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  1. #1

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    It's better to learn photography with an analogue camera

    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. #2

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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. #3

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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. #4
    Vaughn's Avatar
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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.
    At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.

  5. #5

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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. #6
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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.
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.

  7. #7

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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.
    Nikon 35mm, Mamiya 645 & RB67, Leica IIIb, other bits and pieces

  8. #8
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blansky View Post
    I think the best way is to shoot any camera manually.
    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.
    At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.

  9. #9

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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. #10

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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/

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