We all know that digital photography has buried film. We also know that digital technology has brought high-quality photographic gear within reach of the masses.
But it’s not the panacea that some think it is. Doing it right still requires hard work — and talent. Here are six common digital photography myths:
1. With an expensive camera and enough memory cards, anyone can take great pictures.
Sometimes, yes. But not nearly as often as you might think. There is a reason that the best photographers spend years honing their craft. In fact, even talented photographers have their strengths and weaknesses. Some photographers aren’t great at portraits simply because they aren’t good with people. But they might be great at shooting food, architecture or products.
2. Digital photography is easier than film, so no training is needed.
When I made the switch to digital while working at a newspaper, I was not given any training in this new technology. I will be the first to admit that I ruined many images as I gained experience in digital cameras and digital post-production. Considering the learning curve for career photography professionals, the challenges are far greater for those who don’t have basic photography education and experience.
3. What you see is what you get.
Digital cameras are all about WYSIWYG, right? Everything looks sharp on that three-inch LCD monitor on the back of the camera. But even with histograms and zoom viewing enabled, you can never be sure until you get back to your computer, launch Photoshop and view the image at 100 percent. Then there may be issues like white balance. The ability of our eyes to compensate for different lighting conditions, rendering skin tones normal, is great for humans. But when it comes to producing digital photographs, it can work against us if we don’t know what we’re doing. Just ask photographers who had to shoot transparencies or slide film.
4. Megapixels rule.
While it’s generally true that the greater the megapixels, the better the camera, this doesn’t necessarily translate into performance. Those extra megapixels can be overkill. For most digital camera users, the hard drive simply fills up faster with data that is never used. I’ve found that most folks never bother to delete images that are out of focus, blurry or poorly exposed — which means a terabyte can fill up pretty quickly.
(I am more sensitive to this than most because as a photography teacher, I get humongous files from my students that are blurry, out of focus, etc. But in order to view and grade them, I have to store them on my computer until the end of the semester, when I can finally delete them.)
5. Shooting RAW is the only way to go.
RAW is not for everyone, and certainly not for every photo shoot. I know wedding photographers who shoot RAW for everything, and I really think it’s unnecessary. Only the formal portraits, and perhaps images from the ceremony itself, require such huge file sizes.
The formal portraits tend to be the ones that wedding couples enlarge, so that makes sense. As for the ceremony, often the venue is poorly lit or flash is not allowed, which makes RAW a good choice. But images of the reception rarely get enlarged beyond a 5 x 7.
Too many photographers use RAW as a crutch. Then when their computers slow down as their hard drives fill up, they mistakenly think it’s their computer and not their workflow.
6. Computer skills are only needed if you plan to edit the images.
When you switch to digital, you are forever tied to a computer — even if it’s just to view your images. Even though printers are now able to print directly from cameras, you still need to know how to burn your images or copy them to a hard drive. You can’t just keep buying memory cards. Unless you plan to have Geek Squad on call 24/7, you’d better have a good understanding of how computers work if you want to master digital photography.