I’ve recently been working on a lecture about my history with digital art. Here is part three of three.

My photography, and most everyone else’s, has been greatly affected by the digital age. I was an early adopter of digital. I bought my very first digital camera back at the turn of the century. It was a Nikon Coolpix 3.1 megapixel camera that I bought in the year 2000 ( a year that was once way off in the future and is now way off in the past). It cost a lot of money, somewhere around $800, but I was glad to be going digital. I don’t have any nostalgia for the era of film.

Before the age of the smartphone if you wanted to take photos you had to carry a camera. Around 1991 I bought my first pocket camera. It was a 35mm Olympus Stylus camera that was about the size of a large bar of soap. It wasn’t as small as today’s pocket cameras but it was small enough to carry with me every day. I became known as the guy who always had a camera so on occasion people would ask me to take a picture for them. That never happens anymore since everyone carries a camera now. Everyone is the guy who carries a camera.

I kept the prints from my film days in photo albums. In the early years of digital I kept that up because there was no other way to show people my photos. They weren’t going to look at photos on my computer. It was too inconvenient. I’d print them up myself at 4×6 inches and put them in albums for people to look at. My very last album has the date on it of April 2004 so I kept printing for four years after I went digital. It was only when I saw portable digital viewing devices on the horizon that I stopped printing my photos. It took a while to finally buy a digital photo album though. I got the first generation iPod Touch in September of 2007 for just this purpose but I had been looking around for something similar for years before I bought that one.

The initial price of going digital in 2000 was high but the cost of shooting and processing was low. A roll of film cost somewhere around $6 for 24 exposures and getting prints made was around $10. Digital had no film costs and I was printing the photos myself so it was cheaper but eventually I stopped printing them and had no cost.

No cost shooting also opened up street photography for me. I had tried it before and even bought a special film camera for it in the 1990s but it didn’t work out. I never got the hang of it and it was way too expensive to burn off shot after shot hoping to get something good. My street photography aspirations were put on hold.

Digital photography added one more thing to photography in general and that was instant results. That was a big thing. I could see if I got the shot right away. In the film days I had to wait until the film was processed, printed, and I could pick it up at the store to see the results. There was always a bit of excitement as I thumbed through the photos but there was inevitably disappointment too. I, and usually everybody else, missed more shots then I got. Plus whatever gathering or event I was taking photos at was long over so there were no second chances. With digital I’ve go the LCD screen to preview the photos before and after I take them. I can always take another a few seconds later if I decide I don’t like what I see.

It took one more innovation a few years after going digital to really affect my photo making. That was burst shooting. That’s when a camera will take multiple pictures as long as you have your finger on the button. My early digital cameras had poor burst shooting if any. There was a lot of lag time between photos as it saved them. I never really used it much. But then one of my new cameras, probably one I bought around 2008, had a burst mode that really worked. It was instantaneous as long as there was a lot of light and the shutter speed was fast.

Burst mode really opened up street photography for me. I like to take candid street photos so I stand far away so as not to bother people and take photos. With burst mode I could capture gestures, movements, changes in expression, and generally have a better chance of getting a good photo. A lot of photography is playing the odds. You have a better chance of getting a good photo if you take a thousand pictures as opposed to a hundred. Shooting in burst mode I can take about 5,000 photos in a five hour period when I’m down in NYC taking street photos. That would be near impossible and too expensive to do with film.

Sports mode on my camera has also changed my shooting. That’s a mode that’s made for taking photos of moving things. It keeps the autofocus moving and refocuses between shots. I’m pretty sure this mode was available on film cameras but I never used it. I never had a camera fast enough to exploit it and I wouldn’t want to burn through all that film anyway. With digital photography fast and cheap is built in. I only started using the mode when I started photographing bicyclists on the days they close Park Avenue to cars. I had been avoiding the mode until I got a new camera and decided to give it a try. Along with burst mode it worked great. It’s been a staple of mine ever since.

The digital age also changed post processing of photos. I was once limited by what a photo lab could do for me. I’d occasionally get 8×10 inch photos made but everything else was 4×6 inches. Now I can print them just about any size I want them. And then there is Photoshop. We can now manipulate photos in ways that weren’t even dreamed of in the film days. There are all the basics a photo lab could have done such as adjusting color and exposure but digital photo apps are so much more.

I have an iPad these days and not only can that take photos but there are tons of apps available to manipulate those photos. I look for apps that can do at least one thing well and juggle between them. I treat each app as if it were a layer effect. I do the effect, save the photo, open it in the next app, apply the effect, and repeat until I’m satisfied. A photo viewer that also edit your photos? Who could have ever dreamed that could happen in the pre-digital days.