View Full Version : Serious Digital Photography ?

Leon m
04-15-2004, 10:06 AM
I've always wanted to mess around with photography
in a somewhat serious way.But I've aways been put
off by the whole dark room thing ,(not my cup o
tea)I know its all part of the creative prosess,
blah,blah, blah.

Looks Like Cannon has come out with a very nice
digital camera that operates pretty much like
an SLR, but no dark room necessary :cool: .

So my questions are these:Can you take serious
"artsy" type photos with digital? can you get
as creative on the computer as you can in the
darkroom? are the profesionals useing them

[ 04-15-2004, 11:07 AM: Message edited by: Leon m ]

Paul Pless
04-15-2004, 11:08 AM
I think many professional photgraghers are moving to digital. Its cheaper in the long run, its has the potential to more accurately render images, and given proper care the data will not degenerate like film and negatives do over time.


Memphis Mike
04-15-2004, 11:11 AM
Leon, get the book "America 24/7." Or at least go to the bookstore and look at it. It was all done with digital cameras.

Here's a link: http://www.america24-7.com/

[ 04-15-2004, 12:14 PM: Message edited by: Memphis Mike ]

04-15-2004, 11:28 AM
When I was reading rec.photo.digital regularly there would be from time to time knock down drag outs on just you question, Leon.

I only dabble around the edges of photography, first with the silver and soup sort and now with digital. At my level, sort of simi-advanced on the technical side and pure clutz on the artistic side, I'd say digital allows more freedom for creativity than film and if you don't print most of the pictures it is far less costly. Now if you bow to those who think you need 16megapixal cameras, etc., to equal the resolution of film we get to an entirely different level.

A moderatly priced name brand camera, no joe he does not absolutly have to have a Leica, and a $100 piece of soft ware (Paint Shop Pro 8 is my choice but PhotoShop Elements will do the same) will give you satisfaction.

But specifically: Can you take serious
"artsy" type photos with digital? Yes, certainly. Can you get
as creative on the computer as you can in the
darkroom? Yes, I think so, perhaps more so since the software will do a lot of it for you. Are the profesionals useing them
more? Perhaps, more and more, but film is far from moibund. WoodenBoat Magazine does not yet accept digital pictures though this may have more to do with the technology they use than the quality possible.

martin schulz
04-15-2004, 12:05 PM
There are some things to consider that salespeople don't tell you:

1. You won't have nice pictures on photo-paper to show your grandma. I watched a guy showing his family pics to his mother, who was disturbed by the floppy sheets of printed paper.
-> you either send the data in for nice pictures, or buy yourself a printer with the capability to print on photo-paper

2. As professional in these matters I always ask my clients who try to urge me to accept digital-photos: "who will guarantee that the colors are correct?" The problem is that you don't have a secure color management with digital cameras. Once you take a picture everything will depend on you ability to create a color management environment (camera, PC, monitor, printer).

3. The problem with Photo-manipulating on computers (via Photoshop) is that the options are endless. And it is a stupid to believe that the more possibilities one has the more creative he will be. Quite the opposite is true. When you work in a contained system you soon learn to stretch the boundaries or even to beat the system. When everything is possible one easily get overwhelmed and frightened.

4. The possibility to photograph and delete the pictures all the time lead to a too-casual handling of the most-important part in photography - the taking of a photo!
What happens very often is that people don't pay as much attention to the photo, knowing that they can manipulate the picture later on at home. and that leads to poor photography.

...just my thoughts...

Bruce Hooke
04-15-2004, 12:36 PM
Martin touches on one point that I am learning about, which is color management. When thinking about going digital you can't just think about the camera, you have to think about the entire system. You need a printer that can print well on photo paper (certain Epson printers seem to be what most people use, at least for the under $1000 range printers). Then, if you are serious about color you will probably need to have custom color profiles created for your printer for each paper you use (I just had this done by Cathy's Profiles (http://www.cathysprofiles.com/) ). Next, so that your monitor accurately reflects the color you will get in the end you will need to spend another $150 or so on a monitor calibration system. The best book I know of on this subject is Real World Color Management. This still leaves you with the problem that it is all but impossible to profile a digital camera that is used in varying lighting conditions (e.g., outdoors), so you have to bring the image into photo editing software and then tweak the color until it's right and then start managing the color from there on out.

As others have noted, to get big sharp images you will need a LOT of pixels, which gets expensive both in terms of the initial cost of the camera and the storage space for the images both in the camera and on the computer. On the other hand, there are, of course, no film costs. When looking at how many pixels the camera can capture make sure you are looking at "real" pixels not some "enhanced mode" that tries to pretend it's seeing more than it actually is. Similarly, make sure the zoom is a real optical zoom not just the center part of what would otherwise be a "normal" picture.

As to whether you can do serious photography with a digital camera...Of course you can. Some photographers get very interesting results with $5 plastic cameras that produce fuzzy images because the lens is molded plastic. It's all in what you are looking to do. Art photographs do not have to be high-resolution. A very pixelated image could be just what you are looking for. On the other hand, if you want Ansel Adams type prints that can be blown up to 20" x 30" and still somehow look sharper and have more tonal range than real-life seems to then I don't think digital can get you there yet. At least not at the camera end. I think some pros are shooting with film, scanning the images in at very high resolution, and then printing on super-fancy printers. I know someone up in Maine who prints very high-quality images up to about 30" x 40" on some sort of a digital printer. I'm fairly certain that he starts with a medium or large format film camera...

[ 04-15-2004, 01:53 PM: Message edited by: Bruce Hooke ]

04-15-2004, 12:51 PM
Yes, certainly. I agree (wont they be impressed) with Martin and Bruce. But remember all photographs are abstract.

04-15-2004, 12:56 PM



What everybody else said above.
I still love silver-image photography, but my last three photo exhibitions have all been digital work.

Bruce Hooke
04-15-2004, 01:00 PM
Originally posted by NormMessinger:
Yes, certainly. I agree (wont they be impressed) with Martin and Bruce. But remember all photographs are abstract.Exactly! Art can be ANYTHING. So, it's all in what you want it to be. As one of my art teachers said, if you say something is art then we have to consider it as art. We can say it's bad art, but we can't really say that it's not art. :D

Garrett Lowell
04-15-2004, 01:04 PM
My wife has just recently began her photography hobby. I was looking at a digital SLR, and the prices were 4k and up. Just something to think about.

04-15-2004, 01:42 PM
Many years ago a friend of our in Yosemite, a professional photographer with a studio in Oakhurst accepted an invitation to speak at the Oakhurst Garden Club. He reasoned that few if any of the ladies would have a Nikon SLR so he bought a Kodak Instamatic and used it to take the slides he used in his program. Beautiful stuff. The point? You can do good work with most any camera if you understand its limitations.

Bob Smalser
04-15-2004, 01:58 PM
I don't know squat about photography....

....but the 5.0 Megapixel camera I bought to please the building and civil works inspectors who want a record of what's in that trench I just covered takes good enuf resolution that the pics are acceptable to magazines that prefer 35mm slide photography.

I now take 'em all at 5 Megs and crop/resize/enhance as needed on a simpler program than Photoshop....freeware called Irfanview.

But shooting at high resolution likes a tripod...difficult to hold the puny camera still enuf. The good news is with the preview feature, you can delete your screwups on the spot and shoot again.

04-15-2004, 02:25 PM
Besides filling up my hard drive with pictures I may never be able to find again, one of the really convient features of the digital camera is its value in recording a building sequence. When I was shooting film I had trouble keeping track of what I had shot from roll to roll and stingyness. So I missed a lot. A thousand pictures of the Humble Bee but only a couple dozen of Prairie Islander.

The great how to do it pictures Bob has posted would not be as timely, as complete or as spontanious with film. Two megs would be plenty but I doubt one can even buy one so primitive.

Leon m
04-15-2004, 02:45 PM
Wow! great answers everyone.Just the stuff I was
hopeing to hear :cool:

I've noticed a lot of people who work in
comercial arts and digital photograhpy use
Mac's...Why ?

04-15-2004, 03:19 PM
They are as confused as Joe?

I don't think I've ever seen an image on a MAC but it was said they were much better at graphics than PC's. Perhaps they were once and they now have a zealous following based on some early epiphany or perhaps they still are but can we get an objective comparison?

04-15-2004, 03:42 PM
Taken with a REALLY cheap digital,
then extensively messed with in PhotoShop:


Taken with 35mm., then scanned into digital:


04-15-2004, 04:44 PM
Heck, National Geographic now has had several articles published that were illustrated entirely with digital pictures. In magazine format, they're indistinguishable from film, except when they chose to get artsy and highlight the digitalness (how's that for a word ;) ) of the picture. Come to think of it, that's another advantage of digital: you can be creative in ways not possible with film.

The Canon would be a good place to start. Good quality features, plenty of pixels unless you intend to blow up to poster size, and a decent price (about $1000, last I looked). I have a Canon that I'm quite fond of.

Not to toot my own horn, but I have some pics coming out in the next issue of WoodenBoat that are digital :D


04-15-2004, 05:05 PM
Not to toot my own horn, but I have some pics coming out in the next issue of WoodenBoat that are digital

I was told the Bible says, "He who tooteth not his own horn the same shall not be tooted."

Ah, so. I'll have to determine if they will take a digital picture for the "What people are building section."

imported_Steven Bauer
04-15-2004, 05:15 PM


04-15-2004, 05:45 PM

first, yes that Cannon is a fine example of a digital SLR. It will take pics that can easily be enlarged up to 8x10 and even 11x14 if you have them printed professionally.

when delving deeper into digital photo be-aware of the fact that higher megapixel numbers are not analogous to higher resolution or data captured. the chip size for most of these cameras is finite and so is the size of the circuitry on each pixel (sensor) so as you up the pixel numbers you lose sensor surface to circuitry surface and your light gathering real estate drops. so a super high megapixel point and shoot can actually have lower res pics than one with less pixels. thats where the software enhancements on the camera come into play and in general you want as close to a raw image as possible. there are companies out there developing sensors that read light as three deep at each pixel instead of three (colors) across. they basically triple the collection power of a normal sensor (see sigma x3 camera). these are not yet in any good cameras but may soon be. look for this technology in the future.

as for macs being used in graphic arts, i am a professional cartographer and i know i would hate doing this on a pc. most graphic designers and related fields still use the mac. i don't think quark had much to do with it (quark is a hideous program i will soon be glad to have nothing to do with anymore). macs seem to handle type and fonts better than pc's do, especially in design environments (illustrator) and i think thats why they have always had the design and graphic arts following. they are much more intuitive to use as well (IMO).

[ 04-15-2004, 06:48 PM: Message edited by: dmede ]

Leon m
04-15-2004, 09:21 PM
The information you folks have givin me is great!
I will be able to make a more informed decision
now ...Thank You!

martin schulz
04-16-2004, 03:26 AM
Originally posted by Donn:
The story I heard was that graphics people (pixels, no flesh) used Macs because Quark ran only on Macs, and it was the first major graphics illustration software. When Quark was ported to Windows, most illustrators switched from Mac to Windows. When Quark was ported to Windows, Apple had 10-12% of the market. They're down to ~2% now. Inferior technology, I guess. ;) Well that is not quite exact.
First Quark XPress is not an illustration program but a Laout software which lets you create pages and manages the composing of those pages (as the double pages one sees when opening a magazine is not printed together but in different sucession). Still about 90% of all the printers I am working with use Mac (most of them have Wintel PCs as well).

Last week I had a little test with my 400MHZ G3 Mac against a 1000MHZ wintel PC. What we did is to open a 22MB picture in Photoshop (standard size for a ful-size page) and convert it from RGB modus to the printable CMYK modus - the Mac won by 10sec.

The reason that the "graphic-world" is mostly using Mac ist that most programs including font-management (postscript, typefaces), color management, Photoshop, Layout-software was designed for Mac and later on worked on Wintel PCs. Even nowadays typefaces have their real names (Helvetica, Avant-garde, Gill-sans) on the Mac whereas the PC world has to live with "stolen" fonts using wrong names (Switzerland, Arial, Zurich).
- and, when you don't get hooked my MHZ-figures, the Mac is always faster and more reliable - its the real plug-and-play (not to forget that the Mac has no problem with Wintel data, but a Wintel PC can't even recognize Mac-data).

martin schulz
04-16-2004, 07:47 AM
Originally posted by Donn:
Put out a hook with a little Joe bait on it, and catch a Martin. :D Right-and there is a saying:

Bill Gates has customers
Steve Jobs has disciples

High C
04-16-2004, 07:59 AM
Disciples? So who serves whom? ;)

George Roberts
04-16-2004, 09:16 AM
Leon m ---

You will take a lot of poor pictures either way. With digital the poor ones are free.

The stores areound here do $.29 4x6 prints of digital images. They look reasonable. Their 8x10s from 2m pixal cameras look reasonable.

A professional can make very good 11x14s using a 5m pixal camera.

Like boat building it is tha man not the tools.

martin schulz
04-16-2004, 09:27 AM
Umberto Eco once comparred the different computer-systems to religion.

In his theory Mac is like the catholic church.
One gets an acurately defined system with no place for experiences but one where everything fits together nicely (hardware and software) and with the promise of salvation if one exactly follows the rules.

With Wintel PCs you have more or less a system that is based on more freedom and lots of possibilities, like in protestant churches. But then a lot can go wrong (install a postscript printer driver) and one is left with too much choices and may even end up in (Computer) Hell.

04-16-2004, 09:43 AM
JeffH said:

"except when they chose to get artsy and highlight the digitalness (how's that for a word ) of the picture."

I think the word is 'digitalis' ;) ;)

But seriously, thanks for raising the topic and the thoughts expressed in the discussion. My oldest daughter is a devoted photographer and has worked for several photographers in NYC (fwiw). Many of them are moving to digital exclusively for commercial work. No question they are the way to go in order to advertise and present a website of your current work (easily).

My wife is a long-time amateur photographer and is somewhat eager to get an SLR digital when the prices come down some more, though the computer storage/ manipulation/ printing will be a learning process that she's not especially looking forward to. I think computers bore her.

For everyday photography she uses a 35 year old Pentax 35mm. When she's feeling creative she uses a Kiev 2.25"x2.25" (or something approaching that size). The challenge and enjoyment of photography for her is making good on-the-spot decisions about camera settings, selecting compositions, and seeing what she can do within the limitations of the device. She spends hours each year putting together paper scrapbooks so we can all enjoy 'the year in review', turning the pages, reading her sly captions and drawings that she adds. Unfortunately her favorite mfr. of scrapbooks (Gibson) has stopped making them. Anyone know of other sources??

She's torn about whether if she goes digital, she will be too tempted to just do an Imagestation-type album rather than doing the physical handheld one that we can all sit around and look at together on the couch. She's frugal and wouldn't want to do both, I think, since it would seem like a duplication of time and money spent.

Looking at an album on a laptop just doesn't seem the same. I know I tire quickly when trying to read an e-book.

Decisions, decisions. :confused:

[ 04-16-2004, 11:07 AM: Message edited by: rbgarr ]

Bruce Hooke
04-16-2004, 11:12 AM
rbgarr -- Aside from the reason you mentioned -- about a scarpbook being more fun to sit around and look at -- the other really good reason (IMOOP) for sticking with paper format is that these scrapbooks are likely to be real treasures a generation or two hence IF THEY STAY ON PAPER! If they are in some computer format, on the other hand, the chances of their being around, let alone readable, in a generation are very slim.

For scrapbooks have you checked into what Light Impressions (http://www.lightimpressionsdirect.com) sells? It seems to me that they have some scrapbooks, but I have not looked closely at their offerings.

If you care about color, dealing with color on a computer can get really annoying at times. I've spent the last hour fiddling and tweaking to try to get some shades of gray to print with the right degree of warmth on my inkjet printer.

04-16-2004, 11:40 AM
the problem with digital output comes more from your output device than from your camera or your computer. if your printing at home be preparied to see some disapointing results. sending out files that you really like and want printed correctly is the way to go (for the time being). results vary but are genraally up to film standards for normal enlargment (5x7 or even 8x10 depending on your camera, lens, etc).

for longevity of pictures you can't beat digital if you archive them on a cd or other permanent media. if you just keep them on your hard drive your asking for trouble. thats like keeping your scrap book on the table outside and hoping it doesn't rain!

for my needs the current cannon digital slr is deffiently up to the task but is still priced too high. my solution for the time being is to take regular film pics on my elan 7 and have them printed with kodak picture cd. i get one roll of prints which i look at as proofs and for using in albums. and i get the digital film scans (not scans of your prints). i get two really nice benifits to using the cd's, first is that the digital image i see on screen is often much more detailed than the print due to the limited range of paper (there is more info on a negative than photo paper can handle all at once). so i can really see what the picture should look like. and because i can desaturate colors in photoshop i no longer need to switch rolls to go between color and B/W. if i want to use a red or orange filter with a shot i put it on with the color film, desaturate in photoshop and i get the effect of having shot on real B/W film with the filter effects.

Leon m
04-16-2004, 12:09 PM
Wow ,every time I read this I am just so impressed
by the wealth of information...Thanks Guys !!!

04-16-2004, 01:26 PM
Bruce- You've touched on something that's close to my wife's heart: the 30 years of paperbound albums of our married life. Then there's the 64 years of albums of her mother's married life... and the 20 albums from HER mother. In all about 80 years of family memories and phot-taking tradition handed down from mothers to daughters. After 25 years they get pretty delicate however.

The joke between my father-in-law and me is that in case of fire at our houses our wives will be gathering up the albums before they even think of saving us. ;) ;)

The women don't see what's wrong with that plan. :D

The color issue is a problem. I've spent some time lately transferring some photos of mine to Imagestation. I've been disappointed somewhat with the results in the colors, pixellation, cropping, etc. It may all be correctable (by me) but I'm not going to spend the time troubleshooting the whole thing.

04-16-2004, 02:21 PM
Nikon D70 (http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikond70/)

The D70, announced on 28th January 2004 is Nikon's answer to the new sub-$1,000 digital SLR market, its clear competition being the Canon EOS 300D (Digital Rebel) announced last August. The D70 is revealed by Nikon exactly two years since the D100, the D70 appears to share quite a lot with its sibling including a six megapixel CCD sensor and Multi-CAM900 auto focus system. The D70 also appears to have quite a bit going for it which are the primary complaints for EOS 300D owners, flash exposure compensation being one of them.

[ 04-16-2004, 03:23 PM: Message edited by: Meerkat ]