In this digital age of photography, are we losing the art of “capturing the moment”?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by atlanticza, May 3, 2012.

  1. macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2008
    Cape Town
    In analogue days, a photographer was limited to film roll of 12, 24 or 36 shots so one was very careful about ‘capturing the moment’. Now with digital cameras cameras capable of 10fps bursts or more one has simply to ‘squirt’ away and select the best ‘expression’ of the ‘moment’. IMHO, it has devalued the skill necessary to become a great photographer. No award-winning iconic photographs and photographers appear to be celebrated anymore from the digital age. Or is that just me?
  2. Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    Nothing stops you shooting film and it's enforced limits and the thinking that forces on you. I shoot film a bit and love the way it makes you stop and consider.
  3. Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    I usually try to frame and compose my pictures. I now use digital exclusively and I generally stay away from the machine gun approach.

    Yeah there are times that I may take several shots in sequence but generally speaking once I'm happy with the composition I snap only a couple.

    The inverse and downside of using film is the risk of missing a shot because you don't want to "waste" a shot. I remember a number of times trying to conserve my film and realizing afterwards that I should have not been so stingy.

    In other words, I'd rather have too many shots given the advantage of digital cameras then too little because of conserving my film.
  4. macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    35mm cameras were also able to do 3 to 5 (at least) frames per second.

    I know many people did that with film. The limitations of course being the size of the rolls and how much film you have with you. Which translates to the number and capacity of the flash cards you have for your digital camera.

    If I was going out shooting for a day, I'd carry somewhere between 10 and 14 rolls (24 exposure) with me. Sometimes I only used a few rolls, sometimes I used them all. I much prefer digital cameras, it's easier to store the "negatives" (raw files) now.
  5. Zh2
    macrumors member

    May 21, 2011
    In a house in England.

    Devil's advocate...

    From a photographer's point of view - Yes. It must have de-valued the idea because almost everyone carries a camera these days.

    From a citizen's point of view - No. It has allowed me to view images that only a few years ago would have been impossible.

    Another perspective possibly...

    My Father, now well into his 80's, would spend all day taking 1 ( one! ) photograph in his very early career as a photographer. If you are 80 yrs you have lived around 30,000 days. I could take 30,000 photographs by the end of the week - Not one of them would be a good one.

    My Father, when asked, tells people that he taken hundreds of thousands of photographs over his lifetime but only managed 3 good ones!

    ( I have managed to take one good one so far and I am 50 yrs )

    Just my two penneth!


  6. macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    If digital photography has made it so easy to capture the decisive moment, then why do so many photographers fail utterly at doing so?
  7. macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    I suspect your question is rhetorical, but I say it's because digital photography actually doesn't make it any easier to capture the decisive moment. It just gives the illusion of being able to easily capture that decisive moment.

    And many fall for this illusion, so they think spray and pray is the way to go but really they are no better off (and probably worse off) than a more reserved and deliberate shooter.
  8. macrumors demi-god


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    A disciplined approach will reap rewards with digital, just as it used to do with film. It may be easy to shoot in a 'scattergun' way... but, even with the fastest shooting rate, the camera's 'closed' for a great deal more time than it's 'open', so the chance of capturing the decisive moment is still down to skill... rather than a happy accident...
  9. macrumors 68000


    Apr 3, 2010
    Big Sky country
    And that is the crux of it. Film or digital, it still comes down to preparation, a whole lot of skill and may be on occasion a wee bit of luck!:)
  10. macrumors regular

    Dec 27, 2008
    In the analogue days, an artist was limited to natural media and one had to be careful about the paint he laid down. Now, with computers and Photoshop, one simply has to "scribble" away with an unlimited number of editable layers, paint tools and undo functionality until the "expression" of the art piece was formed. IMHO, it has devalued the skill necessary to become a great artist. No award-winning iconic artist appear to be celebrated anymore in the digital age.

    I think we can all agree that the above paragraph is preposterous in its premise. Yet, this was foretold many times by traditional artists during the 80s and 90s who refused to yield to progress offered by technology.

    Software such as Photoshop and Painter have not only allowed artists far more flexibility than they could have possibly ever dreamt of with paintbrushes and pencils, it has also opened up the world of artistry to many individuals who may have otherwise shied away investing time and money into a medium that has, for so long, been seen by many as available only for a select few with talent.

    Yes, greater accessibility means you'll inevitably end up with a lot more chaff than wheat. That's fine. For every hundred would-be artists like me who produce crap, there will be at least one, like yourself, who will create finely chiseled gems for everyone else to see. That one out of a hundred may never have discovered his or her hidden talent were it not for the lowered costs offered by the digital age (traditional media is very expensive).

    At the end of the day, the artists who understand basic visual art principles that have developed over a millennium such as perspective, form and tone will separate themselves from the rest of the pack when they apply these time-tested skills using their Wacom tablet and Photoshop.

    So too can be said of Photography.

    While it's true that the absence of rolls of film means one no longer has to be as discriminating when depressing the shutter button, one still needs a foundational knowledge of aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance composition, light and observation to produce stunning imagery as seen in the annuals of National Geographic.

    Photographers who utilize time-tested principles in their work only stand to gain in the digital age as they are no longer encumbered by the limitations of film. For them, the sky is the limit (as their individual budgets allow).

    Tools are just that, treat them as such.

    It's the photographer's skill that will be valued, above all, irrespective of what the format is.
  11. macrumors 604


    May 4, 2002
    Go Vegan
    I agree. :) Limitations can force you to use your artistic eye and better judgement. Instead of snapping away countless times on a subject from different angles it forces you to think before you shoot.

    However there are times where it's very handy to shoot a dozen shots and see what comes out... especially when people/objects are in motion!
  12. macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location
    Nobody has taken the "art" out of photography. Instead, there are more people taking photos than ever, and not everyone is taking them for the sake of "art". If people want to be careful and meticulous when they take photos, then they can be careful and meticulous. ;)

    I'm very careful when taking photos. I frame and take 1 or 2 shots. I never take more than 1 or 2, even though I have the ability to do so. When I sold my Nikon D300 after 3 years of ownership, it only had ~6000 shutter actuations. ;) I've probably taken ~3000 shots with my X100 after 14 months of ownership.

    Seriously, just buy an 8 GB card and shoot in RAW. Go on vacation with that card, if you want. On a week-long vacation, I'd be limited to around 60 photos per day, or ~2 rolls on my 12 MP camera. That's not a lot, IMO.
  13. macrumors 65816


    Jul 2, 2011
    Good idea to limit yourself on the size of your card. I agree with you on the choices people have. If it is your preference to take more great shots than snapshots, then do that.

    I like to mess about with photography, and learn along the way. I don't use a camera just so that I can look back in 50 years time and count the amount of 'great' pictures I took.

    I don't think digital photography made people lazy. I think it actually got more people into photography because of its flexibility. Definitely not a bad thing. The top photographers and naturally gifted ones will continue to take amazing pictures for everyone to enjoy.
  14. 100Teraflops, May 3, 2012
    Last edited: May 3, 2012

    macrumors 6502a


    Mar 1, 2011
    Elyria, Ohio
    I respect "The Old School", but there is no way in hell I can imagine shooting and dealing with film all the time! I used cheap film cameras, nothing to be considered "professional"! One hour photo chains always developed my film, as I had no clue how to set up a darkroom. Of course this was before the internet! People in the past were unable to learn or dabble with photography because they didn't know where to go, what to bring, or who to see.

    I think photography is very competitive because of the digital revolution! Every Tom, Dick, or Harry can own and operate what the big boys used yesterday! I think digital photography equalized the playing field. I didn't play with the 5D MK IIs of yester-year. I'm sure this topic is touchy for a few though! ;) I think of this topic like water down a duck's back! :)

    EDIT: I had a Polaroid camera for a few months until it broke! Talk about super cool! I had a relative that used Polaroid religiously! The photos are still pretty good after all these years! Beginning of the digital age? I don't know....
  15. macrumors 6502


    Jun 4, 2011
    The digital age is making it so that us amateur non-photographers can learn to take better photos more easily. I will never photograph the way true artists can, but at least now my photos are closer to reality than they ever were with cheap film cameras, or even with point and shoot digital cameras. I now take hundreds of photos and because of that I'm slowly learning...
  16. macrumors 68000


    Sep 27, 2007
    3 earth minutes from your location....
    That is the point. You want to get better. What I feel is the real problem are apps like Instagram that "suddenly" transform you into a photographer. I feel you have the correct approach. Shoot, shoot and more shoot. This is the only way to learn...
  17. macrumors 6502a

    Aug 24, 2008
    I'm not sure how bad Instagram is... I don't know anyone who suddenly thinks that by putting a filter on a picture they've made "art". If anything, it forces users who want to go past hipster looking party shots to actually take the time and think about the shots they are about to take and value photography as an artistic endeavour. That's something most consumer digital mediums have had a problem at doing. I just think of my parents, they take their digi point and shoot to event. They might take 100 pictures. All crap. They just make sure their subject is in the frame and click! Like it or not, Instagram is getting people that only did snapshots to actually think about composition and light. It's hard to argue that's a bad thing.

    Bottom line, what ever the medium, film, digital, iPhone, scanner or x-ray machine, you still need a certain amount of knowledge and you need to think your shot through.
  18. macrumors 6502


    Jun 4, 2011
    Exactly. My 7 year old niece has a digital camera now. I love how children nowdays will be able to document their entire lives. I don't have any photos from my perspective until I was a teenager.
  19. macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2010
    Shepherdsturd, WV
    I shot a few college football games for my college's newspaper and it wasn't uncommon for my to take 3-5 photos in a series of a big play or of something dramatic and to pick the best photo use in the paper.

    This was all done with a minolta maxxum HTsI and 35mm film.

    Just because my digital cameras can shoot 4fps or so doesn't mean that I walk around taking a 10 photos everytime I want to capture something. The only time I really do that is if I'm working with fire and getting the correct shape of the flame matters. Generally though, It's one photo at a time.
  20. macrumors demi-god


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    I do...

    A lot of software 'solutions' are used by people who are aware that their 'unimproved' photos are "bland", "dull", "boring" (their words, not mine), so it's tempting to jazz their pictures up, especially since all it takes is a click of a button. The result? A "bland" or "dull" or "boring" pic that now looks (a bit) like a painting, or charcoal drawing, or psychadelic poster, or retro 'faded' image... or whatever's in vogue this week.

    The best way to "think about composition and light" is to think about composition and light. Forget the sleight of hand and the party tricks... ;)

    Indeed so...
  21. macrumors 68000


    Sep 27, 2007
    3 earth minutes from your location....
    I disagree. Instagram is getting people to point and shoot and throw a filter on it. I find it very easy to argue with it because I feel, that Instagram is crap. Most Instagramers fit into the category of the list I included.

    Attached Files:

  22. macrumors 68030


    Jul 25, 2006
    paradise beach FL
    I can't tell you how many times I've nailed a shot in burst mode that never would have happened if I were worried about the cost of film. I also can't tell you how many times I've noticed other photographers chimping around or having a chat with backs to the action while my target was riding the best wave of the day.. I call it skill and preparation and well, yes, a lot of darn luck!.:p
  23. macrumors 65816


    Jul 2, 2011
    Isn't photography about the pictures and not the method? I don't think anyone is going to rubbish your pictures just because you didn't shoot in manual mode. Or because your return on shots taken is just 2 good ones. Photography is about appreciation of the end result, not the method.
  24. macrumors member

    Jan 24, 2012
    I don't think that the art of capturing the moment has been lost, but things have definitely changed. Digital photography has allowed more "documentation" of the world around us and moments in our daily lives - usually a poor quality photo. But these poorly composed photos (many with red eyes - my pet peeve) will no doubt be treasures for many families.

    Having said that, there is no replacement for professional, knowledgable or thoughtful photography. My father was a serious hobbyist with a darkroom which he used until 4 children took away the luxury of time for developing his own film. He taught all of us kids the basics of photography with 2 of my siblings becoming serious hobbyists as well. To this day my 79 year old father (an early adaptor of digital) always has the best shots out of the hundreds of shots taken by all of us at any family gathering. There is simply no replacement for talent, knowledge, and experience.

    I am not as talented as other family members; I take lots of shots, ruthlessly delete/ crop/straighten the ones that aren't good. Sometimes I get lucky with a pretty good one. But I love the option of "unlimited" frames. Having received more than a few lectures on "wasting film" as a child it is a luxury that I truly enjoy!
  25. macrumors newbie

    Apr 12, 2012
    I agree completely with both of these statements! I could hear my mother and the 'wasting film' lecture in my head as soon as I read your post!

    I am always trying to figure out what I can do better with most every shot I take, but I love the ability to basically shoot endlessly and try different things - that's how I learn what works for me - shoot now, try all the options, dissect what worked and what didn't later.

    I also do a fair bit of underwater photography, and having the ability to shoot more than 24 or 36 frames in that type of environment with very limited time to compose and shoot a shot, not to mention limited time to be in the environment, is invaluable to me.

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