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The Evolution of Photography: From Film to Digital Artworks

Written By Melisa Savickas

Have you ever wondered what Digital Photography is? Is it just about capturing an image without traditional film in camera? What about processing; is that automatically done these days? Lots of thoughts and plenty more answers!


The way things used to be.


I learnt photography on a Nikon and then Canon SLR. In the past, I used a film camera and had to be very sure of what my camera settings were, to take the photographs, as it was a lengthy and expensive process to see your images, unlike today, with instant replay. Each roll of 36 exposure film cost around $20 to process commercially. Black and white film, bought in a bulk roll and hand wound onto film cartridges in a lightproof black bag, meant I was able to process the film and print up a proof sheet to see what the shots looked like. This was only a few dollars per roll, but took time to do. Processing film and printing images on paper in a darkroom is rewarding, but the chemical use is not environmentally sound and not so good for the health of the user either. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss those days of wearing all black to hide all the stains and the smell of Developer in the cosy, dark space of a darkroom!


Current work practise.


I use a Sony DSLR camera to take my images and a 64 GB memory card. This massive storage size allows me to fit around 1200 huge 42Mb RAW images on it. That’s a far cry from a floppy disk of 1.44Mb which *almost* save one small picture on it, back on the early 90’s! So, you ask, what IS a ‘RAW’ file? A RAW file is basically a digital negative. It holds many layers of information in uncompressed and an unprocessed state, with no loss of image quality. This is the state where the MOST image information exists from the data captured on the camera’s sensor. You can see previews of the images in camera, which look like regular photographs, not ‘negative’ images, reversed like on film.


How to move the photos from camera to computer.


In order to process the images, you need a powerful computer and the right software. I use Adobe Lightroom to store my image information and make any changes to the images when I process the files. I won’t go into too much detail, as it’s all technical, but in short, I save the files onto a hard drive, then use Lightroom to adjust the images to look how I want, before exporting them as extra-large images, ready for the next steps. These files are always the largest possible, so I can have the best start with an artwork.

How images are transformed into digital artworks.


OK, so you are wondering why there’s more to do at this point. I’ve taken the images, adjusted and processed them and now have a massive image ready. What more is there to do? Many of my artworks are actually created with a number of separately taken images, combined in many layers, with alterations and adjustments according to my ideas for the final image. For example, the ‘Introspection’ artwork to the right consists of separately photographed flowers of different Callistemon plants, and a sky photograph. These are composed according to my concept and the colours are created for the mood I am seeking to evoke. Finally, it’s saved as a separate image file, where everything is on one layer, ready to print. Sounds simple,
but the reality is that it takes many steps and lots of time to get to the final artwork, as I do so much with
the original images before I’m ready to finalise.

IMAGE of natural coloured flower

The images used for this artwork.


It’s no use photographing plants without a good plan. I usually need a plain background behind the section of plant I seek to capture, plus the right lighting and lens for the work. I usually have a studio setup with lighting to be able to shoot the flowers as required, in order to capture the details clearly. That ensures that the final result is well recorded in camera. If I start with a great image then it’s a simpler journey to the final vision. It’s imperative to use the right equipment and technical know-how to obtain a clear and sharp image. No matter what software you use, you cannot create focus where there is none. Here’s an example of a Callistemon flower that I used for this artwork. I manually removed sections of the flower so I could capture the detail of each bud without distraction of the rest. This would be possible to do digitally, but laborious and not the best use of time.


As you can see, the colours of the artwork are completely different to the actual plant, and combine with the dramatic sky in a dreamlike and mood enhancing way. I find the resulting image calming and meditative. Of course the image would work in different colours too, but this work with indigo, teal and violet shades suits my creative direction. I hope you have learnt a little more about digital photography processes and how I work to achieve my artistic objectives.

The Evolution of Photography: From Film to Digital Artworks
IMAGE of ‘Introspection’ artwork here

Want to learn more about Melisa? Visit her profile page where you can read about her and find out how to get in contact.

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