Why Do I Treat Digital Differently?

I have noticed a weird behavior on my part. When shooting film, I usually take the time to write down every shot in advance. I note the film that I’m going to use, the lenses, and many times the specific apertures. Subjects, angles, and how many shots to take of each are often included as well. However, when I use a digital camera, I never do that. I get an idea, and then almost immediately, start shooting. I have tried to be diligent in writing down digital shots, but I never seem to complete the task. Something in the back of my mind makes planning for digital shots seem to be a waste of time. Why is this? I have read comments from others where they say film makes them slow down. But why not with digital as well?

Significantly, I feel a little foolish when I plan digital shots. Planning digital shots just seems a little too pretentious, a little too formal. I don’t know how to interpret these feelings. I don’t seem to like digital images any less than film images or vice versa. But, that may be because I’m using digital cameras that are 6, 8, and 10 megapixels, and these resolutions are close to film. That being said, for some reason the process for using each is different, and it feels natural only to that medium. Every time I’ve tried just shooting film with no planning, after a few shots, I feel so guilty that I sit down and write out the shots.  

Perhaps, with digital, there is a sense of impermanence that runs deep in my subconscious. On the other hand, digital shooting may be analogous to buffet dining. Since there is no cost to experiment, food is piled onto plates for sampling and then blithely wasted without compunction or a second thought. However, when one has to acknowledge each food item’s cost, much more thought is given to each selection, and one only discards what is actually disliked. 

I think the dichotomy in my behavior is directly related to having a smartphone. All routine shots—parties, birthdays, something odd spotted on the street, dessert—I shoot with a smartphone. Smartphones teach that everyday photography is mundane, prosaic, and anyone can do it. When I pick up a digital camera, to some extent, I suppose it makes me feel the same way. Consciously, I know better. I have what, in their day, were advanced digital cameras that required a great deal of skill to use correctly. My Maxxum 7D was the best Minolta had to offer, but when I pick it up, my actions always belie my conscious beliefs.  

Since July, I have been creating a studio space to pursue my newly discovered artistic abilities, which now includes drawing, and a little painting, along with my photography experiments. I have props, backdrops, lighting, and platforms for designing compositions, and to-date, I have used the digital cameras solely to experiment with lighting. In the studio, have used the 35mm film cameras only for spur-of-the-moment shots. All purposeful photographs have been on medium format film because the Yashica Mat 124 feels like a studio camera more than the others. Why?—no idea, but clearly, 35mm film cameras have a comparatively different feel as well.  

When I notice a quirk or change in my behavior, I always stop to ask why. Now, having spent far too much time on this, I’ll drop it. I love the process of capturing images, and I enjoy looking at them. What else really matters???


  1. Loved your comparison of digital to a buffet. For some people it’s like fast food and they want everything supersized. When we took family vacations my dad liked to stop at a cafeteria when possible. Even then I greatly disliked all the choices that must be made just to eat a meal. I prefer not to choose something I know nothing about. I’ve eaten the same breakfast cereals for longer than I can remember. Setting up a 5DMk4 for the first time is insane. The plethora of menus and sub-menus can make your head spin. The focus parameters alone can make your eyes bleed! On the other hand, my film camera requires me to load a roll of Portra 160 film, and then decide what lens will be needed for the photo I want to shoot. No color space, no file size and type, no focus points, etc, etc. My attention is directed to the enjoyment of the meal and not to picking what to eat. Same end result but two different focus points.

    Great to see you starting your journey into the areas of drawing and painting. They will greatly enhance the journey and sometimes you will realize that a drawing or painting is more suited for capture of a scene than your camera.

    1. Hi Bill, I always look forward to your comments! They are always encouraging, insightful and contain helpful advice. And you are right about the crossover, I’ve had some success with drawing flowers!

      As I have come to see the relationship between photography, drawing, and painting, my appreciation for the beauty and quirks that I see in life has grown. Sometimes I feel like an child seeing snow for the first time!

      1. Jerome, It’s that childlike awe and wonder as well as giddy excitement that is so much a part of my film photography. I’ve recently been on a photo binge as the trees have finally begun turning color here in Dallas. It’s not a guaranteed event as many times the leaves just turn brown and fall to the ground. We finally got a hard freeze to help jump start the process. Anyway, as I’ve turned in the film to my lab I have been so excited to pick it up to see if I got what I saw. My friends at the lab humor me as I walk around excitedly talking about certain photos that I got and others that I missed but each one containing something new to learn. Always keep that childlike heart for discovery because that’s what allows you to enjoy and appreciate the beauty in that single flower bud or the light hitting your paint table. I’m over 40 years with this film thing and I still have the excitement of a child opening each gift on Christmas morning. May you have a warm and safe season with family and friends.

        1. Another wonderful comment!

          I had hoped for autumn colors, but rain and wind mostly ruined it here.

          It’s amazing how photography can engender such delight—-glad my flowers led me to it!

          Happy Holidays to you and yours!

  2. Enjoyed your explanation of the effect different cameras have on u. Sometimes we don’t have any answers but we feel it is necessary to fight with one’s self to reason why there are certain feelings about primarily the almost same thing. continue the good work. I enjoy reading all of the articles

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