The Sexy Rockstar Digital Photos that I Do Not Have

It’s funny. I look back at our wedding photos (we’re approaching our 8th anniversary on September 1) and I am reminded of how much things can change in less than a decade. Not only have we all aged a bit (or as one author puts it, become a little ‘suburban soft’), but the photos themselves are clearly from a different era. The era of film. The era of print albums, not digital. The era before Photoshop Actions, where what you see is what you get.

The blue in my eyes is the real deal. It hasn’t been brightened or made more dazzling. My bouquet has not been ‘sharpened’ or made to look ‘vintage’ with a myriad of computerized enhancements. It is what it is. And there is an undeniable beauty in that. It’s honest. Real. There is no “rock star” veneer.

I can look at my photos and I remember the exact yellow of the roses in my bouquet. I can look at the faces of my loved ones and  know that they were not enhanced, modified, blurred, ‘dodged’, boosted or ‘lomo’ ed in the name of sexy photos.

Our wedding photos are not sexy. We do not look like rock stars. But they are authentic, and for that I love them.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t like the transformation that wedding photography has taken. Digital photography has been responsible for an explosion of creativity. Digital photography encourages photographers to experiment, to play, and to take risks because there are no rolls of film to run out of. Without the expense of film, digital photographers have the freedom to click, click, click, click, without worrying about the end of the roll. Some argue that there is a downside to this freedom, in that the photographer doesn’t “make each shot count” as they would if they were shooting in film. An interesting argument, but I think freedom enhances creativity.

And without the expense of film and darkroom equipment, it has become a whole lot easier to enter the photography profession.  I don’t have any stats, but I know for a fact that the amount of photographers out there making a living at taking photos has skyrocketed. (There are downsides to this.)

Nowadays, you don’t have to be messing around with toxic chemicals in a darkroom to make magic happen. Photographers with Photoshop skills can transform decent photos into downright dazzling photos. I know this firsthand. I dabble in photography with a Nikon D70s (a dinosaur to most digital photographers) and I’m blown away at what Photoshop Actions can do to transform my photos. It’s downright addictive!

Even though I embrace the digital age with open arms, I am nostalgic for film and I have huge respect for photographers who still shoot in film. Like Claire Lewis, a wedding photographer and author of Exposed: Confessions of a Wedding Photographer.

I loved Claire’s book (stay tuned for a review in the upcoming weeks) and I think she makes some really great points about shooting in film. And one of the strongest points is precisely what I discussed: the authenticity of it. (It’s funny because prior to reading Exposed, I honestly wondered if there were any wedding photographers out there who still shot with film.)

I don’t believe that film will ever die. Trends come and go, and I am certain that someday, couples will be clamoring for the honesty and nostalgia of film-based photos.

Until then, most of you will choose a digital photographer with a good grasp of Photoshop. Just make sure you choose her wisely. As I mentioned earlier, the digital age has sparked the entrepreneurial spirit in many men and women. And some will offer their services at a bargain price. But remember: if something is too cheap, somebody is paying. And that somebody might very well be you.

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  1. Posted by Bob Tribit on August 27th, 2009 at 11:47am

    An interesting post! As a wedding photographer that shoots digital there are definitely advantages to that medium. As you stated there is the ability to machine gun a wedding and take picture after picture as fast as the shutter and electronics will go.

    Unfortunately, if you take that approach you have a lot of the same pictures, and if you have a lot of a bad picture, you have a lot of pruning in the editing process. You pay for this approach somewhere. It's still best for the photographer, to nail exposure, composition, and then take a safety, which a film photographer may not have the option to do because they do indeed husband their available shots more.

    However, one of the big advantages is to completely turn upside and undermine the old way of doing photography. The hoarding of images, the exorbitant price gouging that occurs, the emotional and hard sales manipulation and tactics that has been a stain on the entire industry. With digital? The photographer is freed from that, they can build in the price to make a living and in return give the client all the pictures that they took and the client can make as many or as few as they want. A lot of guesswork is eliminated and the freedom to experiment is indeed there, because there is no longer a need to just nail and perfect the "nice photo" of hands folded, head tilted slightly, with a good background, because those are the money shots. We still take and give those, but we can offer so much more now.

    Artistically and professionally there is still much respect for film. However, practically we can follow a bride into a dark chapel and outside into a bright sunny day with the same camera body, and not rely on two bodies, two lens, each with different speeds of film.

    As for your D70s, that is a fine camera, and I would dare say nearing a cult classic. We still have D70s because they are just that good. Of course, we have D700s too, but the D70 series has everything you need in a camera...compact flash slot(your cards will still work if you upgrade to pro bodies), dual dials (for shutter and aperture), 1/500 flash sync speed (better than most pro bodies), and can use the full Nikon range of lenses unlike the D40, D50, & D60. We actually recommend the D70 in the courses we teach, you can find them used for $300 on craigslist...pair that with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D AF for $100 and you have a walk around camera that can take fantastic pictures.

    As for the new photographers? The craigslist $500/wedding churn and burn starting out photographer? A couple would be wise to verify at least the following: a portfolio of a complete wedding bests and a portfolio of the artist's bests and personality fit.

    Also congrats on your wedding pictures. Film is definitely considered classic/retro/cool and if you go by some purists it is the only real photography.
  2. Posted by Christina on August 27th, 2009 at 2:06pm

    Bob, thanks for offering up your perspective on this. It seems there is a disturbing increase in the number of 'shoot and burn' photographers. Hopefully couples out there will take your advice and make sure they view a portfolio. The bigger the portfolio, the better. In my opinion, wedding photos should be one of the last things that couples scrimp on. Photos are a lasting keepsake of your wedding. A tangible reminder of what (hopefully) was one of the best days of your life.
    As for the D70s, I agree that it is a good camera. But I see some of the shots out there taken by the D700, and well, you just can't beat the clarity. I'm saving my pennies:)
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