In the beginning, most camera clubs were really darkroom clubs – people who not only took photographs using film but also enjoyed processing in the darkroom – itself also a light sensitive process. We gradually embraced the notion of ‘trade processed’ film and prints but there was little room to influence the final result other than by ‘getting it right’ in the camera or the exercise of some quite difficult and skilful cropping, dodging and burning in the darkroom.
As far as slides were concerned it was even more essential to get it right in the camera ! Indeed, I can remember sending photography students out with a roll of slide film secure in the knowledge that, once the film was processed, they would be able to see just how good their camera skills were - to plagiarise WYS I WYG – What you shoot is what you get !
Printing from a slide was, although technically demanding, helped by the fact that you could actually compare the print to the original slide. How on earth do you do that when the original image is a mass of binary data on a computer hard drive or memory card?
Shadows, highlights, gamma curves – are all ‘real’ photography issues but there is a new generation now that regards these as ‘digital’ matters and are completely unaware of their ‘real’ photography origins. Without a real understanding of light, the subtleties of light and shade, brightness and contrast lose their creative impact when reduced to moving a few sliders in an imaging programme.
There used to be an all too common attitude that believed that sticking the camera on automatic and fixing it in the darkroom was an OK way to take pictures. Now, fixing it in the darkroom has been replaced by fixing it in Photoshop.
Photoshop, whilst providing us with a digital route for processing our digitally captured images, in fact goes far further than anything we could have dreamed of doing in the wet darkroom. Personally, I would suggest that it has provided us with image manipulation opportunities that go too far and are not necessarily good for the exercise of true photography.
Believe it or not, Photoshop is now 20 years old and this week saw the announcement of its latest incarnation CS5. A new feature – ‘content aware fill’ is already creating something of a storm and will, for many, be yet another ‘must have’ reason for spending some more disposable income.
So, I ask you – is your club a real photographic club that teaches and promotes/embraces digital techniques or are you becoming an imaging club more dependent on the computer than the camera itself to create pictures?