Why digital cameras will make us all into better photographers.

I thought this BBC News article on five reasons why digital cameras will make for better amateur photographers was right on the mark.

While some professionals still swear by the quality of film over digital, the new format is taking over. As more and more holiday-makers pack a digital camera in their suitcase, disappointing pictures should become a thing of the past.

Here are five reasons why digital cameras make us better photographers.


How do the professionals get that exceptional shot? Sometimes, it’s a case of just keeping a finger on the shutter button and seeing what comes out. That’s an expensive exercise with film, but the “wipe clean and start again” nature of digital photography means it costs nothing.

“Professionals often don’t know what they’re doing,” says photographer Daniel Meadows, “they’ll just blast off up to 10 frames a second, and later look to see which works.”

At National Geographic – to some, the pinnacle of magazine photography – snappers average 350 rolls of film per story. That’s almost 12,600 individual pictures, of which about 10 make it to press.

This first reason alone is definitely true in my case. Up until we got our first digital camera I wasn’t much of a shutter bug. Photography was one of those things that I kinda had an interest in, but with a computer hobby already eating up most of my time and money the expense involved in getting into photography pretty much left me limited to using my film cameras for special occasions and vacation trips. There’s all sorts of stuff I’ve posted to SEB alone that I never would’ve had pictures for prior to getting a digital camera such as the aftermath of my car accident. Hell, for that matter, the pic of me in the upper left is only there because of my digital camera.

Now I find I’m carrying my camera with me more often and experimenting a little more when I do take pics. The only real drawback to this I’ve found is that I’m not overly inclined to print out pics to put into an album in part because I have a general use inkjet as opposed to a photo printer. Digging through my mother’s photo albums makes me feel guilty for having most of my recent pics as electronic data and I worry about a hard drive crash possibly wiping them out. Still, the idea of burning a VideoCD or DVD slideshow of pics is piquing my interest as a possible substitute. Certainly easier to store than a boatload of photo albums.

I’m curious to hear what others do with their digital pics after they’ve taken them? Do you tend to print them out? Do you make VideoCDs? Do you just archive them to CDs? Anything special you’ve tried with them that’s out of the ordinary?

23 thoughts on “Why digital cameras will make us all into better photographers.

  1. I don’t have a photo printer, either.  We did get one for the father-in-law for Christmas, though, so I may have to revisit the idea.

    On the other hand, we don’t really keep analog photo albums any more.  I have many boxes full of photos, many of them ours until about two years ago—though we took film cameras with us to Britain in Spring ‘03, since they had honest-to-god zoom lenses on them—and many of them analogs from the ‘rents.

    I keep burning backup CDs of my digital photos, as well as an online gallery (or two).  I try to keep both the raw images and the cropped and cleaned versions.

    When something digital is exceptional—either to share with family, or to frame—then I’ll have it printed through Ofoto or something.

    But, meantime, I try to spread the digital copies as broadly as I can—HD, CD, online—so that any one disaster won’t wipe me out.  I’m not happy about the archival organization (since even in online galleries, there’s nothing to link the photo to the description, unlike something scrawled on the back of a photo).  I suspect, though, that’s going to be an administrative nightmare I’ll be working on all through my someday-retirement years …

  2. I’ve taken some of my best shots with my digital camera.  Mostly b/c I can see what I took and do-over if need be.  Even with a much slower shutter speed than film.  I’ve done a couple of pretty good arm-length “self shots” of family and myself, simply due to being able to examine and adjust until I get the shot.

    We’ve done all of our Christmas cards (w/ daughter’s pic) with the digital.  Granted, I take about 2 dozen shots to get something good, but we end up with some really cute cards that the family loves. 

    As far as hardcopy, my wife is trying to support Ofoto singlehandedly.  She scrapbooks, and orders what she wants from our uploads.  Family gets to order what they want, in the size they want, too.

    No way we can go back to film.  Especially when you look at the cost of developing AND having them digitized, which includes all the bad shots.

    I archive all my digital pics on cd and put a copy in the firesafe, with our old film negatives.  I don’t do albums, so I have a box of film photos, and the digital on my pc.  I doubt I’ll ever get around to doing some kind of digital album, especially since my wife makes scrapbooks, but I do like occasionally browsing through the pics.

  3. When my folks went to Italy a couple years ago, the entire trip was photographed digitally. A couple 64M cards, even more 128M cards. They took probably the equivalent to 100 rolls of film or more. Film and developing would’ve killed them!
    A cool “side effect” is that my dad has gotten in to making DVD and VCDs. He wouldn’t have if he had to scan prints from the trip…
    They picked up a scanner that included a film negative scanner and are hitting the ‘archives’ next.

  4. I ALWAYS back up my digital pictures to cd.  I often make a few copies, and in the case of special pictures, I make sure to give copies to family members so that someone always has a copy.  I use parts of my photographs in digital art which gets printed, as far as regular pictures print them too.  I heart my digital camera, I take THOUSANDS of pictures.

  5. Be careful of relying on burning to CD to archive your shots. The lifespan of CDR and CDRW disks izs proving to be quite low - somewhere in the range of 3 to 5 years. The technology used these disks is not the same as commercial CDs - the dyes break down and you will lose your data.

  6. Les:

    Don’t be a Bill, dude!  He lost his whole digital universe when his hard drive crashed, and then he still didn’t make any backups once he got up and running.  Six months later he lost everything again!  The second time, I made fun of him.

    You should look into mirroring your data.  Hard drives are dirt cheap.  The Linux server I set up for my Dad just lost a hard drive.. It was running mirrored drives, so he didn’t even sweat it.  Two days later he’s mirrored again, no harm no foul.  He bought a 120gig WD Special Edition from Fry’s for 60 bucks.

    Dynamic Driveler:

    You get what you pay for.  The CD-R’s which cost $5 per spool use cheap dyes, shoddy epoxy which degrades when exposed to UV light, and aluminum reflective layers.  Archival quality CD-R’s are pricier and specifically designed to last a long time.  They use dyes which won’t react to ambient light, glass substrate, and gold reflective layers.

    These will last a long time.

  7. I purchased my digital camera so I could take pictures of our new kitten (this was in October). So I had tons of pictures of said kitten, what to do? Naturally I had to give my kitty his own webpage. Once I finished it I realized he needed his own URL. Of course!

    I have backed up my photos on CD, but keep them mostly on my hard drive.

  8. Just because a photographer shooting for NG shoots a few hundred rolls of film and the magazine only uses 10, does not mean that there were only 10 good shots. They only have room to run so many. I’ll bet that in those 12,600 shots, there are in most case thousands of usable frames. Many of the frames shot by pros on film may be exposure brackets (something still done when shooting digital if you’re in a tight rush) and slight variations of the same shot. Firing off 10 frames to see what comes out is often a necessity when shooting in some fast action situations. Shooting digitally doesn’t help you in those situations at all. Anyway, Just thought I’d rant a little about something I actually know about.

  9. Besides, composition the most important elements of photography is depth of field and lens choice. There are certain exercises you can do to see how these two things affect your shot. With film you have to write down what you did, get it developed and then see what happened. With digital, not only do you get immediate results but also the camera records all of this information. A friend of mine bought a digital camera and wanted to learn photography.  He wasn

  10. You raise a valid point there, Brooks, but the BBC article isn’t claiming that out of 12,600 shots there are “only” 10 good ones. They simply pointed out that part of the process used by pros involves quantity shooting that would be prohibitive for an amateur using traditional film.

    Digital allows folks to take advantage of the quantity approach without the expense it usually involves. The more you take the more likely that dumb luck will help you to get a decent shot. That’s all they’re saying.

  11. Oh and Daryl, you’re right. I really should get a second drive and set them up in a mirrored array. It’s one of these things I keep meaning to do and just haven’t gotten around to it yet. It is on my to-do list, though.

  12. That’s a good point about professionals shooting hundreds of shots of the same thing for just one image. Most people who attend photo shoots with me don’t realize it’s not just click-n-go. It’s click, click, click, click….

    Note, I’m not a photographer. I hire photographers. I only shoot them myself when the client’s budget is so small there’s no other choice. As in, if I don’t do it, they’re going to do it themselves. Ick.

    My husband gets irritated when he unloads our (my) digital camera of personal shots and finds 35 shots of the same thing (usually my dogs), seconds apart or with slightly different settings. He says “why can’t you just shoot it once and be done!!!!”. Because that’s not how you get those great shots…that’s why.

  13. For me personally I use my Digital camera in many ways:

    - Photographing family and friends, sending via emails and cds. I also save not only on my computer, but to disk, as well as a back up on our server.Also using photo programs creating silly pictures… such as combining four seprate pictures to make an image for my father..

    - Hobby of taking actually photographs. Since June 2003 I have taken a total of 10,000+ photos Which with film I would have never been able to. Which I have enter contest… and recieved a letter saying I have been one of the 250 choosen to be published this spring with the International Library of Photography.

    - Various Photo Challenges for fun- 26 things scavenger hunt, Phototime Tuesdays , Photo fridays, etc. - in which I display in my photo blog as well.

    - I have also printed stuff out using my printer, I found using a heavier paper makes for better qualtity. I have recently finished a collage for my father in a multi cut out mat. And surprisingly people couldn’t tell it was printed on paper.

    - My photography is also combined with my friend Deer’s Poetry… creating a nice poetry print for framing.

    I haven’t tried yet, but places like Walmart and Walgreens have photo centers where you can take your memory stick to and print out your images. Cheapest I have seen is $.19/per 3×5 picture.  I am hoping to try this method soon once I have money that is. Also printing places can enlarge images to specific sizes like kinkos from your memory stick.

    But I have found that depending on the resolution of one’s work printing a photo out on normal paper and placing it in a frame with glass once can not tell the difference of an actually photo or printed out. Many of the framed pieces in my house are computer printer printed. Only issue I have found is after several months (about 6) and depending ont he coloring the images in sunlight will start to fade .. but it is an easy fix I just go and print another one out.

    Another method as well .. though pricing varies is to take a piece printed out to a frame shop and have it dry mounted. This will add durability to a piece. But can get costly.

    As for photographers and the multi-shot comment.. Any photographer will tell a person be it real film or difgital to shoot as many images as you can… you can never be certian till it is developed or uploaded wha tyou have and how it has turned out. LCD screens allow you too see the image but in such a small size one can never be certian of detail and clarity. I have had many images I thought look great on the LCD screen and turn out to be crud making me wish I had taken more then one!

    Ok think I have rambled enough.. I love photography! And well custom framing is what I use to do when I did work. The key is to try different methods what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.

  14. Les, I guess it was the “Professionals often don’t know what they’re doing,” quote that sparked my comments. As an advertising photographer, I was just sticking up for myself. I shoot digital too, but I think it makes me a lazier photographer, not a better one.

  15. Yeah, I can understand why that might cheese you off a little. My only defense is that I didn’t write that. Someone at the BBC did.

    I checked out your site and that is some fabulous work you’ve got there. I’ve always wanted to be able to afford to have someone take some cool photos of me that way. Someday perhaps. I’m starting to get those wild hairs in my eyebrows that give me an evil genius look that I’d like to think would be way cool. My wife doesn’t like them though.

  16. I’ve got most on CD and all of them on the hard drive - I should archive the rest of them because there are heaps I don’t want to lose! As a generally poor bugger who was a student not long ago, a film camera would be too pricey for me, since I like to take lots of pics (though not 35 or more of the same thing!), but the digital one isn’t good enough for brilliant pics unless the light is perfect. It does well enough though! I have printed some of my favourites out - a friend did some professional prints for me, and I’ve done some on the printer, but they don’t look that great due to crappy resolution.

  17. apropos your photo Les … u do look a bit like everyone’s stereotype of a redneck… are you ????

  18. No, but I do come from a long line of them on one side of my family.

    I’m also told I look like a “Biker Guy” or an “Amish Dude” so take your pick.

  19. Uh, I vote for the “Amish Biker.”  ‘Cept you need one of those skullcap helmets, with a felt brim sewn on.  Then the image would be complete.

  20. Here’s a thing I didn’t see mentioned, it may sound a bit Martha Stewart but I like it:

    Every year my wife’s immediate family comes from all over for Christmas Dinner, about 27 folks. Everyone wants to see pictures, and I’ve no desire to add to the awesome noise these folks make by having football games playing on the television in the background. I kill two birds with one stone by burning all the photos I’ve taken that year (including the pics from last Christmas) onto a DVD. They will loop continuously throughout the event on my TV. Everyone gets to see what we’ve been up to that year, the albums don’t get sticky fingers or spilled juice on them. And no-one even asks to check the score on the game.

    And I agree completely: Amish Biker. I live not far from Amish country in PA. I think I may even have used that phrase in describing your photo to a friend of mine.

  21. A little late into the conersation but I want to chime in for the film bugs out there. Digital is quick and you can discard what you don’t like and learning is easier with the immediate feedback, but there is just something to say about the process of film. Taking the photo is only half the fun. Compsition and lighting and lens and aperature are all very important, but the inspiration and love come out in the darkroom. That is where the photo becomes art. Ansel Adams was a “good” photographer. A lttle above average. But he was a magician in the darkroom. That is where he made the powerful images that have inspired a generation or two of Photographers. I am a self proclaimed talentless hack, but I feel like an artist when I am in the dark. Digital is fun to play with but the hands on approach is more fulfilling.

  22. Believe it or not, I found this site doing a search on Google for “amish biker”


    I was looking for this picture:

    Amish Bikers

    I’m still looking for a version of it without the text on it.

    BTW, we just got our second digital camera and both our phones can take digital pics.  For every one picture I’ve ever taken with my Canon Rebel 35mm SLR (and I have taken a LOT of those) I’ve probably taken 2 or 3 with the digitals.  Why?  Instant gratification.  Email ‘em, put them on the web, print them.  Whatever.  No hassle of waiting on getting them developed.  No cost.  Small portable units that fit in a pocket.  High quality.

    They just rock!

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