20 Feb From the darkroom to digital photography
It has been very sad to finally dismantle my B/W darkroom, which was a big part of my business, having not been used for at least 10 years, and it led me to reflect on the enormous changes in photography during the digital revolution.
A photo session in the studio invariably involved using my 5”x4” plate camera, a lighting setup using enormous power from banks of flash equipment. B/W Polaroid film was used for testing the exposure and composition, followed by the exposure on sheets of transparency film, which were then rushed to the lab for processing, to be collected after 2 hrs with great excitement and trepidation before being examined on the lightbox.
What a mission it was to get the image, when today the image is immediately there on the screen to view instantly. Sadly this can promote laziness in the approach of just ‘set up and see’ without really considering the composition and the light before the exposure. There is enormous value in training yourself to look at the subject and compose in real time through your eyes or through the camera before committing to the shot and the electronic image.
But how brilliant it is when faced with photographing a building for example, with all sorts of obstructions and defects marring that perfect angle, when you can still shoot it knowing how easily they can be removed and repaired on the computer. It was only a big budget shoot that would allow for film retouching, which was a highly specialised art! While there are purists who hanker for the old days of film and its subtleties of tone, I have completely embraced the digital era. As a professional photographer, it has made the business more demanding. Quality cameras have become more accessible to everyone, and the skill level has undoubtedly diminished with the instant playback capabilities. But we need to rise above that because the advance of digital technology is astonishing, brilliant to work with and adds a whole new dimension to the world of photography. But the value of experience and that eye to ‘see’ photographically will always triumph.
While I no longer have my darkroom, for my workflow its Adobe’s Lightroom!