Monday, April 28, 2008

High ISO Changing The Way We Work

Less is more.

For the small group of photo luddites who still cling to film cameras, praying for a revival of old school technology, it's time to give up and join the future...before it's too late! Not only has digital changed the nature of photography and related businesses, but it has also changed the way we work and the type of equipment we use to get the job done.

What good photographer wouldn't want a couple of 4800 watt second Speedo packs, or half a dozen 102 heads, or 15 heavy duty light stands that can reach to the sky? The answer to that question has abruptly changed and the affects on the bottom line, budgets, travel, hiring assistants etc... have changed with it. For the old-school photographer, still trying to market himself or herself with the tired film-is-better mantra, budgets will soon push these stragglers into the 21st century.

No less than 2 years ago, I was contemplating re-building my equipment / lighting arsenal to its former glory. A few years of a slowing economy and shrinking business prospects had eaten away at my gear and patience. With the digital revolution and web technology changing the way I deal with clients, it seemed like time to re-invest in myself and get the ball moving forward again. To facilitate this new outlook and motivation, I decided to piece together some new equipment and a new attitude. Thank goodness my lack of funds restrained me from re-purchasing almost all of the bulky, expensive, workhorse gear that once lined the walls of my studio.

The newer DSLR's have made it possible and even reasonable to shoot the average assignment at much higher ISO's than would be prudent with film cameras. Large format shooters are losing ground to studios using 12, 16 and 21 mega pixel digital cameras, that can match the output of most med-format gear and give 4X5 transparency film a run for its money. All of this at higher ISO's than ever thought possible! This is effectively changing the game plan for location and studio shoots, where bulky, powerful strobes were once king. Some of this outdated, traditional gear, gathering dust in the corner, while newer, lighter and less powerful lighting units are taking over. The shrinking value of this older lighting equipment evident by its falling re-sale value at your local camera store.

If you haven't read the best-selling book, "Who Moved My Cheese", by Spencer Johnson, now would be a good time. Do it before you make your next gear purchase and thank me later.

Robert Bean said...

I agree that the new technology is a boon to the photographer, but many people don't realize that it is also a boon to the fine artist (and not just because it makes our jobs easier when photographing our own work). Just like traditional printmaking techniques became the province of the fine artist, I believe that film will as well (in fact, I've seen a lot of this in play already). The great thing about a new technology replacing an older one is that it frees that older technology up from the constraints and perceptions that were once pinned to it. I'm looking forward to the wonderful things that fine artists will do with traditional film in the coming years.