Why I Love Digital Photography

Going through boxes full of photos has proven to be a daunting task.

I recently discussed why I hate digital photography, but in spite of hating it I also love it, and here's why.

Digital Saves Money

The obvious reason digital saves money is that you no longer need to buy and process film, but you already knew that.

The hidden reason digital photography saves money is the inexpensive cost of high quality gear.  Camera technology has advanced to the point where consumer grade cameras can create pro quality pictures.  Though an inexpensive camera can make a great picture, it is still the photographer who makes the image. It's the quality of the story rather than the quality of the pixels that makes for a compelling photograph.

Superior Image Quality

Digital images are clean with little grain when shooting at low ISO.  Shooting at a high ISO in low will add grain to the image, but not so much as to make the picture unusable.  Just about any camera made within the past three years can produce clean enough images at ISO 6400.

Expanding film speed to those numbers is nearly impossible. If you did shoot high ISO/ASA (fast) film in low light you often had pictures that were too grainy to be considered usable.

Another inherent problem of film is that picture quality degrades over time. Oxidation burns holes in slides, prints fade, and negatives yellow.

There is also the issue with fingerprints, tears, and dust. As a kid I remember my dad's slide shows with dust on the pictures, and he would inevitably place them backward in the carriage.

All of these issues with film were the way things were, so you just lived with them.  Today however, dust, backward pictures, and every other photography faux pas from 30 years ago is unacceptable.

Chimping

Chimping is what everyone does with their digital camera.  You take a picture, look at it, take another and look, take another, wash, rinse, repeat.  It can be annoying when someone does this after every shot. 

However, when used conservatively chimping has great benefits that you could never get with film.  The screen on the back of your camera gives you the opportunity to check exposure, see whether someone blinked, you can check composition, focus, and so much more.

In the days of film you shot roll after roll then sent them in for processing. You weren't able to see your pictures for a week. If you missed the shot it was too late. That moment in time was gone forever, and you never knew what you did wrong. 

Learning Curve

When you pay attention to the camera settings, and use them as a learning tool you can learn photography at a much faster rate then when you shot with film.  

In the days of film the only way you were able to remember your settings was to write them down for each shot.  Today, the camera tags each image with metadata.  Now you can get instant feedback with each picture and make adjustments on the fly.  What may have taken years to learn can now take weeks.  Instead of wasting time figuring out camera settings you can instead practice framing, composition, and story telling.

A method to help you learn fast is to photograph the same subject over and over by incrementally changing the settings to see how they affect your picture. You get instant feedback, the metadata tells you the camera's settings, and it doesn't cost you anything to practice.

For example, you can change your lens from f/1.8 one f/stop at a time to f/22 to see how it affects the depth of field.  You can speed up or slow down your shutter, change ISO to see how it affects the other settings, and so on. 

Cataloging & Metadata

Metadata is not only useful as a teaching tool, it also helps keep your library organized. Every photograph has a time and date stamp, it tells you the camera and lens, your settings, you can add copyright information, and lots more. 

With so many pictures taken daily, digital photography makes it easy to catalog them. You can quickly sort through your library, delete the bad one's, rename the good one's, tag them, place them into collections, or any other creative way you want to organize you photos.

Whereas, my analog photo collection is a rat's nest of a mess. I don't know the camera's that were used, the type of film, the settings, the film speed, the date and time, or any of it. This makes it hard to organize pictures chronologically, you have no idea what the camera settings were, or any of it.

Without this information it has taken me years to get my analog collection somewhat organized. When I do get the motivation to work on it I quickly lose interest.  It is such a daunting task. 

Even if my analog photo library was well organized it would still be hard to find certain photographs that were taken years ago. Searching analog content is hard. Whereas, digital searches use tags, keywords, and metadata.

Physical Storage

When you shoot digital you don't have boxes of old photographs stored away in a closet deteriorating and taking up space. All of this material has volume and weight that requires you to spend money transporting boxes of pictures from one house to another every time you move.

There is also the issue of fire, flood, tornado, hurricane, or whatever disaster is waiting to destroy your cherished pictures.  The only thing digital images require is that you have a good backup solution with at least three copies with one offsite.  If the house burns down and everything is destroyed you can retrieve your pictures from your offsite backup. 

The final reason I love digital photography brings me back to my first point... it saves money.  You don't need a large house with lots of storage to keep a huge photo collection.  Smaller homes are less expensive to both purchase and own.  When you compound your savings over decades your potential nest egg can grow into the hundreds of thousands of dollars allowing you to retire from work earlier giving you more time to take pictures.