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Digital photography continues growth in business world


MBJ Contributing Writer

Both amateur and professional photographers, and many types of businesses, are finding digital photography fits into their picture.

Digital photography is gaining in popularity by leaps and bounds. But where does that leave businesses that specialize in the old-fashioned print photography from film?

“A year ago there was a great concern about that,” said Shannon Scott, whose family owns Photos Your Way in Ocean Springs. “It already has caused some of us to go out of business. There was concern it would impact businesses like ours, but that concern has actually shrunk a little in the past nine months. Digital is not as convenient as people thought. It is still very expensive compared to traditional photography, and the quality is not anything like traditional photography.”

Shannon said traditional film cameras have come down in price whereas digital cameras are still expensive. And customers can find it harder to find a photo shop that develops photos from a computer disk rather than film. Plus, it is more expense to get prints made from digital images.

But independent photo developers like Photos Your Way probably face more competition from mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart that provide discount film developing services than from the new wave of digital photography.

For newspaper photography, digital cameras have become very popular because of the speed and ease of use. No longer do most newspaper photographers spend hours in the darkroom.

“It is much easier to work on deadlines as far as getting the photos out in a timely fashion,” said Byron Pugh, advertising director of the Mississippi Press Service.

“Most newspapers have gotten into the digital age with photography because of the expense of film and processing. It is much quicker because they are able to take it straight from the camera to the computer to edit the photos for news or advertising. For newspaper reproduction, the quality is good. Newspapers because of their resolution don’t really need super high quality photographs like a magazine would.”

Pugh said many smaller newspapers are slow to adapt to the new technology because of the initial capital outlay. But he believes more will move in that direction once their realize that there are long-term cost savings.

While it might be obvious that it is cheaper to use digital because you don’t have to continually buy film and pay for processing, there are also labor cost savings that might not be so apparent.

“It saves some steps internally as far as scanning and having to convert images to digital,” Pugh said. “The entire process on news and advertising cuts out several steps, and that time translates into money which is probably another cost savings a lot of folks don’t think about. It is not just film and processing, but time you don’t have to spend to scan in images.”

A big advantage is being able to review images in the field. Then, if the shot didn’t turn out, it is easy to re-shoot until satisfied with the image. That may be particularly valuable for less experienced photographers.

“That ability to review your work in the field can be the difference in having a shot or not,” Pugh said. “Using a film camera, you can have the film not catch on the winder or other problems. It is not uncommon for a sales rep to carry a camera in order to take photographs of merchandise for advertising. By being able to see the image immediately, you can tell whether or not you have framed the merchandise well and have a good shot.”

At Mississippi Photo & Blueprint, the digital age has brought mixed results, says co-owner David Hawkins.

“It has enabled us to deliver certain things faster because of being able to photograph and print essentially at the same time,” Hawkins said. “But it has hurt us because of the widespread availability of people having digital cameras. People are doing more on their own. It is probably cheaper because you aren’t using film but a computer chip that can be used over and over.

“I still like the quality of film. That is just me. But you have to weigh the delivery time versus quality. Lots of times customers will take a little less quality if they can get it faster.”

Mississippi Photo & Blueprint does a lot of aerial photography and photography for construction. Business in those areas has declined from people who use digital cameras to do the job themselves now, rather than hiring it out.

The quality and price of digital cameras will continue to improve, Hawkins predicts.

“If what we have seen is a trend, it will continue to get better, and as it gets better, more people will buy it and the price will go down,” Hawkins said. “There is better stuff on the market right now than last year or two years ago. As the new cameras come in, those already out will fall in price like you see with computers. But the state-of-the-art high end digital cameras are going to be expensive.”

Randy Noone, owner, Deville Camera & Video, Jackson, said digital camera sales have been good for his business, and are far exceeding anyone’s expectations.

“Part of that is because they are a new form of capturing an image that some people find a little more useful for particular needs,” Noone said. “It doesn’t replace current photographic systems and methods. That’s what we have found. A lot of people are still using 35 mm cameras but also have digital cameras. It has opened up a new medium for amateurs as well as professionals to capture an image.”

The quality of digital can be equally as good as film depending on the size of enlargements and the quality of the camera, Noone said.

“Different products have higher resolutions,” he said. “Higher resolution cameras have better picture quality when you enlarge it.

When digital images are printed on photographer paper in photographic lab such as we use, the picture quality is equally as good as a negative printed.

“The biggest misconception we have found between digital versus conventional 35mm film is the majority of people do not realize that electronic media is just another form of film you capture the image on. And the cards the camera uses can be brought into your photo finisher, in most cases, and prints made on paper just like a negative or roll of film. So it is truly the same quality.”

People who really love photography enjoy the flexibility, and being able to use large megabite storage cards that can store a couple hundred images.

“They like not having to stop and reload all the time,” Noone said. “You have the advantage of plugging it into the computer to decide if want to print it or not, and whether to print at home with rather good results. But to get the best photographic quality, it needs to be printed in a photographic printer on photographic paper.”

Another advantage of digital photography is the ability to manipulate the image, do special effects, reduce red eye, and do cosmetic touch ups.

Noone has found that most digital photography customers don’t have the time or patience to print out dozens of images.

“There is no way people want to spend the next week after vacation printing all those images,” Noone said. “The simple and economic way is just like before. You bring it in to have prints made at the photo lab that are higher-quality prints for less money than ink and paper for the home printer, not to mention the time.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.


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