|The Digital Revolution - What I Have Learned!
You can't go into a camera store, pick up a newspaper, magazine, turn on the TV or radio without hearing, seeing or reading something about digital photography. Like it or not, digital is here to stay.
The digital world has come a long way in the last several years. Digital images are being accepted by most publications. Many wedding, commercial and nature photographers have been making the switch from film to digital. Probably the biggest change has been the wide acceptance by the general consumer with many point and shoot cameras on the market in a wide price range. In fact, it's hard not to be satisfied when you pick up a digital camera, take an image and see good results right before your eyes. Unfortunately, a majority of the consumers don't know what makes the image good; they're just glad they got it. They think this photography stuff is pretty simple - just point and shoot. Hopefully you and I know better. The same principles we learned while shooting our film cameras still apply to digital. Understanding f-stops, shutter speeds, the quality of light, subject matter and the use of flash will all make for a better digital photograph. So take heart and know that all those hours of learning, studying, trial and error in the field, and dollars spent on film development did not go to waste.
I first started shooting digitally after receiving back-to-back letters from two stock photography companies who were selling my photos. In a nut shell, they said no more 35mm slides - we want digital submissions. Needless to say I had not planned to go digital, I was very satisfied shooting Fuji slide film!
Prior to receiving the letters from the stock agencies, I had attended a seminar conducted by Michael Reichmann (Luminous Landscape) on digital photography at Grandfather Mountain Nature Photography weekend and had heard Michael make the comment that you better have deep pockets or a good credit card when you go to digital photography. At the time I just didn't know how true his words were, but I've since learned exactly what he meant!
The first decision was a major one - what camera equipment should I choose? Since I had used both Canon and Nikon camera equipment, I looked at both systems. After weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each, I decided to go with Canon. Both systems are good and both have their drawbacks at times, but for the most part I've been very satisfied with the Canon system.
So what have we (notice I say we) learned from all of this? In short, a huge learning curve, a costly adventure, and lots and lots of time in front of a computer, rather than behind the camera which are all negative points when I'd rather be outside photographing.
As a side note I should mention a major consideration of switching to digital photography. If you're married, it's better if both of you are involved with photography because your spouse will need to be very understanding of the amount of time you'll spend learning digital photography. It's not so much the learning to take the photographs; it's the time spent learning what to do with them once you take them. Just be prepared to be accused of being in love with the computer!
Learning curves come easy to some and hard for some of us. You'll have to learn computer systems and make another major decision. Do I go with Apple or Windows? Both systems are used in the photographic world and you'll need to decide which you like better and purchase the correct programs to work with your system. I use windows, since that's what I cut my teeth on, but I will admit at times I've wondered if I should have given more consideration to the Apple system. Both system are good and you should probably go with the system you feel most comfortable. Color monitors are another consideration (CRT or LCD) and whose color calibration units do I use so the photos will look correct on the screen, i.e. blue and not purple or some other color. Oh and before I forget it, there is the question of how large a hard drive you'll need for storage. Where we used to keep all those slides in either plastic sleeves in file drawers or in little boxes, we now have to consider digital storage either on hard drives, CD's or DVD's. At present I'm up to over a terabyte of storage, working with a server unit, doing additional backup on external hard drives that are kept off site and still continually having to look at storage space and backup options. Digital files, especially raw images, take up a lot of memory space on a computer. Due to the requirements of the stock agencies and publishers, I have no choice but to work with raw files. You may be fine with jpg's but each time you work on or open a jpg image it will be degraded some, sort of like film when it is not handled properly.
After you learn your computer system, you'll need to learn how to use the programs you've chosen to "develop" your digital images, such as Photoshop, Breeze Brower, Digital Pro, Capture One, just to mention a few that are on the market. Yes, you will need to develop your digital photos -- instead of developing in the darkroom or sending your film off for development; you'll have to do digital development on the computer.
If you are printing your images, there will be a decision to make on a printer. There are several brands on the market with the most popular ones being Epson, Canon, and HP. I like both Canon and Epson printers for their individual ink cartridges rather than one or two cartridges with several different color inks inside each cartridge. With the individual inks, you only replace the one that runs out.
We can't do any of the above without digital film or what's known as flash cards which have nothing to do with your flash unit. These cards come in various sizes and you need to know what type of card your camera takes before purchasing a card. All cards are not made the same. I prefer the Lexar, Delkin, and SanDisk CF cards over the microchip cards. Microchip IBM cards are cheaper, but do not hold up as well. They have little tapes that run inside them like a tape recorder. They don't do well if you get them wet or leave them in your pocket and send them through the washing machine. So far, the CF and SD cards have stood up under adverse conditions for me. Another positive note is no worry about x-rays machines at airports damaging film or about hot and cold weather conditions. These things were always a hassle and problem with film.
Other positive things about digital photography
In closing, let me say it has been a real learning experience over the last two years. It has brought new life into photography for me with the enjoyment of seeing my results immediately and this has helped to ease some of the pains of change. I now try to pass on what I've learned from my mistakes to others during my photo weekends. Hopefully it will help save them some headaches and increase their enjoyment of our ever changing digital world.
Just remember, rule number one hasn't changed - Have fun and enjoy all the wonders out there! Take care and travel safely.
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Gary is Vice President of CNPA. He is represented by several stock agencies and his photography has been published worldwide. Gary and Janice run photo weekends For Everything There Is A Season at their home in McLeansville, NC. They have 3 plus acres which has been developed for birds, butterflies and insect photography. For further information about their photo weekends check out their website www.garycarterphotos.com.
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