Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

July 2003

Question of the Month

Who Should go Digital, and when?

Just a week ago, as I write this, we completed our first Adobe Photoshop/Digital Photography Workshop and it was a resounding success. Everyone who attended had a digital camera, ranging from a Nikon coolpix and Nikon D100 to a Canon 1Ds, Canon D60, and Canon D10. People also brought along slides they had scanned and placed on CDs. The ease by which everyone could shoot images, download them, and work with them in Photoshop was incredible, and extremely productive.

Today I received an email from a magazine addressing the digital submission issue. While the editor said they are accepting some digital submissions from a few photographers using 'high end equipment,' they prefer, at this time, to review transparencies. Bill Silliker, on NPN, recently wrote a column on digital submissions, basically urging editors to get with the times.

There is no question that digital is coming of age. With the large megapixel cameras, like the 1Ds, digital capture is about the equivalent of film and, in comparision to a scanned slide, is probably better since it is a first generation capture (as opposed to second gen, which would be slide-to-scan) even though the files of a scanned image are usually larger. The problem with digital is not the imagery.

So who should go digital?

1. If you shoot for yourself, meaning that you're images eventually end up as prints that you make yourself via Photoshop or another program, there is no doubt in my mind that you should be shooting digital. I'll outline the advantages shortly.

2. If you shoot for slide presentations, you should certainly consider doing so, as programs like Microsoft's PowerPoint and others provide an extremely slick and professional look to a computerized slide presentation. If done on a laptop, TV, or desktop, little expense is involved, although if you're going to project your program to a larger audience you'll need a digital projector, and they're still far more expensive than a slide projector.

3. If you're thinking of amassing a file for professional use at a future time, when editors jump on board and readily accept digital submissions, then digital makes sense. We know of several photographers who are doing so, building up a digital file that they hope to use as their sales base in the future.

4. If you're concerned about travel and packing tons of film, memory cards certainly make sense. Of course, digital storage becomes an issue, so you might have just as much weight with a laptop, digital wallet, accessory harddrive, or other storage and backup storage mediums.

5. If you're shooting events -- dog shows, car shows, baseball games, sports, on either a professional or semi-professional basis, digital has tremendous advantages. For pros, you'll know when you have the shot and you can stop shooting and start downloading. For semi-pros, digital provides a whole new income. We have shooters who take a printer to dog and car shows, shoot the subject, and have huge, expensive prints ready for clients at the show. It doesn't take many prints to pay for a great pinter in this way.

6. If you're a bird photographer who needs a great backup. Since most cameras have a 1.3 to 1.6X built-in magnification factor, your long lens is even longer, without losing a stop or more of light! For example, a 300 F2.8 coupled with a 1.6X mag factor of a 10D gives you a 480mm F2.8 lens; a 500mm F4 becomes a 800mm F4, and so on. When the light is low, you can almost instantly change ISO speed -- some cameras default at ISO 200, but most users can't detect a difference in images made with ISO 400.

7. While junk in is junk out, it is far easier to salvage an image shot digitally. Underexposures that would be thrown out if shot with slides may be salvagable on digital. You still want the best file and original as you can make, but when mistakes are made, they may be correctable.

8. If you're organized! Digital files can be intimidating, and I find easy to lose in the vast, unseen network of my hard drives, disks, and backup hard drives. Digital Pro 2 will certainly help, here, but you must have some type of system that you follow and that makes sense to you. Otherwise, you'll be searching for images forever.

Who shouldn't go digital?

At the present time, many book and magazine editors are not set up to accept digital files on a regular basis. They may make exceptions, but they are still adverse to blanket submissions done this way. While I know a few photographers who are only shooting digital, some of these shooters also have extensive slide files that can still be used to fill submissions. You may not have that backup.

I really can't wait to go fully digital but our markets aren't ready, yet, so I'm still shooting film as my income producing medium. I am still shooting the Canon D30, which has small file sizes, but is sufficient for my website and teaching needs. I'm relucatnt to buy a 1Ds when I suspect a better camera will probably arrive around the time that our friendly editors accept digital, too. The 1Ds's price scares me off, too, although I know 1 year of film shooting would pay for the camera. Hmmm.


Previous Questions of the Month




 Camera Techniques

 In the Field

How would you meter these images?

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?

 How long will film be around?
Last Posting

 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?

 What is the Fotronix's
Flash System?

Last Posting

 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?  

Contact us by e-mail:

Or FAX us at: (717) 543-6423.

Return to Home Page.