Working on our latest project, which will be one of our A5-sized photo albums – more details in early-2016, it has been a case of working with scans from 35mm negatives and slides.
Ah, they were the days. My first camera was a Cosmic Symbol, but then progressed to an Olympus OM10 - I did have a period using an OM30 but didn’t like the over-exposed results.
Most of my 35mm work was initially in black and white, as through the 1970s and 1980s that was the preferred medium for media work. Most magazines at the time used black and white illustrations, but did have colour pages. For colour Kodachome 25 was preferred, but its slow speed made it somewhat unsuitable for most press work. I did use colour print as well at times and even experimented with the APS-format.
What I do recall was the care and attention given to taking the images. It was important to get it right first time. At a push maybe two shots at different exposure but there was still the wait to see the results.
When I became a full time photo journalist in the late 1980s, the nature of the job meant that films could be developed immediately after covering a job. This was as instant as it got. It also meant that for other work it was possible for clients to see the results by the next day, or even later the same day. This was a fast-paced business but little did I know it would get quicker.
Enter digital photography. Initially equipment was expensive, write time to memory cards was slow and for some early cameras there was a noticeable delay between pressing the button and the shutter being activated. Fine for still items but requiring some mental calculations on when to press the shutter for moving subjects.
Now digital is the only way, but it brings with it demands from clients - and news editors - to get the images they want instantly. It means that on many occasions clients want to see the images on the camera as soon as they are taken and before any editing.
Today we may use software such as Photoshop to improve the image, but improving the photograph is nothing new - when printing negatives ‘Dodging and Burning’ were the Photoshop of the day.
So which do I prefer. It has to be digital. Images can be monitored and viewed in ‘real time’ and changes to both exposure and composition made instantly. A typical shoot may see upwards of 50 images taken whereas perhaps there would have been less than ten if taken on negative/slide film. But, and there is always a but! Digital images still need care and attention. They need archiving in a way that will preserve them - I would recommend using an archive drive and backing it up as well. But archiving is the easy bit - we must also ensure that these archived images are adequately catalogued. How many of us just put the images in a folder and leave the file name as the one the camera created. This can be fatal, it is amazing the number of images that are sent to us for possible use in our books that have the same file name - from different photographers. Most cameras allow the default file name to be changed and if it can be done then it is something that should be done. If the file name is left as default, or as it came out of the camera at least ensure that the date and time set are correct, at least that way there is some certainty on when the image was taken.
Steven Knight is a Transport Specialist who has over 40 years experience in the bus and rail industries as well as in specialist transport journalism. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists.