ART OF GRAPHIX: The Picture across the digital divide

By Deidre Bastian

Is ‘film photography’ superior to ‘digital?’ Read any print or online photography magazine and you would think that digital photo capture just might be the ‘second coming’.

I can understand the seductive power produced by the instant feedback of digital, but is digital really ‘all that’? And should film shooters trash their Velvia and TMAX in favor of CMOS chips and LCD screens?

I recently read this quote from a digital photo guru: “Photographers who continue to shoot with film are committing professional suicide.” Since 1999, the debate about whether digital camera image quality is equal to film has grown. And many have howled that it is “different strokes for different folks”.

Before we put on the big gloves and sound off, let’s first find out what film and digital photography arew:

A DIGITAL camera saves photographs on to a flash memory card. These photos can then be downloaded on to a computer tor printing. A FILM camera saves photographs on to a photosensitive paper, which has to be developed and processed. ‘Film cameras” require the actual film, while “digital cameras” require memory.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of both camera types

Price: Cost is always a factor, and one of the greatest advantages that digital holds over traditional cameras is that you do not have to purchase films. Photos taken with a digital camera literally cost nothing, as they are stored in an erasable memory for free. To use a film camera, a roll of film has to be purchased, followed by printing costs.

Storage: Photos that need to be kept can be copied and stored to digital media, such as hard drives, CDs or DVDs, while photo prints and film negatives can only be kept in a shoebox.

Capacity: Digital cameras can shoot hundreds of photos on a single media platform and, at the end of the day, be dumped on to a computer’s disk. A film camera’s capacity is limited, as a roll of 36 photos can only hold 36 photos.

Feedback: One of my most dynamic relationships with the digital camera is the ‘instant feedback feature’. Once a photo is shot you gain immediate feedback, with the liberty to snap another if dissatisfied.

With film there is a delay period, as the prints can only be seen after development. The entire roll has to be printed to choose the finest of the crop.

Editing: Digital lets you fix shooting errors immediately via photo editing software or a built-in facility. Moreover, it is easy to send photos to friends via a point-and-click e-mailing button.

Meanwhile, using film, the printed photos have to be scanned (converted to digital), corrected and printed again.

Conditions: Films are manufactured for specific environments, and using the wrong one may cause distortion. Fortunately with digital cameras, the characteristics of the sensor can be changed to ‘indoor’ or ‘outdoor’, low/night light, mode etc” for an accurate setting.

Both formats are different, and it is like comparing oil paintings to water colours. While it is believed that film is king for large prints, reproduction, textures and landscapes, the cry for “convenience” has often won throughout the history of photography.

I do believe that if you are creative with film, you will also be creative with digital. I am also of the view that if you presently shoot mundane images with film, switching to digital might only mean you will create mundane work in a new medium.

Digital will not necessarily make you more creative. Nor will it make you a better photographer either. Tools do not make art, and nor do they engender creativity. They are simply a mechanism for expressing it. This may not be popular and, is perhaps harsh for some, but “creativity births from within not from the gear used”.

You will get better by learning to use your gear as a means of personal expression, but if you are already a confident photographer, digital will not have much to teach you that you do not already know.

Based on these principles, photographers must decide which is better for their application: Budget or personality. Until we meet again, fill your life with memories rather than regrets. Enjoy life and stay on top of your game!

• NB: Columnist welcomes feedback at deedee21bastian@gmail.com. ABOUT COLUMNIST: Ms Bastian is a trained graphic designer/marketing voordinator with qualifications of M.Sc., B.Sc., A.Sc. She has trained at institutions such as: Miami Lakes Technical Centre, Success Training College, College of the Bahamas, Nova Southeastern University, Learning Tree International, Langevine International and Synergy Bahamas.


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