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Digital vs Film Photography

  • 26 April 2019
  • 8 replies

  • Music Community Leader
  • 614 replies
@Namrata Tejwani and I have been having an interesting discussion in the National Parks Cultural Connections Week thread, about photography. I wonder what other think?
People take pictures everywhere these days, using their cellphones, posting them online, etc. The more serious photographers will own an excellent digital camera. The result is that we now have so many photographs, but very few prints. We keep them all online.
I worry about their future.
Will I just have a thumb drive to pass down to my grandchildren to show them family photos? I worry that all of these digital photographs will get lost in the future and we will have lost our personal past.

Do you feel the same way?
Do any of you miss the old cameras that used film which you needed to send out to be developed?
Do you think we are taking too many photos these days as a result of digital photography?

8 replies

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Definitely digital for me! I have gradually been scanning all my old photos so I can eventually throw away four boxes of photos. Only one box to go. I started years ago, it's been a long-term project.
I have colour photos from the 1970s that have faded and/or gone reddish. I wouldn't have that problem with digital copies. BUT make sure you have back-ups. At least three copies of everything. An acquaintance had her precious memories stored on a hard drive that corrupted and stopped working and she lost the lot.

I have all my files on my laptop plus two external hard drives. Most are also on a USB thumb drive, but it is full. I haven't quite managed to trust the cloud for my private photos, but I know some people who love it because they can access their files from any device, anywhere.

It's so lovely to be able to take pic after pic until one turns out beautiful. My grandfather used to take photos of us when we were children. He always took so long adjusting the camera for just one or a few photos. And as for flash photography: a single use flash bulb so it was used rarely. He developed and printed the photos himself. It was like magic going into the darkroom and seeing the image slowly appear on the paper under the red light. Photography was his hobby and he was in a club where they would trade cameras, so he was always trying out some new equipment.

Here is my grandfather in the 1960s.

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For my mother's 90th birthday, I made up a PowerPoint slideshow of about 100 photos from her life and connected my laptop to the television. It ran in a continuous loop all through the party so people could watch it whenever they liked. It was a great hit!
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And @Judith, you worry that photos may be lost in the future. @Namrata Tejwani mentioned in the National Parks thread about someone who lost everything in fires. Flood is another risk, whereas I can carry my portable drive in my bag wherever I go.

A friend's family photos were ruined in a flood. She was sitting at the roadside crying as she sifted through the box of ravaged photos. The garbage collector came along and said, "You just have to let them go, lady."
@Pat B , amazing post, so much to consider....
What a treasure that photograph of your grandfather is, and such a wonderful memory of him as a photographer. Photography has come a long way in our lifetime, hasn’t it?
It’s so true that now we can try and try and then easily erase photos we don’t like until we get it just right. There was always that anxiety waiting for a roll of film to be developed and then feeling disappointed if it wasn’t as we had hoped. But there was always some excitement involved as well, to open up that envelope of photos we had taken.
It was also very exciting to spend time in a dark room and watch the process. I was a Program Director at a summer camp where we had a
photography program and was able to participate in this “magic”. How wonderful that you were able to.

After reading what both you and Namrata have said, I will think about moving my photos online with multiple copies. I also have many, too many. I couldn’t think of how to safely store them, fearing some sort of mechanical mishap and having them all be wiped out. Keeping a few thumb drives is a good idea.

Your photographic tribute to your mother sounds incredible. She as well as everyone else must have enjoyed it.

Learning how to “let go” is so challenging, but so important. Thank you for reminding us.
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Very well said @Pat B. I started scanning project some 10 years ago while I had plenty of time and Coursera was not there. I started with scanning important documents and after finishing them I took to photo scanning. Multiple copies in multiple types of storage devices is only precaution. I use laptop only to sort and not store any pics. Earlier I had copies made on cd, external hard drives (2 sets), select few on pendrives (due to small capacity). Recently I started sorting to make my collection a little smaller (as all 3 members in the family love photography, and hence with every trip we have 1000 pics per day and our trips are minimum 1 week long).
Of late pen drives with higher storage capacity are also available so I am using them as well. Latest addition is micro sd card that I can insert in my dual sim mobile phone or spare mobile to mirror screen on tv. I mean lots of options are there.
Digital photography has given us the freedom to have candid pics, real pics imo, as you are not standing stiff smiling and trying to keep your eyes open to flash click. The only issue is that people click too many and do not sort them and discard what is not worth keeping. That may add to the storage problem and would make it less appealing for frequent viewing.
As far as storing on cloud is concerned, I keep only non personal pics there.
Digital photography (there are courses on Coursera) has opened a new world to me, to motivate others to visit such beautiful places, to have people experience details of places if they can not visit. I have lots of older adults in the family who suggest us to visit places and share pics with them so that they can have virtual trips. My sister in law was one such member, who looked forward to such virtual trips.
Your grandpa's pic is now preserved in soft format, such rare pics are not worth losing to any disaster or natural degradation. Thanks for sharing.
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@Judith it's fine to scan your photos and still keep the originals! It then becomes an extra way to store and share them. And yes, I sure remember that l-o-n-g wait for the film to come back, and the anticipation of opening the envelope to see how well (or how badly) the photos turned out.

@Namrata Tejwani you make an excellent point about sorting the photos and separating out the best for easier sharing. What is your sorting criteria?

When I scan the photos, the actual scanning is only one step. Then I label each file (change the filename) with the date (year only or even the decade such as 1960s if necessary) and the subject. YYYY-MM-DD when known followed by people's names, place etc. Usually L-R, often first names only for family pics because sometimes file names run too long. Then arrange photos into year or decade folders. Occasionally, if a photo has a story behind it, I have created a Word file with the same title and written down the story so it isn't lost. Because the files have the same name (one a jpg, one a doc), they stay near each other in the folder. It works if I can remember when a photo was taken! I spent ages yesterday looking for a particular photo for the Australia thread here in the Coursera Community.
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@Pat B, yes it is one more option, if not a substitute to save pics.
I still have at least 4 albums of important pics in physical form.

While storing pic, I also scan like you, change file name, starting with year, followed by initial of name eg "N"(most pics are personal and help if we are looking for our pic) if only belong to particular family member, else additional alphabet of name, followed by occasion/location and then number. Eg 2005_N_B'day_Mumbai_01

There is one folder for each year (only year as name) that has many subfolders starting with year and occasion/location, containing all files of particular set.

While sorting, if there are multiple/ almost similar looking pics, I select one /few best. I have loads of pics of nature, animals, artifacts, they are put in separate folders with type name, eg flowers , animals, nature etc, that folder has subfolders of location.

I liked your idea of description/ story, I will add it before I lose my detailed memories.

Though all family members have access to all storage devices but still for each one of us we have our own micro sd /pen drive that forms personal item to be used/edited/carried.
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You all might be interested in the Q&A with Sarah Meister, Curator in the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art. She's taking questions about photography through May 10: Photography Today: Q&A with a MoMA Curator.