Digital Photography has changed the world

Digital photography has changed the world, there is no doubt that the skill of the professional photographer pre digital and post digital is immensely different. I’m very lucky in that my career has spanned both formats. My knowledge that was the core of being a professional before digital – the understanding and mastering of lighting is not prized as highly today where digital equipment has taken the need to light situations to a far lower rate.

In the film days 400 ASA film sensitivity was considered fast and the very fastest 1600 ASA so grainy that it was unusable except in situations like surveillance work or “artistic” gritty advertising work.

Now we have digital equipment with the capacity to record at 64,000 ASA and above and still at a quality as good as 400 ASA film. So the need to completely light subjects has been replaced with the need to augment lighting.

But even this isn’t as important as one might suspect because the range of light captured by digital chips is so much greater than film. Take for example colour transparency film, the basic stock of the film professional, that had three stops of exposure latititude. (Three F stops on your camera between recording pure white over exposed and pure black under exposed.

Colour negative film was a little kinder and covered about 5 stops. Digital chips these days are recording in excess of 9 stops! So all the detail is on the raw file and it just takes the digital wizard skills to bring out the detail without using any lighting at all. Here’s an example of a simple snap with no lighting used that would have been a bin job in film days.


digitital exposure range
No flash camera exposed for the back light
Ditital photo corrected shadowed areas
No flash again but correct shadow areas



But digital has made it far easier to take the most mundane of images and lighting and turn it into something that didn’t exist Below is a view taken near sunset on a very dull overcast day. The lighting wasn’t interesting as you can see. The second shot, though some might consider a little over the top in the taste stakes is an example of how far an image can be pushed these days.


Digital photo as shot
A good view with uninteresting lighting
A digitally enhanced scene
A little brash tretment but a good example of how far you can go


So where is the need for the professional photographer when the equipment is capable of producing these results? Well the answer is simple. The professional photographer is still needed for the client who knows the results they want to achieve. Because it still takes skill to produce a particular lighting result from any given scenario.


Brian Russell

Copyright May 2015.