Monday, July 6, 2009

A Thousand Points of Light

Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won't work. — Thomas A. Edison

In one of the photography forums I so frequently haunt, a new photographer threw out the age old existential question: "What makes a better photo, film or digital? Discuss." Yikes. Let's just lob the Holy Hand Grenade of Photographic Antioch into our midst and see what carnage we can make!

Ok, it really wasn't that bad. The responses ranged from the obvious of "The photographer" to "it depends on what you're shooting and it's intended use." But the one that caught my eye was the guy who said:

"I shoot both. I do nature with film as I love the whole process but shoot people with digital due to ease of use and most of my shoots with people are typically upward of 1000 - 2000 photos which would be ungodly expensive with film."

I've never really focused on shooting film, but I do understand the expense of it. What I question about his statement is the "1000 - 2000 photos" per shoot with his digital camera. And I have to ask: why? Why would you want to do that, especially for people? Is there something I'm missing here?

I get that there's a desire to create the perfect photo. I really get that. But what is it about digital that makes people think shooting 1000+ photos will get them perfection? Don't get me wrong, there's probably a time and place for it. But really, is that needed all the time? I wonder if people's photos would improve a notch or two if they stopped taking the shotgun approach to their art (or work) and thought a bit about what exactly they were trying to create.

From what I've encountered, some photographers look at digital as the panacea of recording media. I get the sense that these photogs just snap and snap with wild abandon because, hey, it's digital ... it's free! But that's not entirely true. What you've gained in saved film processing costs, you've now lost due to increased time dealing with more photos during post. You're now saving large amounts of data off so your archiving costs increase. There's a larger wear-and-tear factor on your camera. You may or may not care about any of these things.

Now, I'm guilty of doing this on occasion, taking photo after photo of the exact same pose or moment ... or maybe even slightly altering it to see if that changes the dynamic of the content. But ... does this really help me, as a photographer? I realize I can't shoot every thing I see (well, I can, but I won't). I'm going to miss some things. That's just the law of averages.

But, thousands of images at a sitting? Sounds like a bit much to me.

As for the whole digital vs. film debate? That rages on.

The model above is Scarlet. We were trying different things in the studio. This was my third attempt at this setup. I tried a few times and moved on when I thought I wasn't getting it. Lucky me, it turned out.

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