Uncompromised Quality Photography
By Photographer Dan Harris
A home-studio photography business in Jacksonville, FL
1124 Riviera St. Jacksonville, FL 32207 (904) 398-7668
Today there are too many new photographers making equipment and process choices based on 'ease of use' or 'cheapest cost' as their main criteria factor. I talked to a wedding photographer the other day who has major quality issues with her small 'consumer' digital camera but doesn't want to buy the 'professional' quality camera due to the size and weight. I think these photographers are doing a disservice to their clients and the industry.
The internet has become a great communication tool. The quality concerns that apply for a top-quality display print are far greater than what is needed for an internet photo. Today a standard computer screen will display a 4x6- 72dpi very large on screen. The image flaws that would be highly visible in a 20x24 portrait are nearly non-existent on the computer screen.
The joke of the day is: "If you have a poor-quality photograph, display it on the internet in a small format and it will look great!" The computer can hide a lot of quality issues.
If a photographer were only to take photographs for the internet or ones that would be printed 4x6 or smaller then the quality of the equipment used may not be as critical. But if a customer is paying good money for top-quality images should they settle for the use of "consumer-grade" or amateur tools? I think not!
A camera is just a lightproof box that is used to house the media that records the light, short of the "bells and whistles" features that add convenience, ease of use or capabilities the actual "box" has less to do with the quality of the image than the lens and the media that records the light.
Due to computer manufacturing and testing, lenses today have much greater quality capabilities. A Carl Zeiss professional f2 or faster multi-coated prime lens will produce a much better quality image than a Topcon consumer grade f4.5 or slower zoom lens. Wide-angle photography lenses have greater quality issues especially with digital due to the angle of reflectance of the light hitting the digital sensors. Most digital sensors have greater insensitivity to angled light. The very design of the SLR requiring a large amount of space (for mirror and shutter operations) between the back of the lens and the film or media plane makes quality wide-angle photography problematic.
Often photographers will use digital 'special effects' to mask or cover up quality issues. It takes extensive training and practise to be able to move beyond the simplest capability of digital morphing software. Digital editing, done properly, is a great tool to enhance and reduce inherent lens problems, distortions and aberrations. Great digital editing should improve the image without calling attention to itself.
In the hayday of film, several times a year film characteristics would be improved so the output quality of your film camera would improve. Today the same is true, to an extent, with digital as they upgrade the cameras opperating system or the post-capture processing software. The main problem is the digital camera sensor is only as 'new' as the original manufacture date of the camera, ultimately a professional is forced into upgrading their professional camera more frequently then they ever would have their film equipment.
Unlike the random pattern of film grain and the reprocity sensitivity of film to light, digital capture is a very logarithmic linear mathematical equation. This has its strengths and its weaknesses. When properly processed, professional digital will produce a better image than film. Consumer digital cameras have major problems in high-contrast lighting situations as the white parts of the image will look overly bright, harsh and blown-out. In dark situations a consumer-quality digital camera will have focus and noise problems.
Throughout the photographic process decisions are made as to which lens, camera, media, film, exposure, ISO, speed, development time, temperature of the lights, when to press the shutter, etc. and each of these decisions will ultimately affect the look and quality of the final product.
I believe a consummate professional will begin with the end use in mind and decide without compromise to use the best tools, settings, media and processes to deliver the best quality possible for that particular project. If the photographer doesn't have the best equipment for the job, they shouldn't be doing that job! The person who compromises this approach by going the easiest, cheapest route and using the 'one camera w/zoom lens fits all' approach is really just an 'advanced amateur' rather than a true professional.