A Viewfinder Darkly

Photography tips and tutorials

Film Or Digital at Photo School

February 23 2008

by Philip Northeast

Recent talk about the need to buy a 35mm film SLR as a first camera as being essential to properly learn the basics of photography seems misguided.

Apparently, some school photography programs still insist on perpetuating this archaic practice. It seems very strange, when a Digital SLR offers much more as a learning tool than any film camera. Many photographers find a dramatic improvement in their knowledge following the moved into the twenty first century and their first DSLR, retiring their film bodies to the cupboard.

What makes the digital camera such a good learning tool?

Instant Results

As soon as photographers make the image, they can quickly review it on the DSLR’s LCD screen; make subtle exposure settings or compositional changes and then shoot again. With film, it is a long drawn out process of developing the film, and printing the images, before seeing the results.

Comprehensive Information

LCD screen

Image data on DLSR’s LCD screen

A feature of digital cameras is they store all the cameras settings for each shot in the same file as the image data.

Photographers can view the information on the LCD screen as part of the review process, or later on when displaying the images on the computer.

This means for every shot the details of aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focal length and more are available. With older lenses not all the information is recorded so modern lenses on DSLR are a help in the initial learning phase.

This replaces the tedious option of writing all the relevant data in a notebook after each shot, and then trying to work out which entries corresponded to which image. A one stop change in shutter speed or aperture between two other wise identical images is now recorded on the digital file for close examination and comparison on the computer.

Disposable Not Pointless

There is criticism that the low cost per shot of digital cameras encourages thoughtless clicking in the hope of some images turning out properly, it does not have to be this way. This is more a fault of lazy photographers rather than their tools. It is a boon for photography students to quickly take shots, and then delete them, without incurring the time and financial penalties of film processing and printing. It encourages students to practice and experiment with their camera.

The instantaneous nature of digital photography means a student can take series of shots, and immediately analyze them. With the lessons learnt, the student can take more shots of the same location and apply a new strategy. What can be accomplished in minutes with a digital camera could take days or longer with a film camera.

image data on a computer

Computer display of image data

Under The Microscope

Large screen computer monitors and editing software allow expanded views of digital images, providing photography students with a close view of their images. This close inspection reveals some of the subtle differences, especially with the advent of larger wide screen LCD computer monitors enabling photographers to have enlarged views of their images.

For Example

The article on metering patterns features a series of photographs of with the same subject and lighting conditions, and altering only one camera setting. This clearly illustrates the differences resulting from using the camera settings, demonstrating to any student the characteristics of each metering system.

originally published by suite101.com

 

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