Are you on the cusp of a wild and exciting adventure in photography? Are you full of anticipation but unsure of your tools? There’s a big question out there waiting for you, and the truth is that you’ll only really know the answer once you’re already pot committed. Whether to be practical and go digital or purist and analogue is a question that all us budding David Baileys have to ask ourselves at some time or another. It may be the case that you appreciate the value of learning the basics, getting in close with the raw mechanics and staying true to the purest form of the art by going trad with film. But here we’ll discuss why every beginner should invest in a DSLR – never mind for now that the arguments on the side of SLR are just as compelling.
With digital you can make mistakes, and as a beginner, especially, that’s no bad thing. You can keep thousands of images on your computer and analyse what you do and don’t like about them. You still have to be familiar with the manual settings on your digital camera, and the principals that guide those settings are the same as with traditional formats. Also, not everyone is taking a photography course in order to have access to a darkroom. Digital images can easily be shared or kept online on sites like Flickr, where other people can critique your work – a process that can prove very valuable to your development if you take full advantage of it.
The true quality of an image can only be appreciated when it’s blown up. Purists argue that film’s grain produces more beautiful results and that’s true. There’s no arguing with that. Side by side, film looks better. But… and this is important as well, digital imagery is catching up. Every year those differences in quality become less noticeable. It’s even possible digital will surpass film, but for now the cameras that come closest cost far more than a beginner or enthusiast would ever dream of paying (unless they just won the lottery).
When you’re just starting off it’s not really so much about pure image quality as learning to compose a great shot. With that ability to take multiple images you really get the chance to play with your settings – using all the manual features that you would be using if working with film – and then reviewing all that work later, taking note of how each change in aperture, speed etc can affect exactly the same subject. Equally, you’ll be able to analyse how your adjustments to the composition can have a different impact on your audience.
With none of the kind of restrictions on the sheer volume of pictures that you can take in comparison to what you experience with an analogue camera, you’ll find that you have far more freedom to explore your subjects and themes creatively, and really find out what kind of photographer you want to be. After all, the important thing is that you enjoy yourself – and that’s true for everything.