Shutterbug 101

Five good reasons to make the switch from film to digital photography

Story and photos by Lara Hartley
all images copyright Lara Hartley



Diving into the Digital Pool

Plunging into the pixel pool!

Welcome to Shutterbug 101. This is our first in a series of tutorials on how to make better photographs. We are here assuming you want to go beyond a typical snapshot. Or maybe you want to figure out how to make your camera do more than just "auto."

If so, then stay tuned, because we are going to teach you just that. Each month we will present a new lesson and perhaps an exercise to help you become a more proficient photographer.

This column will be geared to digital photography and techniques.

“Wait!” you say. “I still use film.”

Well, perhaps it is time to take the plunge into the pixel pool.

Instant gratification

Ever get tired of waiting for your film to come back from the drugstore or even the one-hour place? And when it does, you find that you don't like the pictures? Or something has gone terribly wrong and they are all black, or striped or covered with orange spots?

With digital you can check right away to see if you are capturing an image properly, and delete it if you don't like it. But be careful. You may trash something that could grow on you later.

Don’t be too critical when editing in camera.

My friend Micki switched to digital while studying for her master’s degree. She needed a way to document her work and to see it immediately. Digital was the obvious answer.

Easy distribution

It is easy to embed digital images into a word document to send snail mail or e-mail. You can upload them to one of the many photo-sharing web sites to share with family and friends. Or use them as a basis for your own website.

Another friend creates the most wonderful Christmas letters graced with family pictures and stories about their year. It is easy for him to do and I love watching the family grow and change. Now he is putting the letter on the web so he doesn’t have to print it on paper (saves trees) and spend money on mailing.

Environmentally friendlier

Processing film uses some really noxious chemicals. I spent years with my hands immersed in these toxins developing film and photos. Photo labs have the additional pressure of responsibly disposing of those chemicals. They just can't be dumped down the sink. By using digital, the chemical waste of film processing is eliminated.

Creative flexibility

Have I mentioned the magic words “photo imaging software?” Oh my. The things one can do these days. Create images that have the look of watercolors. Or chalk drawings. How about putting your best friend's head on a donkey? I have always enjoyed that one. There is no end to what you can do with your digital pics. Fun to funky, it is all possible.

Save money

Let's face it, digital is cheap enough for just about anyone's budget — no film to buy, no extra prints to pay for. For added convenience, many stores can make prints directly from your camera's memory card.

That brings me to a certain important point. If you take the dive into digital and you want to work with your pixels at home, you need a computer or one of the new docking systems that is capable of doing what you want. There is nothing worse than getting a fancy new digital camera and finding out your computer is too outdated for it.

I bought a Kodak Picture Mate printer for my family which prints images straight from the compact flash card. And they look great. No computer needed. I want one too.

Next month: Which camera?

“The urge to create, the urge to photograph, comes in part from the deep desire to live with more integrity, to live more in peace with the world, and possibly to help others to do the same.”


Lara Hartley is a professional photographer and writer in Southern California’s High Desert.

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