other techniques that add to my ability to take pictures. The only downfall is this results in more photos that, instead of cluttering my house in boxes and albums, are now cluttering my laptop or desk with dics!

      Great hub. I enjoyed reading it!