Toronto. As digital overrides film (analogue), the messy wet darkroom gives way to computer-based image correction and inkjet printing. Digital makes technically perfect images a snap while still demanding an artist’s eye to find a subject and take a photo that is more than just a snap shot! And the cost of materials is reduced to paper and ink for those shots deemed necessary as prints.
For film, negative sleeves offer a place to note the client/project, date, subject matter etc. This is greatly simplified in digital images through keywords, captions, etc. that allow fast searches on the computer. Such data are imbedded in image files (EXIF etc.) making every file’s background material portable.
But what about losses? Computer files are stored on a mechanical hard drive or a solid state drive. Backups to another drive or the cloud are a MUST to anticipate the inevitable error, goof, or failure that deletes the original file(s). I recently bought a four terabyte portable drive to back up my images and files. A failure of an internal drive years ago taught me how important it is to back up all critical files and images. I managed to recover my data but it was slow and messy without solid backup material.
Another issue with digital images is that the standard and means to view the images have a rather short life in the full scheme of things. Film negatives and prints can be viewed by the eye. Digital files need a suitable computer plus a viewer or editor application. The current file standard is JPEG (or JPG) but the advent of short videos and stills in smartphones has shifted the standard to something labelled HEIC.
Even RAW files vary. Camera makers bring out newer versions of their RAW files with newer camera models rendering older versions of RAW files obsolete. Adobe countered by offering to save RAW files as DNG files instead hoping DNG would last. Now competitors to Adobe Lightroom are arguing that you lose some fine detail and other critical data by converting from a RAW format by the camera maker to DNG format.
And as we see a shift in storage media over time from eight inch floppies, to 5 1/4, to “hard” case floppies, to hard drives, to DVDs, to SSDs, to the cloud, etc., it becomes potentially harder and harder to reliably save and view digital images across the years. As resolution increases, so do demands on the hardware. A couple of decades ago most digital images were around one megapixel in size. Today 60 megapixel images are not uncommon to professionals. Four decades ago I used a 10 Mb hard drive. three decades ago I used 40 Mb to 100 Mb drives. Today I have 2 Tb and 4 Tb drives.
Digital images are sweeping, fast, easy, and complicated all in one.