Mastering the Digital Age of Photography (By Dustin Olsen)

digital photography

Doesn't this guy look like David Hobby (strobist)? It's just a random stock photo, but it totally looks like him.

This is a guest post by Dustin Olsen, who now works with me (Jim) on Improve Photography.  Here’s Dustin…

The photography industry has taken a turn for the worse! It has gone digital and the younger generations of our time have embraced it gladly and the older generations have about thrown it away.

Before the dawn of this new age, photography was an art that required a trained eye and an artistic mind when it came to literally making a photograph. You knew who the Masters were of this analog age because they learned to master the tools they were using and you could see it. Their work was beautifully stunning and original, like a true artist. However, with the transition to digital, we lost sight of the artistic value of photography and welcomed in anyone who could afford a digital SLR camera. We have undercut our own industry (in more ways than one), with such a welcome, when the professionals decided to ignore those with a digital camera because, at the time, digital was simply not good enough compared to our proven and trusted film cameras.

There is no turning back. We are a part of this, and if any one of us is going to survive… we need to master the digital age of photography. If you have not already learned to shoot in Manual mode, might we all suggest you learn! Shooting in Manual mode will not only challenge your knowledge as a photographer but also set you apart from those still shooting on auto with their “really nice cameras.” Come to understand the beauty of flash photography and experiment beyond the comfort of natural light.

Today, semi-amateurs are taking the jobs of professionals. They are untrained; they rely on the screen on the back of their camera, and spend extensive hours in Photoshop if they have the “know how.” We have criticized these new photographers and their inability to make a quality photograph straight out of the camera. And yet, we refuse to teach them in fear we will lose our upper hand in this cutthroat industry of ours. With nowhere to turn, the uprising generations of photographers have come to rely on Photoshop power to correct their photos in any and every way possible. And we criticize them for that too because we have not learned how that works either.

For those of us who have been in a darkroom before, you know what it’s like to dodge and burn our photos or find that perfect exposure to achieve even a little bit better what we saw with our own eyes.

Take time to learn some basic photo enhancement techniques in Photoshop or software of your choice. Learning such methods is no different than what we would do in it the darkroom. It’s just digital now.

It is extremely important that you learn and know how to post process a photo digitally – and that is if you are new or experienced. Your camera does not know what it is that your eye can see when you went to take that shot. Sometimes you are lucky but most of the times you need to make some adjustments to get that photo looking like it did in real life. There is nothing “real” about a photo straight out of the camera unless you have that exposable income to buy expensive equipment and take it with you everywhere you go. Digital processing is just as important as knowing your way around the darkroom.

To those of you who spend countless hours in Photoshop to correct a photo shoot you did… cut it out. Take some time to learn how to use your camera and set up your shot. Your family will love you for it because you are not in front of the computer all night after having been gone all day on a shoot. Knowing Photoshop is great, but you will make more money when you are making photos, not when you are editing them.

Mastering the digital age does not just involve what you can do on the computer, but in your camera as well. Whether it comes “Straight Out Of Photoshop” or “Straight Out Of the Camera” – we all continue to make and shape a history of memories at every sound of the shutter. What will you be remembered for?

Dustin Olsen is a professional photography instructor at ImprovePhotography.com.

Comments from the I.P. Community

  1. Jennie says

    I’m in the middle of the beginning photography course right now and when my Dad saw me practicing with my digital, he immediately dug his SLR from ’79 out and gave it to me. It’s been an incredible experience to learn both forms at the same time. I kept checking the back of the 35mm to see my shot. A lot of instant gratification habits are being broken and I feel like I have a better understanding of who does what and why. I just wish I had some place besides big-box drug stores to develop the film.

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