Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

April-May 2003

Question of the Month

How long will film be around?

That's a question that might turn your blood to a cold stream, but it truly is one all photographers must begin to consider. The simple answer to this question is this: Film will be around for a very long time. It will not be instantly replaced, but we might find that fewer and fewer people are using it. In my own circle of photography friends almost every one has a digital camera. It might not be their primary camera, and they may not shoot their most important images with it, but they have one.

If you are a hobbyist photographer, one who exhibits images via prints made from a personal ink jet printer or displayed on the web, I do not think it makes any sense to shoot film. Any image you're going to output, whether that's to a printer or to the web, is being digitalized, ie scanned, so why add another step in the process? Further, the obvious advantages of seeing your image, and correcting a shot if need be, and the savings in film developing are very persuasive reasons to shoot digitally.

If you are a professional, it may be another matter. Arthur Morris is, to my way of thinking, doing an experiment and is only shooting digital this year, and I'll be using Artie as my scout. If he feels that digital is being widely accepted in the marketplace, I'll think very seriously about following that same route. Moose Peterson has been doing so for years, as has John Herbst (their websites are linked on my link page if you want their personal thoughts on this).

At my end, I am extremely reluctant to go fully digital at this time simply because I do not know, and certainly do not think, that the marketplace is fully accepting of digital images. As a pro shooter I must produce images that might sell -- I say might, because I like to shoot what I like to shoot and the heck with the market. But, that said, I would like to think that the images that I do like to shoot have a chance of being published, otherwise no bills might be paid. So, I'm shooting film so that my options for submitting images is the highest.

At our office we regularly scan images for low file jpegs we can email clients for review, but if those are approved we send the originals. Hopefully, as the digital age matures we'll be able to post images to a server and the 'sold' images will be downloaded by the client. But that day is not universally here yet --- at least to my knowledge.

One other point on this: A potential buyer looking at a digital file may get a false opinion of the quality of the images. If the editor's monitor is poorly calibrated or old there may be a color shift that 'shifts' the opinion of the editor regarding a purchase.Also, while you may have a state of the art zillion Hz computer with Pentium 7s and a galaxy of memory, your humble editor might be struggling along with a PC that has a CD attached as a peripheral. The computer may be slow, and it might take ages for an image to open. An editor might be paranoid and, while it probably couldn't happen, the editor might be afraid that a 'virus' might corrupt his files if he opened the CD! While some photo editors (and I've seen this) review slides by holding them up to the light of an open window, regardless of the time of day!, at least the editor can see all the images at once (on a 20 slide sheet) and make a decision or create an opinion. If images are opened one at a time, and it takes ages to open any given image, the editor might grow bored and move on.

In my Tip of the Month I profile Digital Pro 2 image management software, and while I'm just a novice at it, this last issue might be addressed in the Publish section of that software. I'll know more about that when I actually have some real time to mess with the program. But it is something for readers to look at.

So, is film dead? No, not by a long shot. Is it on its way out? I think so, and whether you, or the editorial world like it, all of us are going to be carried into this digital world, either happily skipping along or dragged kicking and screaming into the age. Reports I've read give film five years, and I think that's a very realistic assessment. If you're a pro shooter, think twice about going fully digital right now, unless you know for a fact that your markets (like sports photography) supports it. If you're a fun shooter for web and for prints, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? It's a good choice for you, now!

Previous Questions of the Month




 Camera Techniques

 In the Field

How would you meter these images?
Last Posting

Why should you know Manual Mode? 

 The Sunny 16 rule -- is it worth knowing today?

  How do you shoot silhouettes?

 How would you meter these challenging images?

 What do we really think about digital photography?

 What do we think of the Canon D30 digital camera?

 Should you have a depth of field Preview button on your camera?

 Using Zoom lenses with tele-converters and extension tubes -- can you use both together?

 What the heck is the Scheimpflug Law?

  Reciprocity Failure

 What is the Best Composition?

 Are Image Stabilization Lenses Worth the Money?

 Hyperfocal Distance

 Flash and Tele-flash Techniques

 What is the most versatile remote release camera firing system?

 What the heck is a Plamp?

 What is the best flash for closeup and
macro photography?

 How do you shoot high-speed action images?
 How did I photograph that flying wasp?

 How do we carry our film when traveling?

 How can you attract insectivorous birds to your feeding stations and bait sites?

 How do you make things happen in wildlife photography?
 What is our Favorite bird-shooting location?  What are our Five Favorite Shooting Locales?  Which binoculars do we just love to use?

How Easy is Whale Photography?
 Is NANPA for you?  What is NANPA and how will it benefit me?  

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