It's better to learn photography with an analogue camera

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Steven L, Jun 5, 2012.

  1. Steven L

    Steven L Member

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    This is the statement I made yesterday at the local community center. The spokesman/teacher of our photo club was discussing the foto's made that month. Every month, all participants send in one or two of their best photo's to discuss on a big screen. After that, the teacher shows various ways to alter/enhance digital pictures with PS. Many of the basic ajustments could have been done when the picture was taken. Exposure, filter, position etc. A lot of ajustments could be done while printing (analogue). Only a few ajustments have to be done digitally.
    Most "mistakes" are made while taking the shot. Wrong ISO number, wrong exposure time, wrong position. With the current digital camera's, a lot of the learning process is taken away with the fact that it doesn't matter how you take the picture. It doesn't cost anything to press the button. No film is wasted. If you had film to waste, you'd be more aware of the fact that a picture is bad.
    I started hobby photography with a compact 35mm camera when I was a kid. Every picture was supposed to be good, because I had to pay for my own film. When I was older I bought my first digital compact. I didn't have the pressure to make a perfect picture, so I started to experiment with exposure, focus, digital filter etcetera. After a while, it felt like the pictures didn't have the extra value. It doesn't cost anything to store a digital picture on a computer and printers can print whatever I want. I went back to analogue to add the value of a good shot and the use of limited film.
    Back to the photo club, yesterday. Someone send a picture of a house with the walls at an angle, due to the position of the camera, the lens and the position and shape of the house. It's called perspective, but the teacher wanted to show how to use PS to pull the walls straight again. He did a decent job at it and explained his steps good, but what he should have done was tell what to do to prevent unwanted slopes on walls. I told him after he finished his editing:"the photographer should have walked a few steps back and zoom in or use another type of lens." This type of teaching tells us that it's okay to screw up a photo, you can always photoshop afterwards. It's better to teach basic analogue photography than to PS. Even with a digital camera.
    Am I right? Does anyone have that same experience?
     
  2. pekelnik

    pekelnik Member

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    I have the opposite experience, I started with film, then switched to digital, then back to film. I would never be where I am if I didn't have the possibility to take 30k photos a year for virtually free. Also digital is probably harder to work with due to more limited dynamic range, which makes correct exposure at the same time more important and easier to check, which makes for a great learning combination.
     
  3. Brian Puccio

    Brian Puccio Member

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    With digital, I could easily see what I did right after I did it (chimping) and then in more detail a few minutes later on the computer. It kept detailed notes on exposure (f-stop, ISO, shutter) as well as focal length and the camera's metering mode automatically. I've since abandoned my digital SLR to eBay and shoot almost exclusively slide film in an M6.

    It would have easily taken me twice as long to learn what I now know if I had to remember to keep detailed notes in a notebook and wait several weeks to mail out the film and get it back. (I don't consider it worth mailing out one roll to develop, I prefer to spread out the shipping costs between several rolls.)

    I don't see why you think adding a long delay and requiring manual meticulous notekeeping and increasing the cost per photo makes learning on analog easier, those all seem to be negative attributes.
     
  4. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I find the OP's position to be too broad. People learn in different ways for different reasons. Teachers teach in different ways. In some ways digital can be a better tool for learning...especially if the teacher dwells on the image and not the technical aspects. If an image was taken that was not well seen, then the teacher can point this out and ask the student to re-take the image...not just try to "fix" it in PS.

    The teacher can require that the images be uncropped (or at least not cropped in one dimension) to improve the students' seeing. The use of color as a compositional element is not something one can "fix" in PS...The tool provides much instruction, but in the end it is the teacher who teaches.
     
  5. thegman

    thegman Member

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    I disagree. I only shoot film, but I think digital is better to learn on. You show people the difference in DOF etc. aperture makes right away, rather than say 'I'll process this film some time, remind me to show you the difference'. It may teach patience, care, etc. but for actual photographic technique, I think digital is miles ahead for learning. Especially for a younger person, where the cost of a film and processing might blow all their pocket money that week or month.

    I love shooting film, and film cameras, but if someone asked me to recommend a camera to learn on, it would be digital. They can move onto film if they want to later on.
     
  6. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I think the best way is to shoot any camera manually. That is the best way to teach photography.

    After that, there are many ways to learn and definitely learning analog will help someone to be a better photographer just like a sailor in the navy becomes a better sailor by spending time on a full rig sailing ship.

    The other posters are correct though, that chimping or even shooting tethered to a computer can speed up the process of learning with instant feedback.

    Obviously the best way to learn is to not allow any motor driven shots and to teach the student how to see, slowly. AND learn to shoot large format.
     
  7. JohnMeadows

    JohnMeadows Member

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    I agree it can be cheaper on digital, but maybe it is the manner of the teaching, or the underlying philosophy of "you can fix it in post, everything you need is in the raw file" that is the issue, as these are the bad habits that have to be unlearned with film (and my personal path was film -> digital -> film). I'd rather see an exercise (if one is teaching using digital) involving handing out a very small memory card (say 128 mb) that can only hold a few frames and telling students to shoot with that (no in-camera deletion), as an exercise in developing observation and deliberation skills.
     
  8. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    And with one single focal length lens, too.

    The most important aspect of photography to learn is the seeing. The technical BS can be picked up anytime.
     
  9. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    Although it's a good skill and important, learning the mechanics of photography isn't about conservation of materials. In that regard, with digital can be an asset.

    But, the "just fix it in photoshop" approach is not a good way to learn photography either, though it's a fine way to learn photoshop.

    Just as with analog, capturing the image correctly at the first step of the process will save a lot of hassle later.
    Doing that takes a lot of exposing pixels or film, and looking at the results without resorting to post exposure fixes.
     
  10. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    I think the principles of exposure and focus are the same assuming one is learning how to manually read and adjust the settings be the equipment film or digital. As mentioned above both have advantages and disadvantages and are suitable for different learning situations. composition would be similar or vary with format, probably most students using digital would be using the 35mm format. Once the image is captured the differences in printing manually from a negative or digitally would be quite different.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  11. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    You are assuming that you have to mail off your film to get processed. Part of the learning process, at least when an instructor is involved, should be teaching how to process your own (black-and-white) film. It's a foundational thing - if you get to understand not only how to capture an image from a compositional standpoint, but also how the image is produced and how to control how that image is rendered in the final print, you will be in a much better position to execute your vision whether you do it digitally or analog. When you process your own, you can have that feedback in as little as 30 minutes. If you learn how to develop color film (which really isn't any more complicated than black-and-white, just trickier in regards to maintaining proper temperature), you can have the same 30-minute feedback. Or, at least in most metropolitan areas, there's still a good lab around, and still a reasonable supply of 1-hour minilabs (no guarantees on the quality of their work).
     
  12. waileong

    waileong Member

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    The term is wrong

    There's no "analog" camera. Only a film camera.


     
  13. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    Absolutely, Vaughn! And, it is the hardest thing to learn (and hard to teach as well). That's why most focus on cameras, film and developers instead.
     
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  15. JohnMeadows

    JohnMeadows Member

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    I really like the idea of starting with one lens (which is all some rather famous photographers used), forcing the photographer to use his/her feet, eyes and brain.
     
  16. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    The University, Art School and even the CC teach photography and they ALL start students out with film. They run the whole gamut by teaching shooting, developing and printing. By doing it this way they teach patience in waiting for the final print. The student is focused more on how the camera is set up from metering correctly and composition by seeing the subject and framing in the view finder. Shooting film takes away all pretense and puts all the emphasis on the subject before you and not on the back of the camera. How does a teacher keep a student from looking/chimping or deleting, we have become a Nation of instant gratification, we want it NOW. Film humbles you, makes you slow down and consider the shot before you take it. Digital, there is no learning curve, spray and pray and fix in PS.
     
  17. Jenni

    Jenni Member

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    I learned on film. But shoot both. It sounds to me like the class was one for photoshop not one for photography. They are separate beasts and photoshop has been a sore spot for film users since its creation. I teach my students (basic photography) with whatever camera they own. My philosophy is the same, take your time, get it right in camera and use the darkroom/photoshop to compleat your art.

    Get it right in camera is how photography should be taught. It's how I was taught, it's how I teach. Teaching PS its important to know everything the program can do so you work efficiently and quickly. I personally would rather be making images with my camera then sitting at my desk. So I work hard to nail the shot.

    When I started with Digital 8 years ago I had a huge learning curve. The dinamic range was killing me. Old habits die hard. And learning photoshop was hard, very difficult to get it right. So easy to over do it. Anyway that's my .02¢
     
  18. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Rubbish. Film produces an analog analog of the scene. A digital sensor produces a digital analog of the scene.
     
  19. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Learning to see is the most important thing. Who cares what cameras are used?

    Film can be good, because it teaches patience and a contemplative approach, and with manual cameras forces an understanding of the mechanics of aperture, shutter speed, film speed, etc.
    Digital can be good, because it teaches composition, framing, and light very effectively, with immediate feedback, where you can see what went wrong.

    I think in this day and age a combination of both is good, but don't ever lose track of helping the student to see. You can use a Diana or a Hasselblad H-series. If you can't see the rest is pretty much worthless. You can't polish a turd, as they say.
     
  20. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    processing and printing has nothing to do with making good photographs.
    its about seeing, and understanding how to use one's equipment, not processing film in the darkroom.
    processing film and making prints just leads to bragging rights, and suggesting something is better because
    it was made by whoever made it in a darkroom, in the end it doesn't matter ...
     
  21. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    That all depends on how it is taught - if the instructor is an insecure asshole who feels a need to claim superiority based on use of a specific process, then it doesn't matter if they're teaching digital or film - they'll be teaching a "my way or the highway" approach to image-making. The point, in my perspective, of starting with film is to provide not only good fundamental skills, but also historical perspective - so many tools in Photoshop or other image editing programs have their roots in wet darkroom/traditional graphic arts studio practices. What you're talking about is image-making without regard to process, and when you are speaking of image-making, I agree that making a good image has less to do with the craft employed to produce it than it does having the vision to percieve and/or invent the image in the first place. However, I thought this discussion was about how to learn the craft of photography. Learning the CRAFT of photography is very much about building technical skills to execute the image-maker's vision. And lets face it - if you don't have the technical chops to execute your vision, we won't know if your end result executes your vision or not, and you certainly won't be able to repeat your execution. I'm not saying that every photographic image has to be an f64/Ansel Adams, full tonal-range, maximum acutance image to be artistically successful. But if your goal is to produce images of beer-laden vomit (or even USING beer-laden vomit as a developer), you need to know HOW the beer-laden vomit interacts with your other media so you can do it again and get a controlled variation of the original result. That's true regardless of whether you're puking on silver-gelatin paper or on an inkjet print.
     
  22. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i wasn't talking about instructors
    but people practicing photography
    who use film and darkroom work
    alternative process stuff, large format, holga or whatever
    as a way to suggest that because it was made
    "xyz' way it is inherently better than any sort of
    photographs made using a digital or hybrid medium.
    like with anything else it is usually the loudmouths
    that don't have a leg to stand on, they talk a good talk
    but that's about it ...

    hcb didn't set foot in a darkroom and it seems that
    his body of work shows he had the chops and speaks for itself

    not every person who picks up a camera cares about darkroom work
    just like most people who look at an image don't really care how it was made...
     
  23. Hatchetman

    Hatchetman Subscriber

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    Film prints/slides come back from the lab looking great (hopefully). Digital needs post-processing of some sort. You have to do it even if you exposed the photo perfectly. This necessitates teaching photoshop skills in class (though PS isn't gonna help poor composition).
     
  24. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

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    Pinhole :tongue:
     
  25. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I agree with much of what has already been said, as some things are easier to learn on film cameras and some on digital. I would certainly endorse keeping things simple and start my students off on simple darkroom imagery before moving onto film/digital and get them to record their progress in an A3 journal. A good early project in helping to develop a way of seeing is “Alphabet Shapes”, where students are asked to record as many letters of the alphabet from shapes they find when walking around. This helps them look more objectively at things (those on this site new to photography may wish to try it). I believe Robert Doisneau applied this technique to some of his general photography.
     
  26. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    As has been discussed here but not really narrowed down, photography is a multifaceted craft.

    There's the camera/exposure aspect, then there is the artistic composition aspect, then there is the making of a print aspect which branches off considerably into a whole new set of skills.

    So where to start. Obviously with a camera and learn that technique and craft.

    Then you move to making some sort of print. If analog there are a lot of avenues that can take a lifetime to perfect. If digital, photoshop/computer programs is an ever evolving set of skills and craft to learn.

    Then once you have a print, there is the critique to learn composition etc. Which hopefully will transition back into SEEING when originally looking through the viewfinder.

    So the OP is a bit too ambiguous to really nail down to analog vs digital.