The evolution of photography has entered a very interesting era: the digital age. In 2004, Kodak announced that it was selling off the remainder of its film stock and no longer designing film cameras. In the new-age of photography, where the “fast-food” concept has intervened, people are taking a new approach and using new techniques to create their images.
To many, the rise of the digital camera has perverted the art of photography, and to many others, the digital age has made their lives much better. In this respect, the purists seemed to be outnumbered by the photographers who rely on speed and accuracy in the business of the art. Ask any photojournalist if she uses film (aside from portraitures) on an assignment and she will laugh in your face. Editors need images NOW, especially since so many readers of newspapers are relying heavily on the Internet newspapers for information – info and images that need to be updated in “real time”.
But not all is lost – film is still widely used among professionals in portraiture, landscape and other disciplines. It is well-known that National Geographic photographers – arguably the best in the world for any publication – use film on all assignments. In short, there are many who feel that the quality of film is unmatched. And thus the great debate: should the quality of film be sacrificed for the speed of digital images? The argument will continue.
The digital age has not only changed the speed at which an image can be processed, but also, 1) how an image is processed, and 2) how photographers actually work. The first instance is quite noticeable: Dark-room techniques are now available in a variety of photo-manipulation software programs (ie, Photoshop). Today, color images can be turned black and white, they can be flipped, cut, bent and superimposed on one-another in just minutes. Again, speed and financial savings are the attractive lure of such software.
The second instance deals more with habit than anything else. Where photographers used to have to measure light and balance aperture, shutter speed, etc. well before a shoot (or be so talented and experienced to balance it at first sight), today, photographers can weigh the measurements by taking a shot, looking at the back of their cameras, adjusting accordingly, and re-shooting the image. In some ways, the digital age is perfect for the lazy photographer, or at least the one who has little time for metering, test slides, triple checking, etc. Again, speed and efficiency rule in this new-era of photography.
With all this said, it is still important for good photographers to know and understand film, if not for image quality, then for the benefit of the photographer’s shooting habits. Using film – especially for beginners - will help teach how to control aperture, shutter speed, composition and light. As the digital age continues to evolve, the future of photography will also change. Whether it is for better or worse is the argument – one where an answer remains to be seen.