Photography in the digital age

In January 2012, the Eastman Kodak Company, one of the oldest and most prominent imaging and photography companies in the world, filed for bankruptcy. The company, which pioneered photographic film and invented the first digital camera in 1975, ironically could not keep up with the acceleration of the digital photography market. While consumers shifted to digital photography, which does not require chemical processing, film or photo paper, Kodak continued to sink as it struggled to preserve the historic romanticism and popularity of its once profitable film photography business.

Courtesy of Eugene Yurevich/Flickr

Courtesy of Eugene Yurevich/Flickr

Kodak’s bankruptcy presents an interesting conflict between proponents of film photography and those of digital photography. Needless to say, Kodak’s financial downturn reflects the unprecedented dominance of digital photography in the photo industry and it appears that it is becoming increasingly more difficult for both digital and film photography to coexist in the modern world. As someone who has taken Photography I, which consists of countless hours in the dark room, black and white photographs and the slight chance that I damaged my long-term health by inadvertently touching harsh chemicals on a weekly basis, I can attest to the fact that film photography is in many ways a more arduous process than digital photography. Albeit, digital photography, depending on the intensity of the photographer’s work, may require much post-photo effort, however, for those amateurs like myself who consider photography a mere hobby, it is much easier in theory to snap a picture and get immediate results on your camera.

Courtesy of Khánh Hmoong/Flickr

Courtesy of Khánh Hmoong/Flickr

I personally love the crisp, high-definition pictures that my Canon PowerShot produces, however I oftentimes find myself snapping pictures, both for myself and for The Gavel, on my iPhone. With modern technology, virtually anyone with a smart phone has the ability to take relatively high-quality digital photos, edit them on the phone and upload, email or message them without having to hook a cord up to a computer. Apps like Instagram allow users to create stunning digital photos in a matter of minutes. In short, digital photography continues to revolutionize itself by becoming easier and more accessible through multiple channels for a variety of users.

Khánh Hmoong/Flickr

Khánh Hmoong/Flickr

Admittedly, I love the convenience of taking digital photos and having the ability to edit and manipulate them through iPhoto, Photoshop or other editing sites, but there is also much gratification in film photography as well. There is no getting around it – there is a lot of extra physical work and care that goes into producing film photos. At a basic level, you need to determine the right aperture and shutter speed on your camera when shooting, you need to avoid exposing the roll of film to light, which destroys the photos before they are even developed, you need to develop the photo through a series of liquid chemicals and you need to find the right exposure and focus in the darkroom to perfect the photo. Regardless, there is a definite thrill in not knowing how your photos are going to turn out until you see your developed film on the contact sheet. Just as photographers can determine how they want to edit their digital photos on a computer, film photographers can customize how they want their photos to look in the darkroom by using less exposure, more exposure and filters, to name a few techniques. Considering the amount of work that is put into film photography, there is an incredible pride that comes with completing your photos, knowing that you did virtually everything to get them to look that way yourself.

*If you are interested in joining The Gavel Photo team, contact Mason Lende at mslende@gmail.com.

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