This article was written by the New York Institute of Photography, America’s oldest and largest photography school. NYI provides professional-level training via home study for photographers who want to give their images a professional look, and perhaps earn extra income with their camera.
What is the Digital Revolution?
While the camera manufacturers extol the virtues of the digital camera, the digital revolution in photography is much more sweeping than that. These are the most exciting times in photography since George Eastman introduced the first Kodak cameras. Photography, in the hands of thousands of passionate amateurs and a few professionals, began to change the world. Today, that change continues.
For professionals, the heart of the digital revolution is the electronic darkroom and digital output even more than in the use of digital cameras.
Many professionals still use film to record their photographs. They then create high-resolution scans from their slides and negatives, converting the photographs into digital form. Professionals know that many of the greatest benefits of digital photography stem from being able to quickly correct, enhance, and manipulate a photograph using image-editing software in the computer-usually called the "digital darkroom" or the "electronic darkroom." In the computer environment, it's possible to make dramatic changes to a photograph in minutes that would have taken hours, even days, in the traditional wet darkroom.
The Digital Darkroom:
Adobe Photoshop overwhelmingly dominates the professional image-editing software category. While there are many other image-editing software programs on the market, Photoshop has been the dominant one for nearly twenty years because photographers, graphic artists, and printers use it. Other programs, including Adobe's Photoshop Elements, don't have the features those professionals in these different industries demand. At NYI, we often speak with photographers who have Photoshop "sitting on their desktop." They purchased this complicated program, but they haven't really figured out how to use it. We created our Complete Course in Digital Photography-which includes twenty lessons in Photoshop-to help photographers learn how to use Adobe Photoshop.
Professional photographers need to obtain high-quality, high-resolution scans from their images. They're not likely to use a flatbed scanner to scan prints, since those prints are a second-generation image made from a negative. Professionals more commonly use a film scanner to scan the original slide or negative, or take their image to a service bureau for a high-resolution drum scan. Another option is to have Kodak Photo-CD scans made from their images. Photo-CD is an entirely different product from Picture-CD, a low/medium scan that the photo industry supplies to consumers and family photographers. Both are supplied on CDs, but Photo-CD provides multiple scans of each image ranging from thumbnail-size to extremely high-resolution scans.
Sometimes, it is necessary to make a scan from a print. Perhaps you're working with historic photographs or other prints for which there is no available negative. It is possible to produce high-quality scans using a flatbed scanner, but that requires training. NYI's Complete Course in Digital Photography provides complete training in the use of a flatbed scanner, how to scan through Photoshop, and when and how you go about getting scans made from slides and negatives.
• A breaking news photograph is flashed around the world just minutes after a photojournalist captures it.
• Proud parents e-mail pictures of a newborn baby to grandparents, friends, and relatives and also order a set of mugs with the baby's picture, all with a few key strokes.
• AA medical specialist analyzes the latest X-ray of a critically ill child in a hospital ten thousand miles away.
• Six-story billboards and complete bus wraps promote promote the latest fashion campaign from the hottest designer of the moment.
• Only hours after you find a great deal at the flea market, you post the item for sale at the big online auction site.
These are all examples of the revolution in digital photo output. It has affected our entire society-the way news is transmitted, the way families interact, the fields of medicine and science, advertising and commerce. Digital output options have changed the rules of the game-every game.
In the world of photography, the change has been sweeping. Photographers who used to make black-and-white or color prints of their pictures in the traditional "wet" darkroom now use inkjet or dye sublimation printers.
At NYI we judge a large national photo contest that offers tens of thousands of dollars of prize money. We look at thousands and thousands of prints submitted by amateurs from all around the world. Nowadays, about 50% of the prints we see are made on inkjet printers. The amazing thing is how bad many of the prints are. How many potentially winning images are disfigured by banding, bad ink sets, poor color management, and all kinds of other printing mistakes.
In NYI's Complete Course in Digital Photography we teach our students the fundamentals of all types of digital output and provide extensive training in printmaking using photo-quality inkjet printers.
We don't think the digital revolution in photography has come to an end as yet. Despite the sweeping changes in the way images are captured, manipulated, transmitted, and printed, there's more to come. We anticipate new tools in the near future that will help photographers make images that we can't even imagine today and bring them to a bigger audience faster than ever. The power of photography continues to grow.