Larger, digital prints=better?

December 21, 2005

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune on Dec 2, the ease with which art students move between digital and traditional photography means that more of them are scanning negatives and making larger prints, so that the 8×10 print is no longer the standard. 

“Your 24-by-30 inch [picture] or 30-by-40 inch [picture] is now what an 8-by-10 was when I was in school,” some important guy being interviewed said.

According to the article, this has “altered the entire price structure in art photography… since large prints in limited editions by midcareer artists seldom trained in photography now often sell for six figures to collectors who had not previously shown an interest in the work of professional lensmen.”

So, in short, the market prefers BIGGER prints. No mention of quality…

Sheesh.

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OK! You are interested in color photography using digital cameras, so why should you still read this site?

Well, here’s a practical reason: the basics of photography – whether using digital cameras or film cameras –  are the same. You still need to learn about shutter speed, setting apertures, etc. Sure, if you’re using a digital camera, you can always just erase a bad photo and take another shot, or you can try to fix the photo using image-editing software like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro — but wouldn’t it be better to get the picture right the first time? Wouldn’t it also be great to know about things like how to control depth-of-field in order to exercise more creative control over your photography? Anyone can take snap shots – whether using a digital camera or a film camera – but that’s not the same as being a photographer

Ok, so now you’re saying “Fine, I’ll read your stupid site to learn about photography, but why use film? Aren’t digital cameras better?” 

The answer is yes, digital cameras are “better” – for digital photography. However, film photography is simply something else entirely. Just as photography and painting are separate arts which have a visual basis in common, digital and film photography are related and share a lot in common, but are separate art forms.

Some people will tell you that old-fashioned film photographs are better because they last longer than digital prints. This is certainly true — a photograph which has been properly cared for can last for as long as the paper holds together, while many digital photographs will start to fade in a matter of months.  But that’s not really the main reason for film photography. I for one would continue using film even if digitally-printed photographs were perfectly stable.

Film photography is an art in of its own. If the goal was simply to make pictures, then there are cheaper ways — heck, just buy a disposable camera. But black-and-white photographers are drawn into this hobby because they appreciate the art and technical expertise it takes to take some silver mixed with goo and turn it into a work of art. The end result isn’t the point- its the process of getting there!  

Oh, and film photography really impresses the chicks, though you’ll always be broke paying for your hobby!