Digital Photography and the Need for Speed


Progress has long been associated with the ability to do things faster. So it has been with digital photography.

Along with zillions of megapixels, fourth-generation Photoshop, and cameras that can sometimes make hobbyists look like seasoned pros, the digital age has brought us the ability to finish jobs faster.

It has also led to impatient clients with a “need for speed” when hiring out photography assignments.

Faster vs. Better

But is faster always better?

Sure, the car is better than the horse and buggy. But is fast food better than “slow” food?

Whereas once photographers shot on film, took the film to the lab, waited for the film to be processed, and only then revealed the finished product to the client, we can now simply press the shutter release and have an image ready in seconds. Shooting tethered has taken this to an extreme — enabling us to connect a computer to the camera and see our images appear on screen at almost the moment we shoot them.

No doubt, this is technological progress. And it gives us the capacity to increase our turnaround speed dramatically on assignments.

But just because you can do something, that doesn’t always mean you should.

Patience Rewarded

In the days of film, we had the ability to proof on Polaroid film as a compositional and exposure measure. We could take a clip test from film stock that would again allow us to ensure all was well and then “push or pull” processing times, allowing us to compensate for exposure if required (within reason). We could affect so much in the print production from slide or negative film stock — and that’s not mentioning the necessity and potential in marrying the right film stock to the project in the first place.

Digital photography allows the photographer an even greater degree of control. And unlike with film, all the tools to create a polished finished product are in the photographer’s hands, if he or she takes the time to use them.

The problem is often the client’s expectation — and increasingly, demand — for speed.

If you are a photography client, understand that you are only short-changing yourself by rushing the process. By allowing the photographer adequate time for post-production, you will receive considerably better images than if you insist on downloading them onto your computer immediately after the shoot.


4 Responses to “Digital Photography and the Need for Speed”

  1. Sure, digital is in some ways faster. Mainly in the speed at which a photographer can go from camera to edit.

    But it, in my experience, does not allow for faster processing. Through a loupe or on-screen it can take time to find, crop and dust-spot images.

    Additionally, the digital era has ushered in a client-side concept that poor planning and weak subjects can be fixed in Photoshop. Somehow a boring, poorly lit conference room can be transformed into the Taj Mahal through the magic of electrons and silicon wafers.

    The same old rule applies: Good, fast, cheap. Pick any two.

  2. You bring up and interesting argument about Digital Photography and I agree with lots of your points. Quantity doesn't not equal Quality. It's an easy ratio.

  3. digital post processing should take longer then film because we now go threw each image by "hand" and apply more editing ourselves then leaving it up to a lab to do.

  4. most clients only want shoot and burn so they can print at Walmart and all we have around here is photographers at 20$ an hour ...its not easy going for the 1500$ shoots ...im getting some but i work my ass off 24/7 trying to make it ...in a small hick town like here people dont care about quality ...its how many pictures can i get .
    I actually had one client complain that i only gave them 60 pics for a senior portrait shoot ...and i only charged 250$. I had to give them the pics the next day.
    So does quality over power quantity ? Not always ...they want 5$ buffet crap .
    I think that i get around 1 out of 5 clients that want quality ..the rest want more ,more more and forget quality .

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