You know what....
I think people are arguing about two different points, thinking the other one is discussing the same thing. What I'm seeing going on here is one side is talking about the CRAFT of photography and the other side is talking about the ART of seeing. The ART of seeing can be learned, IF it can be learned at all, with any tool that frames a chunk of reality - it could be anything from a digital camera to a pinhole to a view camera to a cropping guide with no way to permanently record the image selected. The CRAFT of photography, though, probably is better learned analog first, because most of the digital techniques used today have their basis in wet darkroom techniques. This is not to say that digital is inferior or superior, or wet darkroom processes are inferior or superior. Note I said BETTER learned - this is not to say you can't learn photography starting with one or the other. Frankly, in today's world, you'd be a fool to not learn both, so that you have a wider repertoire and can make a conscious choice when producing images. They're different routes to the same end, and so long as you are producing the result you want from the technique you choose, it doesn't matter. Now, as a consumer of photography, I certainly retain the right to make aesthetic judgements about which I find more pleasing to my eye, but that's MY choice, and because it is personal, I don't have to be consistent to an ideological standard - I just have to be able to justify the decision to myself on a piece-by-piece basis.
Just minutes after I decide to throw in the towel, someone sees my point of view. I'm talking about the CRAFT of photography. The ART of seeing is something you just have to get, you can have help to open your eyes, but when you've got it, you've got it. This art of seeing can be applied on basically anything. And I don't want to limit this by just capturing reality with a camera. Drawing, painting, airbrush, grafitty, sculpturing, designing and also any form of photography. It all involves the art of seeing.
If you master the art of seeing you can create, without any knowledge, a wonderfull picture with virtually any form of visual art. All you have to do is learn how to use the tool needed. In that context I say that it's better to learn the basics from scratch, without any form of help. And every alternative way of getting the same result. This way you know what to do when you want to manipulate the help. And you know what the alternatives are.
Teaching PS is good.
Teaching BS is bad.
Digital is good for beginners. It gives instant feedback. It allows experimentation without too many second thoughts (costs, other constraints). EXIF fields will show the exposure couple, maybe the focus point, and will be precious in the early understanding of the technical side of photography.
But there is a moment where the "back" of your mind must be forced to calm, selective thinking. As far as I can say that I use digital just the way I use film, I wouldn't be completely sincere. With digital, even if I have the impression that I am using it just like I use film, I actually take twice the pictures. On the "back" of my mind there always is the little devil telling me "you can check the preview", or "I'll take two I'll keep one". This has its advantages and its disadvantages at times, but it's not necessarily good as a learning practice, where thinking about the intended outcome should be the focus.
With digital, people might become lazy, take the picture first, and see what comes out and then maybe change some elements. This is no good gymnastic for the photographic brain.
With film, even if now I am way beyond the economic "worry" of film consumption (135 only user), I do continue to take less, and more reasoned, pictures, and that's not intentional. It's a part of my brain which I have no control over. With film I am more selective, I think more about a composition. Each time I press the shutter release it's the final bet on one horse of the several available. I very rarely bracket exposure, very very rarely. It disturbs something inside my deep self. And I don't normally bracket "points of view" either.
The devil sitting on my left shoulder keeps repeating me "you bracket in this situation, and you'll end up bracketing most everything you shoot!". So I bracket only in "desperate" situations. I think calmly about what is the result I want. I take the time to figure it. I have all the technical means (spot meter, incident light meter) to just make the shot right also on slides (or tells me that I can give up the shot because it just wouldn't work). Why bracketing?. This mental gymnastics keeps our mind technically alert and ready. Film is good because you cannot use it in "mental lazy" mode.
So I agree with all of you. Digital has a place in learning. Film has a place in teaching discipline, correct technical thinking, which is ultimately very beneficial to the final outcome.
Manual settings are of paramount importance. Manual cameras again are better teachers because your brain just can't escape the technical (fundamental) question of each single image.
What I dislike most is the "matrix metering mentality" or the "Auto ISO", "Autofocus" mentality, especially when taught in (cheap, local community...) schools, not the camera function itself. Students should be taught the importance of understanding technique. All the rest is a means to that end. (Composition, and "art", cannot be really taught anywhere. The teacher teaches technique. The learner learns technique. Personality is nor taught nor learned).
In this thread I've read mention of "consequences" and allusions to "critical thinking". My experience is that if there are no consequences such as lost time and out-of-pocket expenses we'll just do things the easy way without even thinking about the technical stuff. It's human nature. IMHO, "all-the-hard-part-done-for-us" digital is just another step away from "art" just as photography was a step away from drawing art by hand. I'll not condemn anyone for their choices but please don't try to convince me that fully automated correction is conducive to learning photography. But... in the end maybe it doesn't make any difference anyway.
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Since early in the digital wars here on APUG where the initial consensus was analog is good and digital is bad, to the present day where a lot of people use digital as well as analog, there has been a constant theme that emerged.
Naturally not by the parrots and the die hards but by some of us who started in film, used film for years, lots and lots of film, did our own darkroom work and love and respected the process, but made a transition over to the new technology for lots of reasons.
The theme was and still is, that digital and analog aren't about good vs bad but the fact is that they are DIFFERENT. So very different. A lot the same, but fundamentally different. Different in how you think, and react to things.
Besides the fact that really the only obvious difference is what it collects information on, film vs a capture card, there are differences in how your brain processes what you will do when you get home. DIAPOSITIVO just touched on that in his post. Obviously film costs money and obviously pray and spray with digital is an easy possibility. But people used to spray with motor drive automatic film cameras as well. 7 frames a second equals 5 seconds for a roll of film.
Also we all know that the larger the format the slower we work. We could pray and spray with our Nikon F4 and work like a monk when we dragged out the Linhoff. One frame every 15 minutes. With a Hasselblad, only 12 frames so were were pretty deliberate there too. Just facts of life. The bigger the weapon the slower we work.
If I'm driving my car down a country road I may stop a couple of times to take a picture, maybe. I may go 50 miles and take 3 or 4 pictures of 3 scenes. If I ride my bike I may stop 10 times and go 5 miles and take 3 or 4 shots of 10 scenes. If I'm walking, I may stop 25 times and go 2 miles. We react to what circumstances dictate.
Overshooting digital (35mm) is a fact of life, why, because we can. Changing film is a pain in the ass. Digital, no problem.
We also react differently to digital because we know what we can do when we get home. That idiot that walked through our frame. In photoshop, 10 seconds and he's gone. With film, a nightmare to get rid of. So we waited for him. I've waited for hundreds of idiots with film. Now I don't. Shooting a family at the beach. I could not care less if someone is playing in the background. 10 seconds in photoshop and they are gone. In the film days I'd have to ask them if they would move for a few minutes.
Obviously THAT changed a lot of things. I definitely can fix it in photoshop. But the end result with film and digital, would be the same. A family on the beach, with nobody in the background. It changed how I worked but not the resulting photograph.
So digital definitely changes us. It means we work differently, because we can. BUT IT DOESN'T REALLY CHANGE THE RESULT.
So which is better to learn on, digital or analog. Doesn't matter. But you have to accept that they are different.
But obviously if you want to learn how a camera works you have to learn in manual mode. And if you want to learn composition in the camera you turn off the motor drive. And if you want to shoot deliberately, you have to think deliberately. Works the same with my Canon 1DS Mark 3, with my Nikon F4 with my Hasselblad ELX and my point and shoot.
Last edited by blansky; 06-07-2012 at 12:14 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
This doesn't really apply to "learning photography" per se as that is about learning the craft of how to shoot a camera as someone stated. But I will say that after years of shooting analog and looking through the viewfinder, I had a pretty distinct idea of what I could make from the image.
Originally Posted by Old-N-Feeble
With digital and all the toys and tools (which are often over used) there is almost the feeling there of infinite possibilities, that a painter probably feels when he sets down in front of a scene or person and begins to paint. Infinite possibilities. How do I want to deal with the subject, the background, the overall look etc...
Often in fact, too many possibilities. What should I do with the finished picture?
That is one DIFFERENCE that I feel is there in the "automated correction" that is available in digital.
So many possibilities. Like a marriage between what an painter felt, and what a traditional photographer feels.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
I haven't read the entire thread so my apologies if this was already stated:
Personally, I think learning through means of analogue and digital photography both have benefits. One isn't necessarily a better teaching tool over the other, and because of that I actually think the best way to learn is to use both, about equally (maybe a bit of an advantage to digital, just because it is what most students will end up using anyways).
I myself started photography on film, but actually "learned" photography on digital format. I think that without initially learning how cameras work (you can still learn manual settings on a DSLR) I wouldn't be as far along in my development as a photographer. That's not a knock on film, though, it just is that learning through film would've taken longer because film isn't about instant gratification.
With digital, like someone on the first page said, you get instant results. You can see instantly if your metering worked properly, or how the ISO will effect the image, or the sometimes dramatic differences between using two completely different apertures on the same photo. This makes for better trial/error in my opinion. One could also argue it's better to learn photography digitally because it will set you up for how the photography world works in 2012.
But on the other hand, film. Ah, film. With learning through film photography, you get a hefty dose of history added to your learning material, which isn't bad at all. You also get the magic of the darkroom and learning how to create a physical photograph, not just a file. Also, while you can most certainly learn how a camera works and how to use manual settings on a modern DSLR, it can be too easy to just auto-everything. With film, you're more forced to learn proper aperture, shutter, etc, even with a more automatic film camera, because you'll want to be that more sure of making the correct exposure so as to not mess up your film.
If you are going to shoot film and print it optically, as I do, this will force you to be a better shooter since you do not have all the PS tricks available to you. If you shoot digital, or shoot film and scan it, then it is all the same, since you can "fix it in post" with PS or other software. But fixing errors with software does not always give you the quality you would have had if you had shot it right to begin with. Shooting with film and printing optically forces you to do this. And you learn why. With digital shooting or film scanning, and post fixing, it is not necessary to learn the why. And many don't. With a digital camera, good results can be achieved, but there are many more camera controls to learn about to do so. And many don't. After all, you can fix it in post.
Now, I am not advocating that everyone shoot film and print optically. You can learn to be a good shooter on your own, or from a good teacher. But one has to ask, just what are the teachers these days teaching?
You can "fix" scanned film photos in post, I suppose, but it kind of negates the purpose. I don't think I've seen someone ever roll out some Portra or Velvia with the hopes of scanning it and HDR-ing it afterwards. The only "fixing" I do in post to my scanned photos is to make them potentially look more like the original prints/slides. That, and removing blemishes such as dust specks. It seems like this is a popular train of thought. Tons of photos scanned that I've viewed on the internet say "straight from scanner" even.