Is digital free?

Changing of the Guard

Changing of the Guard

I wonder how many millions (billions?) of pictures are made each day.  Without doubt the advent of digital technology has caused that number to explode.  A friend returned recently from a cruise around the Mediterranean.  “We were gone ten days and I made over three thousand pictures.”  (I hope she does some serious culling before inviting friends to see them!)

Digital is free, after all.  Except…maybe it isn’t.

I can buy the argument that, once the camera, batteries and a memory card are paid for, the incremental cost of the next photo requires no outlay of money.  But is money the only commodity here?

The old timers used to say that they were satisfied if they got one “keeper” out of roll of film.  I expect that number is now more like one out of a hundred exposures.  A baseball player named Woodie Held is credited with the saying, “Don’t forget to swing hard, in case you hit the ball.”  We are getting sloppy if that’s our photography approach.  And when we get sloppy the quality suffers.  In this sense, digital isn’t free. If we simply click away with snapshots we are paying dearly in lost opportunity to make quality images.

Of course there are times when – for a purpose – we want to fire off many exposures.  Take, for example, a fast moving sporting event requiring rapid fire exposures.  Or the group portrait.  If more than a few people are involved someone is going to have his eyes closed. And if you are experimenting, perhaps different exposures, different depths-of-field, or different angles, then, I would say, shoot away.  There is a purpose and you are learning something.

So…here is my point:  Shoot fewer, shoot slower, shoot with purpose, shoot smarter and bring home better pictures.

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Jim Camelford - “You can take all the digital pictures you want for free; it’s only keeping them that costs you money.”


Don’t forget to keep multiple, redundant backups, one of which must be offsite.

skeeter - ABSOLUTELY true, Jim. My wife said something similar: “If digital is free, why do you spend so much money?”

Andrew H - I would have agreed with you, but I saw this technique severely backfire with technophobes, with talent to take great compositions, and clueless with the technology. I tried to teach them to bracket everything, at +/-3EV and always shoot raw. They have no idea of how to expose selectively either.
Because they don’t look at contact sheets. The old way, and the darkroom, made you think things through. Digitals they blame the camera.

Ken - My college professor for the Digital Photography course required us to spend the first 4 weeks of the class shooting, developing and printing film (they supplied the camera if you did not have one). This was to teach us to think about the shot before blazing away. Not only did it improve our composition and use of light it saved tons of time later in post production of digital photos.

David Laurence - Yea, you can take as many as you want for free, but the more you take with your DSLR the quicker you up your shutter count and the moves you that much closer to replacement.

skeeter - Yes, the marvelous pieces of craftsmanship DO wear out in time – probably something that most of us don’t consider. Seems, though, that the development curve is so steep that we upgrade to the latest and greatest before it breaks.

skeeter - Smart fellow, that professor of yours. The school I attended still has film processing equipment but I think they have abandoned the requirement that students become proficient in its use – probably because there is so much to teach (commercial emphasis) and so little time. Still…I think it would be good in the long run.

Guy Davies - A case FOR tripods perhaps? Tripods slow you down, help you fine tune your composition, and as a result you think more clearly about what you want to photograph. AND, you end up taking fewer shots!

skeeter - Your comment, Guy, (and others) give me the idea to write a blog posting that will explore the ways in which we can force our selves to slow down and be more purposeful. I’m thinking tripods, filters, HDR, reflectors, shades, you-name-it.

Guy Madden - The best camera I ever had was a fixed, non-zoom twin lens reflex. You zoomed in by walking forwards and out by walking backwards. With only twelve frames available it made me think about what I was doing. Also it was usually mounted on a tripod.
I still use those techniques to-day but, I also subscribe to the notion “If you don’t press the shutter button you don’t have a picture.”

skeeter - I don’t suppose you had auto focus with that zoom system! Isn’t it interesting how modern methods cause us to forget the valuable processes of the old way?

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