Darkroom Background – Digital Future

Photographers of my generation (40 or older) remember photography as a two-sided coin. There was the taking of the picture; be it sports, nature, or whatever. But there was also the developing of the picture; be it B/W, slides, or color. Cameras, light meters, and flash units were expensive, but that was still only half the cost of a true photographer. Many photographers, myself included; had almost as much invested in their darkroom as they did in camera gear.It was a sad day; when in college, they announced it would be their last year of having a darkroom. It felt like they had ripped one of my arms out. It felt like half of everything I knew suddenly was irrelevant and unimportant. It made me question the rest of my photography experience as well. I mean; if they got rid of darkrooms, could traditional photography be that far behind? At that point; I asked myself, “Have I wasted 20 years of my life?”The answer to that question for me and several million others out there is a resounding, “NO!” We have not reached the end of the road. We have entered a new chapter in the book of life and for many of us this is where the story gets really exciting. The mechanics of good photography involve knowing the mechanics of good art. Regardless if you use 35mm, digital, or even video you still need to know things like: the rule of thirds, framing, and depth of field. Light, lines, and balance have much more to do with “how” you see verses “what” you see with.The same is true of the digital darkroom that we call the computer. Photography is still a two- sided coin. There is taking the picture and there is enhancing the picture. Before we used enlargers, timers, and chemicals; now we use, computers, software, and media card readers. It may all be overwhelming at first (I know it was for me.) But look at it this way; after two or three hours at your computer, have you ever been told you smell like chemicals?Skills like cropping, dodging and burning are still used in all major photo-editing software. In fact, the things that would have taken hours in the darkroom can often be done in seconds. When it comes to dodging (making a certain area lighter) things have become incredibly easier. How many of you still have half a dozen specialized dodging tools laying in a closet somewhere? If you wanted to combine images in a darkroom it took hours to produce and years of experience to make it look real. Now a days, two or three images can be combined in just minutes and still look VERY realistic!If you remember back to how long it took you to master your darkroom skills, it probably won’t take you as long to learn new computer skills. For those of you who are hesitating because of cost; I can remember spending $1500.00 to set up a darkroom and thinking that was a good deal. At today’s prices, you can get a really good computer and excellent photo-editing software for less money than that.We who have documented the past must embrace the future. Photography is NOT a dead and buried art form. Every advertiser still uses photography. Every high school student still wants senior portraits. Every Mother still wants a photo of her new born baby. The need for good photography has not disappeared, it has simply evolved. If every mechanic quit; every time a new car was introduced, the world would be in big trouble. Do not fear the future, be the future. Show the world that creativity never dies, and join us in the digital age.

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