The death of film photography


“When I was given my first digital camera, I thanked the giver politely and set it on a shelf—where it sat, growing dust, for two years. I simply had no use for it.”, recalls John, a long-time Photocritic reader, who decided to share some of his thoughts about his (at first painful) transition from film to megapixels.

Take it away John…

Now, I have nothing against photography. Photos are great when you’re eager to relive that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Thailand, or when the sight of the neighbour’s bawling infant recalls you to the time your son crawled into your mother-in-law’s lap with his nappy falling off his bum. But film cameras immortalise such special occasions just fine, so why bother with digital? 


Then I got on the Internet, and everything changed. My life went digital. I got e-mail. I opened a dot-com business selling books. And I needed pictures. My scanner was bottom-of-the-line and made my product look flat and dull, but it did the job. It showed every detail—every glaring detail, including the cheese smudge on the scanner bed. So I learned how to use photo editing software. The results…varied.

Then came the second Internet business. I now sold jewelry; that did it. I needed glittery, professional pictures that glistened and said, “Reach out and touch me.”

I hunted up the “antique,” as my middle-of-line digital camera was by then. And I began to take pictures. To my astonishment, I found that digital pictures displayed on the World Wide Web looked as professional as pictures from a glossy catalogue. And me without a day’s experience as a photographer! With its automatic exposure control and auto-focus, the camera made up for my inexperience—all right, let’s be honest, it did all the work. I just aimed and pressed the button.

Eventually I read the user manual and learned the camera’s ins and outs. I learned how to upload the photos from my camera to my computer. I learned how to make a blurry, off-center photograph into a star-quality photograph.

I also learned these basic truths I wished someone had taught me when I had first gotten the camera:

  • Taking pictures with a digital camera costs practically nothing.
  • In film photography, if you’re a professional photographer, you take a zillion pictures of your subject, develop them, and then throw out the ones you don’t want. In digital photography, you delete them–from the flash-memory card in your camera or from your computer. There’s no waiting, no suspense.
  • Resolution is everything, yes, but if the image is to be viewed only on the computer, it probably shouldn’t be shot at too high a resolution. Pixels take up disk space, after all. Only use high resolution for pictures you will want to print.
  • There’s little advantage to using the image-transfer software that comes with most digital cameras. Photos can easily be uploaded to your computer using your operating system’s file management software.
  • When you own a digital camera and a computer, you can get photos developed without ever leaving your house. All you have to do is upload the edited JPEG images to a photographic developer’s website, order the pictures, and sit back and wait for them to arrive in your postbox. It’s almost as fun as ordering pizza.
  • There are spiffier models to be had. My next digital camera may not have video and sound—yes, some new models actually do—but it’ll have an optical zoom lens and full manual controls. As nice as it is to have the camera automatically do everything for me, I’m beginning to get the hang of this digital photography thing…and I’d like to try a few things…

So for me, it’s a no-brainer. Digital cameras have not exactly brought on the death of film photography—there are cases where only film will do. But frankly, for me, without digital photography, I would not be where I am today—snapping pictures of my kid as he moves faster than the eye can follow.

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