Digital Photography - Part I

Digital cameras are phasing film out of photography just as leather boots seem to be phasing rubber boots out of the fire service.

Digital cameras have some settings that film cameras do not. The first setting is "White Balance." White balance is the name of the color correction system that deals with different lighting conditions. The camera will try to find the "white point", (where white objects look white), and correct other colors cast by the same light. Most cameras have automatic white balance and will attempt to calculate the best setting. The sensor can be fooled by overly bright or cloudy days. The white balance can be manually set by holding a sheet of white paper in front of the camera and making adjustments. Another setting that digital cameras have is resolution with choices such as fine, normal and high. The setting will determine the number of pixels in the photo and the greater the number of pixels, the more space the photo will take on the memory card.

There are pro's and con's to everything. Some of the negatives of digital cameras are:

  • Batteries- Digital cameras require more power and expend more batteries.
  • Price- Digital cameras and the accessories are more expensive than film but the prices are dropping.
  • Shutter Lag- On older and lower MP cameras there is a noticeable delay from the time the shutter release button is pressed and the time the photo is actually taken.
  • Some professional photographers do not believe that the picture quality can match a photo developed from a film camera.

On the positive side:

  • No need to buy and get film developed.
  • No need for a scanner.
  • Ability to adjust and then print your own shots.
  • Cameras have LCD screens to view photos.
  • Can erase any photos that you do not like and then re-shoot.

I began the switch to digital last summer. I was using my digital during the day and my film camera at night because I didn't have a flash for my digital camera. I have now bought a flash and will be using my film camera as a back-up camera only. My favorite thing about the digital camera is the ability to view the photo right then and there. There have been many times that I have taken shots with the film camera and thought that they would be great but was disappointed after development because there were wires in the shot or smoke obscured the subject. I can now take the photo, flip a button on the camera and look at the photo on the LCD screen on the back of the camera. If the shot didn't come out as hoped, that photo can be deleted and another one taken. I can make sure the photo is focused properly and the proper exposure settings were used. If the photo needs to be lighter or darker, adjustments can be made to either the aperture or shutter speed.

Finally, all of the news agencies in my area, and I am sure yours, have switched to digital. In the past, if I thought that I had a photo the newspaper could use, I could bring the roll of film to the newsroom and they would develop it right there and use what they wanted. They no longer have the equipment to develop photos, so if I ever wanted to have any photos published again, I had to make the switch. With digital cameras, photographers can walk away from a scene, download their photos to a laptop and send the photos to their editors, magazines or friends before they even start the car. I have been told that another photographer took virtually the same shot of the brothers raising the flag at the WTC as the one taken by Thomas Franklin of the Bergen Record. Franklin got the photo out first and as they say, the rest is history. The images being produced by digital cameras rival those from film and will only get better. The next article will deal with digital editing.