Tag Archives: opinion

Digital is Better than Film: 5 Situations

[tweetmeme]I hate love film… I really do. But there are occasions when I opt for my digital camera over my film cameras (shh… don’t tell them I said that).

I know, most of you might be thinking “digital is always better than film”. And certainly, the word “better” is open to interpretation. But my point here is that digital photography has certain advantages over film photography for specific situations. I plan to post a follow-up article that explores the situations when film is better than digital (and I might post it on my film photography blog, naturally).

[UPDATE 4-12-2010] I posted a Film is Better than Digital article on my film blog.

So here are 5 situations when digital is usually better than film.

WHEN YOU NEED TO SHOOT A LOT OF PHOTOS

And when I say “need”, I don’t mean shooting a thousand photos on your stroll down the road. I’m talking about situations that require you to photograph hundreds or thousands of photos for some type of event or job.

2010 Parker 425 Car #1532

I can think of several such events that I recently shot with my digital: The Parker 425 race, the Green Man T-Shirt event, the Long Beach Grand Prix, and I’m sure there are others I’ve done. The point is: these types of events (whether you’re shooting as a professional or as a hobbyist) will require that you take many hundreds of photos. Others that come to mind are weddings, concerts, sporting events, product shoots, fashion shows, races, and many more.

It’s not to say that these situations can’t be shot with film, but it becomes very tedious and expensive with ultimately fewer results (unless you’re downright awesome).

WHEN LIGHTING CONDITIONS CHANGE RAPIDLY

One of the major inconveniences of film is the fact that you can’t change your film sensitivity on the fly — you either have to finish the roll or wind it back up and write down where you left off. Digital cameras overcome this inconvenience by allowing you to change the ISO setting at any given time.

We Have Liftoff Moray Eels

One such situation that comes to mind is at a theme park or zoo. One minute you’re outside in the sun, then you’re inside a dark aquarium, then you’re back outside, then you’re back inside, etc. Pain in the butt if you’re shooting film. And again, things like weddings and concerts might have rapidly changing lighting conditions that will require a quick ISO change.

WHEN TRAVELING FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME

At just a “few” shots per roll of film, you could really accumulate a collection of spent film on a long trip. This poses two problems: the cost of the film and developing, and the space needed to lug it around. Digital photos, on the other hand, don’t take up much space — especially if you’re packing a laptop or other mass storage device.

My baby stash. 1,629 shots.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Hillary Stein

Again, not saying that you can’t (or shouldn’t) shoot film on a lengthy vacation, but I wouldn’t leave the digital behind. When traveling, I bring both film and digital cameras, but I always pack way too much film. That’s the other downside to film — you bring more than you need, “just in case”.

WHEN YOU NEED A QUICK TURNAROUND

Not all paid shoots will require a ton of photos, but some will require a quick delivery of images. In this case, dealing with the film might be more work than it’s worth.

Even for personal stuff, sometimes you just need a quick shot of something that you can toss on the web. This is true for things such as blogs, eBay or Craigslist postings, quick family/friend emails, and other such situations. Obviously, digital rules in this area.

If you want to send a film photo through the interwebs, you have to shoot the entire roll, develop it, let it dry, chop it up, scan it, process it, and finally output it for the web. Digital… shoot, download, process, downsize, done. Hell, you could even shoot it on your cell phone and upload it straight to Flickr or Facebook. At any rate, film just takes a bit longer (and more money) to process and digitize.

WHEN YOU DON’T WANT TO SPEND THE MONEY

There is certainly an ongoing cost associated with shooting film, and that’s not always a bad thing when you can pick up a camera for less than $50. But not every situation you encounter will justify that film & developing cost.

I shoot a lot of film, even for personal stuff and family get-togethers. But sometimes I just don’t see the benefit of going analog. If you know you’re going to be taking a lot of personal shots that you’ll never have time or money to develop and/or print, just take the digital camera. Or maybe you’ve been shooting a lot of film and falling behind on developing and scanning — shooting digital for a while can be a nice break and allow you to catch up.

WHAT DID I MISS?

Besides the default “digital is always better than film” answer — that doesn’t count (and I’ll prove it wrong with a follow-up post).

Is it Best to be a Specialist or a Generalist?

The poll this week is an open ended question. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time, but I can never convince myself to form an opinion.

Is it best to be a specialist or a generalist?

A Specialist is somebody who focuses their photography on a very specific topic or style, while a generalist is somebody who has no single specialty. I could argue for one or the other depending on my mood at that moment, but I keep coming back to “no opinion”.

Specialists can have a very recognizable body of work based on subject matter or photographic style. This can be good if you want to have your name associated with that subject or style. But it could be bad if you don’t want to feel limited to that one thing.

Generalists are often less recognizable because they cover so many different subjects and their style can be varied to suit the need of the subject. This can be good if you like doing something different all the time. But it could be bad if you find that you’re never well known for any one thing in particular.

I see myself as a generalist — film, digital, b/w, color, street, macro, landscape, portrait, architecture, candid, sport, etc. I’ll basically shoot anything that comes my way with whatever camera I happen to have in my hands. And yet all along, I feel like I should be focusing on something more specific in order to take myself to the “next level”… whatever that means. I think I’m giving up on trying to define my photography — I’ll just let it do its own thing.

What about you guys? How do you see yourselves? Are you striving to become one or the other? Do you feel one is better than the other? Do we even have a choice in the matter?

What Percentage of Your Shots Are Worth Hanging?

Nobody shoots 100% on the ball, especially in the digital age. I’m sure we all have some percentage of our photos that are “keepers” — and by “keepers” I mean those shots that are worth saving and possibly showing somebody else. The digital Photography School Forum ran a “keepers” poll last week and the results show that a majority of photographers fall into the “less than 25%” category. But what about those photos that are really outstanding? You know, the ones that you’d hang on your wall… or better yet, the ones that somebody else would hang on their wall.

So honestly, how many of your shots turn out to be worthy of hanging? And as you gain experience, do you find that this percentage is increasing, decreasing, or staying the same?

What Percentage of Your Shots Are Worth Hanging?

Be sure to check out the results from the last poll on Color Space for Black and White Photos. It pretty much shows that we’re programmed to only use sRGB and Adobe RGB, even when working with grayscale images. Almost nobody uses grayscale color spaces, and a surprising amount of voters don’t know what a color space is. Well folks, it’s kind of a dry topic so it’s perfectly understandable.

Which Site Name is More Appealing?

OK, so I actually had a little more interest from you guys on that photoblog idea I presented yesterday. It already looks like we’ll have enough support to move forward full throttle. I’ve had 3 confirmed portfolio submissions and 3 more that were promised. I said I would take up to five, but when the time comes to choose the photographers I’ll let the photographers decide how many get to stay.

So now I need to start making some decisions on how we lay the foundation of the site. For these types of decisions, I’ll look to you folks to provide guidance. The first thing we need to decide on is a name for the site. I’ve purchased two domain names (fineartphotoblog.com and fineartphotographyblog.com) and I have yet to decide which one would be best.

Looking at this from a website name standpoint, I’d like to get some feedback on which one is most appealing, catchy, sticky, memorable, etc. Which name projects a stronger image or brand? Which one would provide better search engine traffic based on the keywords? I had two people offer feedback on yesterday’s article, but they were opposing points of view so we’re back to being stuck in the middle.

Last week’s poll (What Type of Camera Do You Shoot With?) had quite a turn-out with 416 votes! 75% went with the trusty dSLR, but we have quite a few compact, ultra-zoom, and film users too.