Digital photography and the traditionalist

Those who have known me for a while will know that I have deeply held views about digital cameras – well I certainly did have. They could be summarised in short by “digital is cheating”, “I don’t see the point” and “it’s not really art though is it?”.

Well I’m big enough to admit that I may have been a little hasty in these proclamations. Becca (my beloved) has recently bought a digital SLR so I’ve been involved in showing her some of the photography techniques that I know.You know, I’ve found that I sort-of like it.

The definite benefits for me are the ability to try something out and instantly review what happened. No more shooting a couple of rolls of film then suffering the disappointment in the darkroom when you find they’re utter rubbish. Although you still need to wait until you get back to a computer to review the shots properly. Also being able to shoot in either colour or black and white and at different ISOs negates the need to carry several types of film on a trip – and either a couple of camera bodies or suffer the frustration of seeing the perfect shot, just with a different film. And there is always the benefit of being able to upload photos to the web without needing a scanner.

Would I buy one of my very own? Maybe, but not as a main camera. I can’t see me ever stop shooting film as my primary medium, but I could see me getting a micro four-thirds for travelling and carrying around. Although my phone is pretty impressive . . .

So I guess most of my objections still stand, although I can see the attraction:

* Monkeys and typewriters. My brother and I have this argument often. He shoots digitally and on automatic¬† on a D-SLR but has no interest in photography away from taking cool pictures. There is more skill to photography than just snapping away. Whilst I’m no Cartier-Bresson, I take photos for a reason, because they say something, because I’ve sought out the opportunity. It’s the old argument of art versus recording moments and I’m not sure it will ever be resolved.
* Creating cool looking effects in Photoshop but not knowing the photographic history that goes behind them. What is a sepia print? It’s not just an effect.
* The general faff of the huge number of settings – my film cameras have aperture, shutter speed and film speed, not several menus full of modes!
* D-SLRs are so big! They’re hardly discrete for reportage and I couldn’t put one in a jacket pocket.
* I’d rather spend two hours in a darkroom than sitting in front of a computer. I realise that this is a personal choice but I spend far too much time at work working on computers.
* I’m a bit of a luddite at times when it comes to technology, strange as it might seem. I love it when technology makes our life easier, but hate it when it adds complication. I don’t care which is the computer with the best performance or screen, it’s a tool to allow me to interact with the world.
* I like loading film and the mechanical nature of my cameras. It satisfies my tactile, making-things nature. I enjoy spending time in the darkroom and I just don’t think that I would get that level of satisfaction from digital post-processing.

So there you go, maybe I am a camera snob. In fact I very probably am – but I’m working really hard on just letting it all wash over me and not get annoyed by other’s claims of photographic genius!

About David

Hi, I'm David. I live in Aberdeen (UK) with my beloved wife and two (sometimes beloved) cats. By training I'm an engineer, but a strange sort of engineer who has social skills and is happier working with people rather than designing stuff. Professionally I work in the oil industry facilitating collaborative technology development. In my spare time I'm a non-exec at Aberdeen Forward, an environment/sustainability social enterprise. If you're interested then check me out at twitter.com/davidriddell or linkedin.com/davidriddell.
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