Making The Switch (A Little Easier)
I have a friend who is just on the cusp of making the switch to digital. She’s an accomplished film shooter and feels it’s time to make "The Switch". So she’s easing in and got a leased Nikon and is having some frustrations (not with the Nikon specifically, but with the switch in general). So this one is for her and for those of you who might be going through the same thing. Here’s a really brief, and incomplete list of advicey kinds of bits that came to mind as I was packing for my LUMEN DEI trip this morning.
1. Digital is not just like film only different. When you swtich to digital you aren’t just switching one type of film stock for another, you’re switching paradigms, gear, workflow, business models, and billing practices. You’ll shoot differently, expose differently, and if you never did any of your own darkroom or lab work, that’s gonna change now too. Sometimes learning new things is so difficult because we fail to let go of our old paradigms – digital is a whole new world, so let go of everything you thought you knew and go in with eyes open and be prepared for a learning curve. Don’t panic, it’s all going to be ok.
2. The learning curve is inevitable, but you can make it easier on yourself and I’d recommend three books by my colleague Scott Kelby. Scott says he’s a fan of mine but as I’m a fan of his it’s more like a mutual admiration society, but it’s kind of exclusive so don’t go asking for membership or pool passes. Here’s my recommendation – go to scottkelbybooks.com and order these three books:
- The Digital Photography Book, Scott Kelby
- The Photoshop CS Book for Digital Photographers, Scott Kelby
- The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers, Scott Kelby
I know there are alot of books out there on these three subjects, but while Kelby is an excellent photographer and knows his stuff inside and out, it’s his ability to write and educate clearly, simply, and without condescension that sets him apart. That and an uncanny ability to presage the questions I have and answer them in the next paragraph. It’s pretty creepy, actually.
3. Now make sure you have Photoshop CS2 or CS3 now that it’s out, and Lightroom. Lightroom is so far beyond what I began with and starting out with it is, in my mind, totally crucial. I can’t speak highly enough of the program. Sit down and work through Scott’s three books – you’ll find the whole thing becomes much less intimidating with Scott teaching you. Trust me on this one.
4. If you’re heavily invested in optics from Nikon or another line you might want to stick with that brand when buying a digital camera, but my recommendation otherwise is Canon. The full-frame sensors are truly the holy grail, in my mind, of digital shooting. And only Canon gives you them. The 5D is an incredible camera. Some have asked me about the 1 series and while I’ll admit they’re amazing, my recommendation is to buy the 5D and spend the difference on an L series lens or two.(Unless you’re heading to Bhagdad and need the bomb-proofing and weather/dust seals) The bodies will all one day be obsolete but the lenses will last much, much longer. And they’ll have a visible effect on your work. I’m not bashing Nikon – the fact is both Nikon and Canon make a couple excellent cameras and a couple that are more like cheap toys for weekend warriors. I prefer Canon.
5. Go out and shoot, have fun, play with your camera. Shoot thousands of frames and delete them if you don’t like them. Learn to read your histogram, learn your white balance, shoot in RAW.
6. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or look for help. If you’re in Vancouver I’m available for coaching and I’m not as expensive as you think. Seriously.
I really believe that digital imaging is a gigantic step forward in the technology needed to take your vision and put it within the frame – the rewards, for me and countless others, are simply so much greater shooting in digital. But the transition can be intimidating. I hope some of this has helped. As always, questions are welcome. And if I don’t know the answer, I’m pretty sure it’s in something Kelby has already written.