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November 27, 2002

Digital Photography Musings

Friedrich --

"But what about the printer?"

That was my main worry a while back, when I was lusting to get myself a digital still camera. The cameras finally seemed tolerably good and tolerably priced. But the printers ...

I didn't like the expense -- refilling all those damn ink wells! -- and I worried that the prints wouldn't last long before fading. Also, since I already have a good b&w laser printer, I wasn't eager to clutter up the work space with yet another gizmo.

I want one, I want one ... No, actually, I can wait

When I finally sprang for the camera about six months ago, I decided that my way of resolving the printer question would be by sliding into "waiting until they get better" mode.

What prompts this posting is that I just realized that not only have I not yet bought a color printer, I haven't yet wanted to make a color print. I'm still in "waiting till they get better" mode, and am perfectly happy there. The fact is, or has proved (to my surprise) to be, that I find storing photos on my hard drive and looking at them on the computer monitor not just an adequate substitute for storing and leafing through traditional prints, but much superior to it.

This isn't just a matter of editing fun with Photoshop, it's also a matter of sheer looking-at-'em pleasure. The photos look really, really good on screen -- that beaming CRT glow gives them a kind of glamor. I can make them larger and smaller at will, and I love being able to email them. Plus I can riffle through them pretty easily. Despite hard-drive clutter, my digi-photos are much more accessible to me than my old on-paper photos are in the boxes and bins where they're heaped. So I enjoy them more.

I seem to remember that you've entered the digi-still-photo world yourself. Have you found this to be the case too?

Assuming my experience reflects that of other users, I wonder what this means for photography. I'm happier with virtual photography than I am with hard-copy-centric photography, not just as somebody who dislikes the smell of chemicals but simply as someone who enjoys looking at photographs. Will the primary life (not just the production but the viewers' experience) of photos soon start to be onscreen rather than on paper? Myself, I'll always have some framed photos out and on display. But I suspect the great majority of my photos will accumulate on my hard drive, thence never to take on existence in the physical realm. And that's fine by me.

I still crave a good color printer but now consider buying one such a luxury that I may never get around to making the purchase; they're always getting better and cheaper. Plus, I'm rather enjoying the pleasures of holding off -- the Wife claims that I enjoy waiting on a purchase more than actually making it. What I really crave these days is Iphoto, a Mac image-management program that friends tell me makes virtual photography even more handy than it already is. But that'll have to wait till we move up to OSX, a daunting prospect.

Do you suppose printer manufacturers are worried about this?



posted by Michael at November 27, 2002


Yes, indeed, I think they are worried. That's why the prices keep dropping and the product keeps getting better.

My digital photo experience squares with yours. I have no desire to print most of my stuff out, but I take a massive amount of pictures, usually in spurts of alleged creativity. I also think there's a market for dead-easy photoblogging software, since a lot of people would be happy to take a snap and put it up, but they would sooner die than type their thoughts into the internet.

One thing I miss is the ease of handing out extra piccies. Sadly, not everyone I know is online with a broadband connection. No matter how much I goad them.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on November 27, 2002 2:37 PM

Nothing's changed: most photos will basically stay unseen for their lifetimes, whether it's in shoeboxes, in photo albums, or on hard drives. If you want to keep a photo for posterity, get it printed, though: do you have computer files from 15 years ago? Can you read them?

If you're not doing a lot of photo printing, you have a good laser printer, and you don't want extra clutter, then it makes all the sense in the world for you not to get a printer. On those few occasions when you do want to print photos out, get it done professionally it will look bettter, and it won't cost any more than buying printer, ink cartridges, etc. I use Luster on Avenue B.

My problem with digital photography is that if you're using a camera which costs less than about $3000, the end result still looks crap: flat, with weird colours, digital artifacts, etc etc. Which is why I gave away my Canon G2 and bought a Voigtlander Bessa R instead. It works without batteries! The pictures are razor-sharp! You can't press the wrong button by mistake! No more spending hours in Photoshop! Bliss...

Posted by: Felix Salmon on November 27, 2002 2:46 PM

I'm enjoying my Nikon digi-camera, but I confess I sometimes long to use a disposable film camera instead. Drop it a few times, maybe kick it around, snap some of my lousy photos, then drop the whole thing off at the photo shop.

Hey, I could use a digi-camera, and then sometimes use a disposable film camera too.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 29, 2002 8:02 PM

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