This weekend faced with a mountain of work from a few successful photography trips I started to think about the biggest pitfalls of digital photography. Sure you always hear about all the great things that digital photography affords, but seldom do you see a concentrated discussion of the pitfalls the medium presents. With out further adieu here are what I consider to be the 5 Biggest Digital Photography Pitfalls…
Honorable Mention: A Dirty Sensor
Although I have been shooting digitally full time since 2004 I’ve yet to become complacent about dealing with a dirty digital sensor. By most standards I’m rather meticulous with my gear and do everything I can to minimize dust getting on my sensor. Yet every time I’m working on an image and have to go through the routine of spotting, my blood pressure starts to rise.
It’s great to see that new approaches are being taken by camera manufacturers to deal with this, but it makes my current situation no less aggravating. For images I consider important I find it extremely bothersome that I’m losing data. The more dust on the sensor, the more I lose valuable data. When you think about it the fact that so many people are willing to accept this level of data loss is astounding. In the days of film if images came back with black spots or holes in the film in an equivalent fashion, that stock of film would be run out of the market. I suppose its a reflection of the balance that has been struck between convenience and quality.
5. Gear Envy
This isn’t completely unique to the world of digital photography, but “Gear Envy” is definitely a more common pitfall for digital photographers. Now that cameras are essentially small computers, a similar faster product release cycle to desktop computing now exists resulting in a sizable number of technology and feature developments to discuss or lust after. True to the essence of human nature, reasoning by association, photographers are prone to the thinking that great photographs come from great camera gear. As a result endless discussions take place between photographers, online and in person, about what gear they use and what gear they want to purchase. Ironically if as much time and energy were put into honing ones technical or creative skills, those with “Gear Envy” might see the improvement in their work that they’re after. After all it’s not the equipment that makes a great photo, it is the skill and vision of a photographer that makes a great photo.
4. File Organization
The virtual and physical organization required of digital photography can be an all consuming process and for most the task is an afterthought or too overwhelming to think about. The result is scattered and disorganized folders of photographs on ones hard drive or other chosen form of storage media. In extreme cases the result is the loss of photographs.
This past year software companies like Adobe and Apple have released applications, Lightroom and Aperture respectively, to tackle this problem. Realistically though the success of addressing this pitfall lies not with products produced by software companies, but the photographer. Ultimately personal discipline and consistency, just as in the days of film, is the only thing that can truly address this universal challenge.
3. Backup Paranoia
Ever have that lingering thought in your mind that maybe you didn’t lock your car, so you either walk back to check or reactivate your car alarm?
In that same vein of paranoia digital photographers have multiple ways of losing their images and can find themselves in a similar cycle of double checking. Complicating the matter is that digital media (hard drives, DVDs, etc.) can fail all too easily and unpredictably. If that weren’t enough when backing up hundreds or thousands of images the sheer quantity produces a QA dilemma. A photographer isn’t going to have enough time in his day to open every image to make sure that one or more files wasn’t corrupted in the backup process. Sure system software and DVD/CD burning software will verify the backup or duplication process, but it only takes one corrupted file to ruin a photographer’s day and embed this paranoia forever.
2. So Many Photos, So Little Time
I’ve often said that human nature predicates, no matter how well intentioned, a person is prone to impulsively act on their urges or desires until they reach a limit forced upon them.
In the world of digital photography that directly translates to shooting until you have no more room to store your images on your compact flash cards. There is just something inherently calming to a photographer knowing that they did everything they could to capture the moment. If the moment sought after wasn’t captured then it’s much easier to blame the lack of capacity versus accepting ones individual culpability of missing the opportunity. The result is taking home more images, of quality or not, that can humanely be processed, printed and shown. There are likely other reasons why we may take so many digital photos. It could be as simple as “because we can”, but the universal pitfall remains the same. Just because we can take an infinite number of photos doesn’t mean that we can process them all.
1. Over Dependence on Adobe Photoshop
I’ll go out on a limb and say that most photographers have a secret love-hate relationship with Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop creates a world of endless possibilities for photographers. Photography purists can clean up their image to accurately represent the scene they photographed and those with more of an artistic slant can transform their photo(s) into a unique creation. The problem with Photoshop is that it has quickly become a crutch for photographers to make up for their technical shortcomings. We all have areas that we need to improve upon, but more times than not when out in the field I’ll hear the commonly used phrase “I’ll just fix it in Photoshop later.”
For many Photoshop is the fast path to perfecting ones image, even if it were possible to avoid that work in the first place by learning the technical skills to do the same thing in camera. There’s no point not to take advantage of Photoshop’s functionality, but at the same time there is no reason to avoid learning how to maximize the use of your camera to avoid extra or unnecessary post-processing.
With that off my chest, now I need to get back to finding, processing and backing up my images from my last 5 or 6 photo shoots…