Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Forrest Gump of Digital Photography

The "Stupid is as Stupid Does Award" this week goes to a company called

The company, based in Wisconsin, takes digital images and transfers them to 35mm slides. But this is apparently as far as their digital knowledge goes. It's pretty scary actually. A company that purports to offer services to digital photographers knows little about digital photography (or analog for that matter).

Get a load of this crap from the company's F.A.Q. Under a section entitled "Adjusting the Appearance of an Image" comes this little gem:

Digital photography is more natural than film photography. Your vision system is subjective. Your brain is continually adjusting the appearance of what you see. Digital photography puts this subjectivity into your photographs, thus enabling you to take pictures as you see them. First take the picture, then use your computer to adjustment the image to match what your eyes saw.

This is complete and total gibberish and makes absolutely no sense. Not only that, but it contradicts itself. If digital photography takes photos subjectively, just as your brain sees things, then why do you need to adjust your photos to "match what your eyes saw?" And if digital photography is capable of taking "pictures as you see them" then the photographer is not needed. Just tell the camera what you want and send it out to photograph it.

What I think they are trying to say (and I may be giving them way too much credit here for brains they probably don't have) is that with digital photography, it's easier to get to a final image that is exactly what you had envisioned than with film. Even this is not true, unless you are a Photoshop guru. It takes a hell of a lot more time and manipulation with digital photography than it ever did with film.

Then there's this little piece of digital wisdom:
Unlike the human eye, film is not subjective. As a result, film doesn't do a very good job of capturing what you see.


Ummm. No.

True, film is not subjective. It only sees the light reflected off what the camera is pointed at. As a result, it is very good at capturing exactly what you see. Or, more precisely, exactly what you're looking at.

I'd translate this into English for you, but I have no idea what the hell they are trying to say here.

And, last but not least, there's this little pearl of wisdom:
Outside the studio, photographers using film have to pick subjects that the film can capture well. A lot of images that look good to the eye simply will not photograph well. So, film photographers lose a lot of opportunities because their eyes can see something interesting but the film simply cannot reproduce what their eyes see.

This one actually makes some sense. Sort of.

Yes, film photographers can lose a lot of opportunities because they can visualize a scene, but their film cannot keep up. But this is what separates the men from the boys. A good photographer knows the limitations and characteristics of his film -- which scenes will photograph well and which won't. This is not a limitation of the film, it's a limitation of the photographer. The film doesn't do the work, the photographer does.

Ansel Adams popularized a concept called "visualization." He's set up a scene in his mind and visualized what it would look like on film and in the final print, then he'd go out and shoot it. He'd get exactly on film what he wanted. The film didn't reproduce what Ansel Adams saw, he reproduced on film what he visualized in his mind's eye.

Digital photography is great and has some advantages over analog. Sometimes it's the right tool for the job, sometimes it's not. But digital photography is not magic. It's also not rocket science.

The people with a vested interest in digital would do themselves a favor to learn a little bit about the principles of analog photography. After all, it's still photography. And the fundamentals are still the same.

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