Thursday, August 21, 2008

Film or digital?

uncut (by puja) When I started learning photography, I convinced my dad to part with his old film camera of East German make. It was a manual camera which means that everything had to be set manually - focus, aperture, shutter speed. It had a light meter in it but it hadn't functioned in years which meant that I had to learn exposure the hard way. I was in college at that time and I had no money nor did I have a father with deep pockets. Which meant that films were expensive to me. But it was fun learning about the camera. The numerous mistakes made it all the more exciting and I think I really got good at exposure using that camera. That is, till I got a digital camera and it ruined everything!

I was sceptical about the whole digital phenomenon but was surprised by the amazing range of options that even a simple digital PnS offers. The different modes, the instant review, the ability to change ISO according the lighting situation (something that I will later discover can be done in medium format film cameras), the low cost of taking pictures and the fact that they are readily in the digital formats that makes it easier to share in the digital world, all these drew me almost immediately into the digital camera world. I got a DSLR very soon and I have been playing around with it for the last 18 months and I must say that I have improved from a novice to a pretty decent photographer in that time.
Flickr has played a very huge part in all of this. I have learned a lot from the flickr photographers and the groups are an absolute treasure trove of information. I learned how to use photoshop, why shooting in RAW was the smart thing to do and made a lot of friends who were really into this art form. If you divide the pictures in my stream in two groups - posted this year and everything else, you will notice a big difference. It is not that there aren't any good pictures in my older collections but I think I am a much improved photographer this year. The reason has primarily been an conscious choice that I made last year to concentrate on photography and it is something that I have stuck to since then. And I have been hugely aided because of the digital camera.

The digital camera has made it possible for anybody to be a photographer and it has made it easier for people to enter the field and experiment very, very cheaply (at virtually no cost). It brought an elitist field to the grasp of the common man. Well, not the common man. Let's just say that it has made photography more accessible and capturing memories cheaper. Also, a digital PnS takes much better picture than a film PnS most of the time. The medium has completely changed and celluloid has become archaic in this new digitised world. When Polaroid announced earlier this year that they are going to stop the production of the films, it is a sign of the changing times. But is film photography dead? I think that it is premature to announce that. For a lot of reasons, film is still better than digital (maybe I will discuss this in detail in another post) and this is why, film is still preferred over digital in commercial photography. Of course, this is changing quite rapidly. But celluloid is definitely on the way out but to rule it out completely would be foolish.

Currently, I own two SLRs and one DSLR. I prefer Nikon to Canon (another post, perhaps?) and I shoot digital most of the time. I dabble a little in films sometimes and I am considering returning to black and white film photography just for kicks.

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