is there any traditional photography digital can not replace? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

is there any traditional photography digital can not replace? platinum printing?

-- Jeff Liao (, March 06, 2002


Replace? With the same sharpness, smoothness, detail, accuracy, what? Traditional can not, will not, and should not be so cheapened or replaced. It may be an alternative method, but never a replacement.

-- Steve Gangi (sgangi@, March 06, 2002.

Wet plates. 8 hour star trail exposures. 20x24 Polaroid. Any contact printing method from an original negative. The whole thing.. from negative to finished print - contact or enlarged- when the power is out. Shooting in temperature extremes for weeks at a time. Not having to use batteries to keep the old view cameras & lenses working.

And... there is no such thing as a fuc**** DIGITAL DEARDORFF!

-- Dan Smith (, March 06, 2002.

It is not the "winner take all" proposition that your question implies.

Given enough money, probably not. But until you get into spending something like US $30-50,000 (and this level on investment has remained pretty steady through the past 5 years while the quality bought for that money has increased) the answer is yes, there are quite a few traditional tools, techniques and imaging possibilities that cannot be replaced with digital work. I say this as someone who works regularly with both media.

There are also many things that at least a partial digital workflow allows one to do that cannot as easily or as quickly be done with traditional tools.

Dan Burkholder makes great platinum prints from digitally output collage negatives, but he shoots on film, scans the negatives, combines them in Photoshop and outputs the result as the negative he uses to make his prints with.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, March 06, 2002.

The fun part!

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, March 06, 2002.

Well... we could wait 150 years and see if the digi files are still printable?

-- Fred Leif (, March 06, 2002.

The stains on my clothes, the fumes in my nose, the black fingernails on my left hand, the running water, trips to my supplier for my fix of paper and film.

-- Ed (, March 07, 2002.

Forgot one... a big one. The ability to use a camera 100 years old to take excellent images with todays film.

-- Dan Smith (, March 07, 2002.

Ack. The answer is YES. There is traditional photography that digital cannot replace, ALL OF IT. There is a quality that you get from a real hand printed image on real photographic paper made with real chemicals that can never be replaced digitally. No matter how much my friend at nikon tries to persuade me to " crossover " I feel that the beauty of traditional photography will never be replaced by digital. If it ever comes to pass... Luckily I will be long gone and will not be around to see it.

-- Stacie Milmeister (, March 07, 2002.

i don't understand why any of you are threatened by this question. i dont even understand why you think this is a troll - it sounds like a reasonable question to me, and, IMHO, the answer is, given a few more years of technological development, no. film is a damn good hard=copy way to capture and store information, but at some point, digital capabilities will equal film in its ability to capture and store visual information. there is no doubt that film processing is a relatively messy and time consuming process, and it requires considerable specialized knowledge. if i recall correctly, it takes something like a 600MB file to equal the amount of information on a 4x5 negative (please correct me if i am wrong) - personally, i doubt if it will be even 5 years from now before digital photography will reach that type of capability. i dont think scanning backs are the answer - it will require actual large scale CCDs to capture near- instantaneous images and facilitate very long exposure times if needed. if i guess correctly, it will not be the photographic industry that pushes this development - it will be NASA and the high- end astronomical institutions who pump billions of dollars into R&D efforts like this. but we will be the beneficiaries. i do, however, believe that a digitally-created "negative" on something akin to a 4x5 sheet of film will long remain the primary method of long-term archival image storage. i can only hope that technology can make this possible BEFORE all the companies who currently make large format film products decide that it is a losing proposition and terminate those products.

-- jnorman (, March 07, 2002.

I shoot film. My images will be around long after I'm gone (provided they still make photographic paper, but I can go back to alternative printing if they don't). I shoot digital. In one or two decades, something more advance comes along. Replacing whatever digital systems we have now. Will my digital images be locked forever in current storage? Or do I spend more money making conversion to new technology? Will digital ever fully replace traditional? Just a thought.

-- Aaron (, March 07, 2002.

I don't think we are "threatened" by digital so much as annoyed by the "resistance is futile" attitude that so often goes along with it. I like film. Period. I like loading the camera with rolls or sheets, I like developing, I like printing. Everything about it. I really like the way the finished product looks. I've used film for years an have a fair idea what it can do. I'm also an electronic engineer and have a better idea than most what digital can do. I'm fluent in Photoshop. Why spend 10K to 50K dollars for a "decent" digital back, when a box of film costs so much less, and does not require a computer to view the pictures? Just because some of us prefer film, does not mean we are a bunch of Luddites.

-- Steve Gangi (, March 07, 2002.

to follow up just a bit - obviously the consumer market will go completely digital very soon. for more critical and fine art work, it will take longer for technology to find an equally compelling reason to move in that direction, but it will, at some point become equal to if not better than conventional film. i think there will always be a place in the profession for something akin to film, again a digital negative of some type, as a primary and archival storage medium - something that will not rely on any type of current technology to reproduce, and which will be as effective as film has always been in this area.

i also think of the analogy of digital audio. in my spare time, i run a small recording studio. i apprenticed at a recording studio way back in the 1970s while in college, and have always enjoyed doing that - my wife is a musician and we have actually made two CDs that are selling well. anyway, while there are still a few analog diehards out there, almost the entire recording industry has switched over to digital recording systems. no, it is not perfect yet, and you make certain sacrifices in audiophile level qualities, but the benefits are nothing short of staggering - 10 years ago, a recording device like i now own would have cost over $1 million - i bought mine for $2000 - it provides literally total control over every aspect of the sound, and does it at extremely high-quality. technology has given the average person the ability to make CD-quality recordings in their own homes at a price anyone can afford. digital photography will soon get there - it has the potential to create a camera the size of a point and shoot that will have the capability to render image quality surpassing that of today's large-format film-based cameras.

in the end, there will always be a certain percentage of artists who will continue the tradition of chemical photography because it is a valid, stable, and finely articulated medium. just as there are still lithographers, and people who bind books by hand, and any number of other similar pursuits. but it will be by choice, not because the digital medium is in any way inferior. it can only open new doors for us all to explore.

-- jnorman (, March 07, 2002.

When will digital equal the cost of film for the same amount of data and resolution? At around 50-75 cents a sheet of film I think it will be a very long time coming. Can you take your digital file and hold it up to the light to see what magic you have wrought?

-- Jeffrey Scott (, March 08, 2002.

"technology has given the average person the ability to make CD- quality recordings in their own homes at a price anyone can afford. "

But photographicaly, I have that now. Hey, maybe my old Eastman will end up in the corner of the front room like an old rinky tink piano coverd with doilies and fruit bowls (I was going to say photos, but they'll be in the LCD-wall paper). Since we got CD's no one plays the old upright beasts, and with digital floorboards, no-body's gonna take pictures either. Dean

-- Dean Lastoria (, March 08, 2002.

Eventually (sooner rather than later) no. In terms of the appearance, there is no inherent reason why ANY visual effect can't be produced or recorded digitally. What we SEE at the end of the day is simply color, hue, saturation, etc,. etc., all of which are effects that CAN be expressed in digital terms.

This doesn't mean digital will be the easiest or most enjoyable way to do things of course. I find printing Pt/Pd with in camera 12X20 negs more enjoyable than going thru all of the rigamorole to produce a digital neg or interneg, though others may feel differently.

I think what will be on the way out a lot faster than film is anguished discussions like this. The generation that feels terrified or threatened by things digital will be gone before film is, if film ever goes. People will choose traditional techniques because they've tried it all and enjoy the traditional approach, not because they look towards digital with a cross in hand and garlic around their necks.


-- Nathan Congdon (, March 09, 2002.

Yes, the magic of seeing an image appear on the paper...whether it is alternative or silver printing after all these years I still get a tingle when I see the image appear, and even more exiting when that image is perfect, just as you saw it in your mind.....I have yet to see a digital person say that!

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, March 09, 2002.

This reminds me of the typesetting business. I had a friend who was a hot metal typesetter. Phototype came along and he refused to move forward into this new technology. He ended up sitting at a desk proofreading! I was a phototypesetter for years; eventually desktop publishing came along and threatened the way I did business. I had two choices - learn the new technology, or perhaps end up sitting next to my friend proofreading! I chose to move forward. I still don't consider the quality comparable to phototype, but I no longer spend a fortune on chemicals and film, the effort to clean and rechemical the processor, and hours of time in pastup. If you don't move forward with technology, it eventually passes you by. I love photography - some of my fondest moments have been in a darkroom - but I also enjoy the freedom digital gives me to take tons of photos of anything and everything because I won't have to spend a fortune developing them to see which is the best! I also haven't had a single disappointment because the photo I thought I had didn't work, and the opportunity was gone forever! Love, document and appreciate what you've done, while opening your minds to what is new!

-- Dawn J (, April 18, 2002.

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