On the rare occasions I have time for reflection, I'm amazed how quickly the digital revolution grabbed hold of photography, it took all the tacit assumptions and turned them on their heads! This was a rapid revolution which in particular transformed the process of portrait photography.
“Back in the day” the cost of film and processing forced a disciplined attitude to shooting, after an initial set up Polaroid (chargeable to the client) three to twelve frames were shot of each sitter depending on the client's budget. Needless to say this gave scant opportunity for creative expression, with so few frames to play with success was defined by the number of shots recorded with the sitter’s eyes open rather than the ascetic quality of the portrait! The arrival of digital cameras transformed this shooting process almost overnight, where a photographer was no longer limited by quantity of film stock in the bag, we suddenly had the freedom to clicked away until we got the shot! Another game changer was the ability to review the pictures just shot, arguably the most profound development.
The quality of any portrait is determined by many factors, pose, lighting, lens selection and image management to name just a few. The extra dimension the digital world offered was affordable retouching. Often referred to as airbrushing, literally inaccurate, but a nostalgic reference to the good old days when retouching was achieved courtesy of a skilled graphic artist armed with an array of tools which inevitably included an air brush! However professional photographers are today in a position to offer the entire production process in-house, the upside for the photographer is the ability to control the image from capture to output, the price paid is the endless hours spent at the workstation! Today photographers are in a position to produce better photography with faster delivery than ever before - an obvious benefit to the client.
In the heady days of the early naughties, there was much resistance to the concept of digital photography. The general perception was of low quality. Ad agencies were using Macs, but most photographers were still shooting on film, scanned and then refined and manipulated in Photoshop. The last fifteen years has seen the quality of images recorded by digital media improved exponentially. Sensor technology moved on to enable DSLR to use lenses as their focal length intended and continue to produce ever larger file sizes. More recently with the advent of the Canon 5DIII and its competitors, the ability to shoot in low light at high speeds, a significant development leading corporate photographers away from the almost inevitable requirement of shooting flash on camera, but rather towards natural ambient lighting. The functionality of cameras have also improved, making the task of image capture a happier experience, notwithstanding the ability to tether to external devices such as laptops or tablets to review photographs in real time, enabling photographers and clients to examine shots in forensic detail during a shoot.
The inevitable tide of technological development and the pressure of commercial competition will inevitably move photography soon to another stage ...............I can't wait!