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Thread: Reflections on Digital Photography

  1. #1
    Alis's Avatar
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    Reflections on Digital Photography

    I was in high school when I remember there was a program on VOA talking about the revolution digital cameras (I guess they were talking about the first one from Kodak, but I may be wrong) will bring about. Everyone can be an artist, can shoot anytime they want, etc...

    I think one big thing digital photography has given us is crappy noisy and simply bad images that we keep losing when the hard drive crashes or the CD/DVD scratches, or the website hosting them goes under.

    I mean we used to have printed family pictures, albeit not that great either but at least in hard copy long lasting printed form; now all people have is some crappy volatile files that they think they can keep forever. Seems like nobody knows that these CDs or DVDs will not be there when they actually should be looking at these pictures 20 years from now (not 2 secs after they take the pictures on their camera LDC monitors).

    I know people still print pictures and that part is also easier than before (you take the picture, and hit a button and it prints or you can uplaod the files and get the prints the next day in the mail or at the local pharmacy/grocery store) but the majority (specially younger people) do not do that, so although we have so many pictures around us, they are not going to be there in the long run. Most elderly photographers don't even download them from their memory cards, it is always in the camera available to show people!

    What do you guys think?

    As you can see, I don't just use the technology, I reflect on it too

  2. #2

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    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    Sounds like you've lost many pictures on a couple of occasions!

    When anything grows in popularity to the masses, things get dummed down, cheaper, and simplier. This of course leads to many pictures taken "who cares". "Back in the day" (pre-digital) there was a fraction of people running around with cameras for the heck of it compared to today. The ones who made the investment embraced photography.

    I'm guilty of not printing many of my pictures! I recently purchased a nice 8-ink cannon printer, and a couple hundred 6x4? sheets of quality photo paper. I am still very picky about what photos I am willing to spend the ink and paper on ($$$). I'm sure in time, as my skills improve, I will come across serveral photos that are worth a high quality print. My plan is to print them 9"x13", and have them matted and framed so I can decorate my house with them. Actually, Colin, I wanted to ask you if you need a special printer to print onto canvas.

    Prints are even going digital these days (what isn't?). Although I do not own one, lots of people are purchasing the digital picture frames. Personally I group this into the "who cares" category. The quality of these devices makes me sick.

    My main gripe, with the advent of digital photography is that lots of consumers are adopting the "who cares" attitude. How can you not care?! I have a hard time relating to people who have no desire to improve upon their skills, beit photography or anything in life.

  3. #3
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    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by KentDub View Post
    Sounds like you've lost many pictures on a couple of occasions!
    Actually I have not! I realized early enough (there is a thread on that on here if you can find it!) that it is a big risk, invested in a RAID system, quickly transfered everything I had (a lot of video files too, almost a TB of data with pictures) and everything is 'sort of" safe. I keep the two copies separate, one is in my office where temperature/humidity is tightly controlled and it is basically theft proof (it is a very high security research lab, they don't even let my wife to get throught the door )...

    But in general, I feel no one knows about this, even some DSL users. All this time only one person has asked me the question about how I keep my files and where. I told her, that is actually "a very good question"! Non-professional people usually do not even think about a subject like that. It is assumed that they will be safe on their Windows "Picture" directory or on a 1 cent a piece CD or 20 cents a piece DVD!

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    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    I wonder how many people have had printed images deteriorate because they were "in a box in the garage" (and moisture got in) (that's what got the majority of my childhood photos) - or they lost them in a house fire / flood etc?

    I too run a raid system - which is backed up (occasionally!) to an external HDD - and I burn 2 DVDs of each of my commercial images and keep them in seperate locations. Actually, the DVDs go a bit further -- each time I burn a current project I usually have a lot of space left over to I usually fill them up with previous projects as well.

    Technology changing is a worry - but I think it's probably a valid technique to just convert one to the other as they mature -- just requires a bit of thought and planning. Did you read Sean's new tutorial on it that he released just the other day?

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    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post

    Did you read Sean's new tutorial on it that he released just the other day?
    Yes, I did and I think it is very well written!

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    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    I think that:

    1) There is no reason one can't get a print from a digital photograph, and
    2) A well stored CD or DVD will last a lot longer than a fading print (yes, they start to fade the second you print them).

    Digital has many advantages, whether you are serious about "the craft" or just want to snap away:
    1) You can share your work with others almost instantenously. How many people saw your film prints?
    2) You can switch "film" (ISO) from one shot to the next without having to feel guilty about losing X number of exposures in your roll.
    3) You can try different settings, thanks to immediate feedback through the LCD, and thus greatly speed up the learning process.
    4) "Developing" digital photographs is much cleaner from an environmental point of view: you print only the images worthy of printing, and avoid most of the chemicals used in the darkroom.

    My wife is a scrapbooker -- a very old-fashioned hobby, no doubt -- and she has put many more albums together since we went digital than when we used to shoot film. I won't go as far as to claim digital has enabled this, since we've been shooting digital more than half of our married life, but it just goes to show the argument you make is anecdotal and not true in every instance.

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    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by eNo View Post
    I think that:

    1) There is no reason one can't get a print from a digital photograph, and
    2) A well stored CD or DVD will last a lot longer than a fading print (yes, they start to fade the second you print them).

    Digital has many advantages, whether you are serious about "the craft" or just want to snap away:
    1) You can share your work with others almost instantenously. How many people saw your film prints?
    2) You can switch "film" (ISO) from one shot to the next without having to feel guilty about losing X number of exposures in your roll.
    3) You can try different settings, thanks to immediate feedback through the LCD, and thus greatly speed up the learning process.
    4) "Developing" digital photographs is much cleaner from an environmental point of view: you print only the images worthy of printing, and avoid most of the chemicals used in the darkroom.
    Things that you listed here are mostly things the professionals care about. Even back in film days, no one I knew wasted any film exposures because he or she thought the scene requires a different ISO. And those professionals know how to back up their digital files and have not much problem with this technology.

    My point was that with all the advantages you listed here, theoretically you would think people will have more of those pictures after 5 years, but that is not what actually happens and many of them don't even know anything about the concept of archiving and back up. The process is digitalized but ordinary people are not really that sophisticated, at least yet.

    I am not against digital photography, and it should be obvious.
    My wife is a scrapbooker -- a very old-fashioned hobby, no doubt -- and she has put many more albums together since we went digital than when we used to shoot film. I won't go as far as to claim digital has enabled this, since we've been shooting digital more than half of our married life, but it just goes to show the argument you make is anecdotal and not true in every instance.
    I have to say your wife's story (anecdote) is not a typical one. With film, you had to print them to see the result, with digital you don't, and many people would not take that many pictures if they had to print all of them. It gives you that freedom to press the button and shoot as many as you want, but if you do not print them and do not save them properly, that advantage is not so great afterall.

    Of course, this is not based on any field research. Just thinking aloud here.

    I have another example like this: when I was in college, we had to go to the library, look through all those dusty binders to find a journal article and then you had to go to a copying machine, sometimes pay, and print it. Now you have the PDF and can print the whole journal archive if you want to, but the hard part which is the reading of all those papers has not changed. I now have a bunch of those papers that I have printed but never read. Again, I am not agaist digital and online journals, I just think it does not necessarily mean people take advantage of all the freedom they have.
    Last edited by Alis; 30th October 2009 at 09:16 PM.

  8. #8

    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    This is quite interesting but as I often reflect with the "is tech good question"...at least we have the choice. 10 years or so ago we had no option. This is true of many things. I do sometimes wonder about longevity but to be honest we live in a society that wants cheap, tricks quick then bin it. The digital world gives you this in heaps. Cigar boxes full of faded 120 prints will be less relevant in our nostalgic consciousness and the memory buzz will be fueled by a less material formats. Whether they are sustainable or not will depend on us. If we demand multi-lifetime retention we will be sold it in heaps. When I am old(er) and grey(er) I doubt I will get all dewy eyed over Week 62s comp entry of my wife's fetish gear in POTN or even a masterly PhotoShopped rendition of a tramp on a bench at the Albert Dock but I will get dewy eyed when I go through natures slide show in my memory of the things that really matter in my life. I think that the fear we have in losing material nostalgia prompts is a natural reaction to the uncertainty of our own morality.......and just for peace of mind dont buy ASDA own brand CDs

    Steve

  9. #9

    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    I have a few question which came to mind after reading Alis's post. Please think of it as a discussion instead of a hostile reply.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alis View Post
    I think one big thing digital photography has given us is crappy noisy and simply bad images that we keep losing when the hard drive crashes or the CD/DVD scratches, or the website hosting them goes under.
    So film gives you good images?
    Does film give you 0 noise?

    I mean we used to have printed family pictures, albeit not that great either but at least in hard copy long lasting printed form; now all people have is some crappy volatile files that they think they can keep forever. Seems like nobody knows that these CDs or DVDs will not be there when they actually should be looking at these pictures 20 years from now (not 2 secs after they take the pictures on their camera LDC monitors).
    You said "digital photography has given us is crappy noisy and simply bad images", so I would think that film would give good images. Yet you said "we used to have printed family pictures, albeit not that great". What's your point?

    I know people still print pictures and that part is also easier than before (you take the picture, and hit a button and it prints or you can uplaod the files and get the prints the next day in the mail or at the local pharmacy/grocery store) but the majority (specially younger people) do not do that, so although we have so many pictures around us, they are not going to be there in the long run. Most elderly photographers don't even download them from their memory cards, it is always in the camera available to show people!
    "hit a button and it prints". I'm quite sure colin, GUI, McQ, David and others would disagree with you.

    Anyway, I hope this does not turn into a film vs digital debate. There are advantages of digital and film. Do have a read on "Overview: New Photography Possibilities with Digital" too.

  10. #10
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    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Blazing fire View Post
    So film gives you good images?
    Does film give you 0 noise?
    No!

    You said "digital photography has given us is crappy noisy and simply bad images", so I would think that film would give good images. Yet you said "we used to have printed family pictures, albeit not that great". What's your point?
    Well, you said it, I did not. I said digital gives us crappy noisy images...

    "hit a button and it prints". I'm quite sure colin, GUI, McQ, David and others would disagree with you.
    Well, how can Colin et al disagreeing can keep people from printing their images?

    Anyway, I hope this does not turn into a film vs digital debate. There are advantages of digital and film. Do have a read on "Overview: New Photography Possibilities with Digital" too.
    I hope so too. I simply meant that while digital gives you a sense of freedom and endless possibilities, if you are an average person who does not know how to keep these files and if he or she does not print them either, in a decade, none of those pictures will be there.

    At least I take these pictures to be able to go back to them with my son, 20 years later, not to immediately look at the LCD monitor and reminisce instantly!

    But again, I am not really that thoughtful in any subject, let alone photography

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    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    It is not actually true that digital itself has given us noisy images, although this view is quite common. If you compare (say) 35mm film to full frame digital, then digital wins by quite a large margin, all else being equal. What digital has given us is little compact cameras with tiny sensors. If you used a tiny little piece of film and produced a print from it, it would look pretty grainy (i.e. noisy) too. It's a trade off between quality and convenience (e.g. a big zoom range in a pocket-sized package). If you want quality, you can go for DSLR. Most people, however, want convenience, provided that the quality is not dreadful, which it generally isn't except at the very bottom of the scale. Also, digital can readily take advantage of (and motivate) ongoing advances in software techniques to correct for noise and defects in lenses and so on.

    For archiving purposes digital has one gigantic advantage - it is possible to make perfect copies. For example, take a CD and read the files. The error correction coding will allow a certain number of errors due to scratches etc. to be corrected, and you get an exact copy of the original data, which can be written to other media. Of course there is a point where a CD (say) is so damaged that this breaks down, but in principle, and in practice with a little bit of effort, it is possible to keep making perfect copies indefinitely. This is not possible with an analogue recording, in which errors inevitably accumulate.

    It's no doubt true that millions of photos are taken and never archived properly. It's also no doubt true that digital has hugely increased the number of these. However it has also hugely reduced the cost of them, i.e. to practically nothing. So does it matter? Anyone can preserve their images if they are prepared to make the effort, and if not, then they can expect to lose them eventually. This has always been the case.

    If 'simply bad images' means bad artistically or technically, then it is also no doubt true that by greatly reducing the cost and simplifying the process to the point where millions of people with no training or even interest in photography can take thousands of images in 'auto' mode, then digital has led to the creation of many more bad images (by that criterion). But to most people most of the time it is the subject that makes a photo interesting, not technical perfection. The Art of photography is very much a minority interest. So while many people might want to get a family portrait occasionally, or professional wedding photos, for most purposes adequate is just about as good as masterful as far as technical quality goes.

    Digital has led to a massive expansion in cheap 'consumer' photography. Maybe to some this seems vulgar. But it hasn't harmed enthusiast photography. It's made that easier, cheaper and more versatile as well.

    Sorry to ramble on, but I find this sort of thing interesting too, and you did ask!

    Will

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    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    Sorry to ramble on, but I find this sort of thing interesting too, and you did ask!

    Will
    Thanks, Will! I think you brought up very good points. After all this is all digital and we are not wasting any papers, so even rambling is OK And I am interested in this too so we can discuss.

    What digital has given us is little compact cameras with tiny sensors. If you used a tiny little piece of film
    Great point! I never thought of this before when comparing the two. You are right, although there was differences between the types of films people used to use, but nevertheless everyone was shooting full frame or close to it.



    Now, again may be I was not clear, I was simply trying to make a point of the fact that although it is true that people think they have a slim camera in their pocket and can shoot left and right, even from the hip, it is not know to many of them that these quick shots are very volatile. That's all I was trying to say. It was not a comparison between digital and film. I think that part has not changes. Right now there are good cameras that practically can mimick film in terms of needed resolution and in terms of noise level. And of course digital has a lot of other advantages as you guys mentioned.

    What I think is not know, and I am talking about non professionals or semiprofessional people, that if you do not back them up properly, you will loose all those files. I bet a large proportion of people here either do not know the proper way of archiving (me included, or because of the cost and efforts it takes, they do not do it right now. Now these are people who are interested in photography. Ordinary people who are actually the ones who materialized the mass photography revolution, know about this even less.

    An example: When I got married, and even when we were expecting our child, no one, not even one person, told us that for a few month after the baby arrives, you are not going to sleep during the night . Everyone was congratulating and being nice to us when they heard the news. We never told anyone ourselves!

    Now the archving part of the digital photography is a well kept secret or something like it very similar to the sleeplessness after the birth of a child!

    And I think it is just too much to ask regular people to have a workflow and do a regular back up. Grandma can press the button and take a picture and look at it right away, but almost no grandma is aware of the archving process that is needed to keep those pictures, worse, they do not even know that it is something they have to do!

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    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Alis View Post
    And I think it is just too much to ask regular people to have a workflow and do a regular back up. Grandma can press the button and take a picture and look at it right away, but almost no grandma is aware of the archving process that is needed to keep those pictures, worse, they do not even know that it is something they have to do!
    Just as back in the film days people did not know that their colour shots would fade, they didn't have a clue about printing on acid free papers or storing their shots in acid free albums. They didn't know about the proper storage of their negatives or slides so that in years to come they could make another print of the shot that had been destroyed by improper storage.

    Look a bit deeper mate, nothing has changed just because we have gone digital.

  14. #14

    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    I respect your views and opinion, but unfortunately I don't get what you're driving at.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill44 View Post
    Look a bit deeper mate, nothing has changed just because we have gone digital.
    I think that is agreed by most, including myself. Well said!

    To each his own. Happy shooting film.

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    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill44 View Post
    Look a bit deeper mate, nothing has changed just because we have gone digital.

    Hi Bill,

    This is actually what I sort of believe and I agree with you

    My point was that I think although digital has made a revolution, for ordinary people, in the long run, not much has changed! If you can shoot a lot easily and freely now but lose them in 20 years, not much has changed indeed.

    Again, it is not about comparing film and digital and not about professional!
    Last edited by Alis; 1st November 2009 at 05:49 PM.

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    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    Quite an interesting thread...
    I agree that in one sense digital did not change much. But that would be looking at one aspect only. For example, let us make a hypothetical metric, and let us call it "worthiness". A "worthy" picture is one that has been reviewed at least once 5 years after being shot. It does not matter whether it was reviewed in print or on a crappy digital frame or a highly calibrated ultra sharp monitor. The fact that somebody found it worth their while to preserve this picture (in whatever form) and view it again or share it with others, makes it worthy.
    With this definition in mind, I agree that digital may not have increased the volume of worthy pictures.
    However, digital did bring about a revolution. Because of digital, I can take my DSLR and snap away for hours looking to improve my technique while pretending to be getting closer to Colin or Dave's levels . I may not produce many *worthy* images, but I sure have a great time at no extra cost. It allows the average Joe, yours truly included, an experience that was prohibitively too costly. If a *worthy* picture is the destination, then snapping is the journey. Digital is the great equalizer that allows everyone to simply enjoy the journey.

  17. #17

    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by noreast View Post
    Quite an interesting thread...
    I agree that in one sense digital did not change much. But that would be looking at one aspect only. For example, let us make a hypothetical metric, and let us call it "worthiness". A "worthy" picture is one that has been reviewed at least once 5 years after being shot. It does not matter whether it was reviewed in print or on a crappy digital frame or a highly calibrated ultra sharp monitor. The fact that somebody found it worth their while to preserve this picture (in whatever form) and view it again or share it with others, makes it worthy.
    With this definition in mind, I agree that digital may not have increased the volume of worthy pictures.
    However, digital did bring about a revolution. Because of digital, I can take my DSLR and snap away for hours looking to improve my technique while pretending to be getting closer to Colin or Dave's levels . I may not produce many *worthy* images, but I sure have a great time at no extra cost. It allows the average Joe, yours truly included, an experience that was prohibitively too costly. If a *worthy* picture is the destination, then snapping is the journey. Digital is the great equalizer that allows everyone to simply enjoy the journey.
    Wow! That's a very nicely writen post. Well organised and understandable with good points and elaboration.

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    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill44 View Post
    Just as back in the film days people did not know that their colour shots would fade, they didn't have a clue about printing on acid free papers or storing their shots in acid free albums. They didn't know about the proper storage of their negatives or slides so that in years to come they could make another print of the shot that had been destroyed by improper storage.

    Look a bit deeper mate, nothing has changed just because we have gone digital.
    This is a great point and what has all those damaged, aged, and faded images inspired - The whole business of photo-restoration. There are professional people working in the field of photography who never need touch a camera in their line of work. Solely performing the service of photo restoration.

    This will probably start evolving over the coming years to include data recovery services as CD and Flash photo collections age. Just because your OS will not open a CD does not mean that the data is lost. Just that a region of the disk which the OS initializes by has a sufficient number of unrecoverable errors to make it give up. If you have the software tools to explore and read a CD sector by sector, you'll find most of the data is intact and recoverable. I've seen CDs that spent a few seconds in a running microwave (A co-workers idea of fun ), and despite the damage there were small areas where the CD appeared pristine. Any files lucky enough to have been residing within any of these undamaged areas could potentially be recovered.

    If you google for "data recovery", I just did and it returned 51 million hits, you'll find that this is already a huge industry.

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    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Steaphany View Post
    If you google for "data recovery", I just did and it returned 51 million hits, you'll find that this is already a huge industry.
    I completely agree with your point Steaphany.

    I am not making light of that, but the naughty side of me looked at the above final statement and thought; I bet almost any combination of 4 and 8 letters with a few vowels in would, when googled, return x million hits

    The inetrnet is a big place!

  20. #20
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    Re: Reflections on Digital Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Steaphany View Post
    This is a great point and what has all those damaged, aged, and faded images inspired - The whole business of photo-restoration. There are professional people working in the field of photography who never need touch a camera in their line of work. Solely performing the service of photo restoration.

    This will probably start evolving over the coming years to include data recovery services as CD and Flash photo collections age. Just because your OS will not open a CD does not mean that the data is lost. Just that a region of the disk which the OS initializes by has a sufficient number of unrecoverable errors to make it give up. If you have the software tools to explore and read a CD sector by sector, you'll find most of the data is intact and recoverable. I've seen CDs that spent a few seconds in a running microwave (A co-workers idea of fun ), and despite the damage there were small areas where the CD appeared pristine. Any files lucky enough to have been residing within any of these undamaged areas could potentially be recovered.

    If you google for "data recovery", I just did and it returned 51 million hits, you'll find that this is already a huge industry.

    Hi Steaphany,

    I think your prediction is sound, and although it is too expensive right now, it will probably become cheaper as we go forward.

    However, do not forget that the scratch is just one problem with the CD/DVDs. The more important problem is the deterioration of the epoxy (or whatever type of resin/plastic the data is etched on) and when that happens, it is usually more widespread than a few scratches.

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