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What is Digital Photography?

Q: What is Digital Photography and How to Become A Digital Photographer?

Digital cameras are only a few years old and are just now beginning to make serious inroads into photography. They have yet to be fully accepted by some photographers. However, despite some current limitations, digital cameras are the wave of the future and it's only a matter of time before most photographs are taken with these kinds of cameras rather than traditional film-based cameras.

Photographers who don't accept digital cameras generally base their arguments on the fact that the images are not as good as film-based cameras. Yet these same photographers most likely use 35 mm SLR cameras that are not as good as 8 x 10 view cameras. And if they do use 8 x 10 cameras, they don't use the even better mammoth glass plate view cameras used by Jackson and Muybridge after the Civil War. If they really wanted quality, they'd be using mules to carry their equipment. So much for their argument being based on the quality of the image.

The sad truth is that the quality of images has hardly improved at all since the first daguerreotypes of the 1840's and albumen and platinum prints of the late 1800s. What's happened is that both cameras and photographic processes have become easier and more convenient. Digital cameras are just another step along this path. Images captured with these cameras are admittedly different, but you'd be hard pressed to prove they are inferior. Many of the arguments you hear today about digital cameras are but echoes of the sentiments expressed when the 35mm Leica was introduced in 1925. Suddenly there was a camera that was easy to handle in the most difficult situations and with a long roll of motion picture film, capable of capturing one image after another. It may have used a much smaller negative, and hence been "inferior," but photographers who held onto their big, awkward box cameras were soon bypassed by history.

Another argument against digital cameras is that they are mainly of the point and shoot variety. That means they are fully automatic and don't have the controls that photographers have traditionally used to get great photos. This implies they are used for vacation pictures or photographs are taken as documents of family events. However, there is a certain elitism and snobbishness about this point of view. In general, the photographer brings more to a great photograph than the camera does.

But even if objections to image quality and lack of controls were true, these will change over time as more sophisticated, yet still affordable, cameras are introduced. Image quality already rivals or exceeds 35 mm film in high-end cameras. And these cameras also have the same controls as a professional 35 mm SLR.

Their only drawback is their price, but prices are falling rapidly now that image sensors are solid state and Moore's Law is at work. In the meantime, you can get good pictures with point and shoot cameras, but to get great ones you still need to understand what the camera is doing for you automatically. If you understand the basic functions of your digital camera, you’ll find it easier to expand and improve your photography. It's this understanding that gives you the creative control you need to record a scene realistically, just the way you saw it, or to instead capture the feeling or mood instead of the details making up the scene. Your understanding of a few basic principles makes it possible to take a photograph that bestexpresses what you want to convey.

Like artists in other mediums, as a photographer you have a set of "tools" that can make your photographs not only exciting and interesting to others but also unique to your own, very personal view of the world around you. The basic tools you have to work with are the way sharpness, tone, and color interact in the scene being photographed, the vantage point from which to take the picture, and the light under which it’s photographed.

You can choose to keep everything in a scene sharp for maximum detail or to blur it all for an impressionistic portrayal. You can keep some parts sharp and dramatic while letting others appear soft and undistracting. You can use black-and-white to emphasize tone, the innumerable shades of light and dark in every scene, or color to capture bright and powerful or soft and romantic colors. You can photograph the same subject at dawn, noon, dusk, or at night, in sun, rain, snow, or fog. Each of these variables will influence the image you get.

All of this is possible by adjusting only three controls on your camera: focus, shutter speed, and aperture. These three controls, however, when combined with patience, experience, and your own personal view of the world, lend themselves to an infinite variety of possibilities, which makes photography a life-long interest and challenge for even the most experienced professionals.

When learning and practicing photography, remember that there are no "rules," no "best" way to make a picture. Great photographs come from experimenting and trying new approaches even with old subjects.


Groupdmt said...

Very informative post for me as I am always looking for new content that can help me and my knowledge grow better.
Gr8…Keep it up!!!!
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