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Digital Capture's Future

(April 2008) posted on Wed Apr 09, 2008

With film disappearing and digital cameras becoming more advanced, what happens to digital capture?

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By Jeff Dorgay

Time is one of the biggest determining factors in whether a commercial shooter can afford to still use film. While the cost of film, processing, and Polaroids is still high, the time spent waiting for the lab to process the film and then for the service bureau to create good scans can be even more costly. The post-processing time involved with film images is also much greater than with digital capture, so that's another consideration.

Art directors working on extremely high-quality and/or high-budget print projects are also doing their part to keep film shooting alive. Much like the film director that still likes the tonality of film as opposed to video, film still gets a lot of style points in the industry for having a different look that digital doesn’t offer, even at the pinnacle of digital capture.

But perhaps the biggest surprise is how many schools and students are still buying a lot of film. It’s almost impossible to get a photographic education today without thinking digital, yet a lot of curriculums still include analog capture. A number of the pro photo retailers I talked to told me that their biggest film customers were students. Although it might seem counterintuitive to have beginning photographers (the ones most likely to make technological errors) use film instead of digital where they can just erase their mistakes, it teaches one very important aspect of photography: discipline. When you know that the image you are about to capture is going to cost time and money, it tends to make you ponder a bit more than if you know you can hit the delete button on your digital SLR.

As someone who grew up in the analog photography world, the time I spent in the darkroom was priceless from the sense of learning a craft. It also made learning Photoshop that much easier, because I already knew about tonal curves and gamma. Many of the experienced photographers I talked to in researching this article echoed this sentiment, while some of the current self-taught digital photographers were not that concerned. Photographers with more traditional analog experience also felt like they had a higher level of mastery of digital techniques.