36 Great Aspects of Digital Photography

Steam Power

Digital photography beats film photography on most of the criteria you could name: convenience, durability, latitude, flexibility, sensitivity, size, expense, tools and print quality.

The point of listing these differences is to help us fully realize the benefits of digital. Usually new technology is used as if it were the old technology it replaced, for a time.

Let's speed up the transition from "film approach" digital by considering carefully each important difference, and adapting our approach to take full advantage of everything digital photography offers, right now.

1. Marginal cost of each shot is exceedingly small, essentially limited to your time in pressing the shutter and editing for the best later. This has several implications:

  • You can experiment freely with angles, exposures, approaches.

  • You can shoot a hella pictures, which gives you the freedom to find new themes.

  • You can try a shot 100 different ways, and later choose the best.

2. Tools for special images (super sized, panoramic, HDR, deep-focus, tilt-shift, filtered) are mostly software. Software is cheaper than hardware.

3. A 24MP camera has the detail/sharpness equivalent of an 11x14 view camera.

4. Dust is not a worry in the digital darkroom. Neither are any other types of contamination - aside from computer malware.

5. You can carry the equivalent of 4 rolls of film with a single 4Gb CF card. The equivalent of a 140-exposure back goes with you all the time as a matter of course and with no extra weight. Multiply that by 8 if you use a pair of 16Gb SDHC cards.

6. Temperature extremes, humidity, airport x-rays and light leakage are all irrelevant to flash memory cards.

7. Properly backed up, digital images will last indefinitely without any degradation.

8. Digital images can be backed up, and even stored off-site without shipping or travel.

9.All the intermediate stages an image goes through, from RAW to the finished .jpg can be kept for later changes because they take up so little room.

10. Compositing multiple images is limited only by your software skills.

11. When speed is important, a digital image can go from shutter release to display online in under a minute.

12. Film cannot match the light sensitivity of a CMOS imaging sensor. Digital cameras have ISOs many times higher than the fastest film.

13. The latitude of color film is surpassed by the newest sensors. Now we call it dynamic range.

14. You don't have to decide ahead of time whether you are shooting black and white or color, what film speed to use, or what effect the color of the light will have.

15. You never have to decide ahead of time what size film / camera to use. Your 35mm, 2 1/4, 4x5, 8x10 and 11x14 cameras are all there in your digital camera. Some cameras allow switching between 1:1, 4:3, 2:3 and 16:9, showing the change in the viewfinder.

16. Regardless of processing steps, digital images never cost anything in materials until they are printed.

17. If you fill up the memory card, "changing film" takes 5 seconds and does not require special care with ambient light or dusty air.

18. Exposures are more accurate, partly because digital cameras have databases of good exposures for thousands of scene types, which they check before calculating the exact exposure.

19. Color can be perfectly accurate with the right calibration.

20. Copies and copies of copies are perfect. There's no generational loss.

21. No film grain. Picture noise is easily removed with the right software.

22. No toxic materials to handle, breathe fumes from, or dispose of.

23. Using RAW, you (not some film company chemist) get to decide how the "emulsion" responds to the scene -- and change your mind later. You can even create your own unique look, as if you had designed your own "film."

24. Digitally stored images are searchable, as long as you set up keywords.

25. Any combination of color and monochrome can occur in the same image.

26. Software tools allow you to combine images into virtual series, without actually moving the files around. The same image can show up in several series, without having to make a dupe.

  • This lets you discover your themes much more easily.

  • Organizing and sequencing projects is far less time-consuming, and costs nothing in materials.

27. Digital processing is far more flexible and allows many times more options than any wet darkroom technician ever had available. You can make an image look any way you want.

28. You can shoot HD video with the same camera and lenses as you use for stills. (Although competent filmmakers require a crew, separate sound recording, camera mounts, etc.)

29. Display options are broad. Many cost nothing, and most are far easier to use than the film equivalent.

30. Immediate feedback, in the form of the LCD or EVF image, means you can learn the subject, the effects of lens and camera settings, and the effects of different types of light much faster.

31. EVF's, LCD's and 100% coverage viewfinders (common in APS-C cameras), show you exactly what you are shooting. Digital printing techniques allow perfect reproduction, right down to the 4 corner pixels. This has several important implications:

  • You can frame precisely.

  • The edges and corners of the image become more important compositional tools.

  • Aspect ratio matters more.

  • The 1/8" hidden by a mat becomes a factor in the impact of a framed image.

32. A great many of the flaws introduced by lenses (Chromatic aberration, barrel/pincushion distortion, vignetting) can be corrected with software. This has implications for camera manufacturers, and ultimately for photographers:

  • Lenses can be designed for sharpness alone instead of balancing sharpness with distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting.

  • EVF cameras are designed to show an already-corrected viewfinder image, which means the lens itself can be smaller, lighter and more practical.

33. You can feel free to shoot with everything in focus (and so use smaller, slower lenses or a small format camera), knowing that later in software you can blur the background as if the lens had done it.

34. Software can effectively increase the size of an image. Starting with as few as 6Mp, you can make any size image you want, without pixelation (but with a loss of sharpness that is compensated for by a greater viewing distance).

35. You are free to choose whether you will "get it in the camera" or get good data to use later in processing, or any combination.

36. Digital conversions to monochrome are far more flexible than any combination of filters and wet darkroom options ever provided in the past.

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