Better sensors affect how we shoot

The initial shock of the film-to-digital transition has gradually faded,  replaced by  more subtle technology advances that continue to change how we practice the art of photography. Take sensors for example. Larger, better designed sensors coupled with more sophisticated camera software have changed how many of us approach lighting…the very essence of what we do. 

Ed Lallo’s blog entry “The Lost Art of Photographic Lighting” notes the decreasing use of off-camera lighting techniques.

Ed writes:

“….as digital cameras improved in quality and light-sensitivity, professional photographers have opted more and more to drop the use of off camera strobes completely, using at most a small fill on the camera when needed, a technique that almost every amateur digital camera is capable of achieving. The watchwords of today have become, “”I’ll fix it in Photoshop later…'”

I agree with most of this except for the “fix it in Photoshop” part. This thinking presumes that computer imaging tools are something you use after the photography is finished. I tend to think about tools such as Photoshop and Lightroom as extended camera controls. The technology available to me creates a seamless workflow that takes me from concept to finished image. I don’t think about “fixing” things so much as I think about the most efficient path to my photographic goals. 

I suppose “fix it in Photoshop” works if you’re correcting mistakes made during capture. But time spent with computer imaging tools is not always repair work.  For me, the question is always, what’s the most efficient way to accomplish my vision.  

This may seem like a departure from the idea of the  “pure photographer”….whatever that means. Part of this may stem from the fact that we look in the rear view mirror to find our photographic heros.

One of my heros is Henry Cartier-Bresson but his best work was done more than a generation ago. Would his work still be amazing if it were produced in 2009?  I don’t know the answer. 

Destructive technology often gives as much as it takes away. Bresson’s early adoption of the 35mm camera could arguably have been the technology that led him to develop his trademark “decisive moment” photography.

The continuing development of digital photography has definitely changed the way I shoot. I carry fewer lights on location which allows me to work more efficiently. Knowing that I can produce high quality files at ISO 1600 allows me to leave the tripod at home. Digital has helped me improve the quality of images I shoot and produce more images per session.

And, most of this is because sensors keep getting better and better.


~ by keithphilpott on March 25, 2009.

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