From film to pixels: Digital
cameras lead a photographic revolution
By Mikaylie Kartchner
March 7, 2006 | Pretty much everyone and their cellphone
has a digital camera.
Digital photography is a moving revolution, making
picture taking a simpler, quicker process, especially
for journalists. Inside the newsroom and out on the
scene, photojournalists are making the transition to
the digital technology age. They are moving out of the
darkrooms and sitting comfortably in front of their
PCs, and, for the most part, it's a move they are happy
"I am in love with digital photography," said Jeanne
Hopper, yearbook advisor at Davis High School. "It's
one of the best things that has ever happened to journalism."
Hopper has been teaching journalism for many years,
the last seven being at Davis High School in Kaysville.
Her staff switched over to all digital imaging in 2005,
a decision that has made publishing a yearbook a much
"We now spend much more time creating files and modifying
photos. We know immediately what the pages look like.
[With digital] we have a lot more photos to choose from
and get a better quality because we can see immediately
what we have and know whether we need to do it again."
Rod Boam, a photojournalism instructor at Utah State
University, used to be "a real believer in film" until
a couple of years ago. He said digital just makes the
process a lot faster, and you'd be hard pressed to find
a newsroom with a darkroom anymore. The physical process
with film just takes too long.
The Herald Journal converted to all digital
about five years ago, a move that cost the paper around
$30,000 that year, an increase over the usual $24,000
per year spent on film and developing chemicals. But
according to Eli Lucero, a member of the photography
editoral staff, it was well worth it. He said the initial
cost of digital was easily made up in the first year,
and has since saved them a lot of money, not to mention
Lucero said the timeliness of their coverage has improved
since the switch, especially with their coverage of
"We used to have to leave a game at half time to meet
our deadline," he said. This was because it took 15
to 20 minutes just to develop the film, not including
making enlargements to print. "With digital we can edit
on site and have six or seven pictures at the paper
Some of the other advantages of digital photography
include the amount of training it takes to become a
digital photographer. Both Boam and Hopper said they
noticed their students having an easier time with digital
photography point-and-shoot cameras. They said they
have stopped teaching about F-stops, shutter speeds
and ISOs, and the students are still bringing back great
"Most students can pick up a digital camera and take
photos with no extra training at all," Hopper said.
"Everyone's a photographer. Digital photography is a
lot more fun. It takes all the suspense and stress out
Boam also said some of his students are able to get
better pictures because often no one recognizes them
as a photographer. He said because photographers don't
need to carry big bags of equiptment around to get a
great shot. With a little point-and-shoot digital camera,
they can get into tighter places and get some great
pictures they couldn't have taken otherwise.
Digital photography isn't all positivly charged. Like
almost any new technology, it has caused some problems
for photographers and for journalists.
Probably one of the biggest issues has to do with
the ability of photographers to manipulate photos. With
the break from film, photographers are now practically
required to be computer savvy, a skill which can get
them into trouble if not kept in check.
Time Magazine had as issue with this in 1994
when they ran a manipulated photo on their cover. The
photo was OJ Simpson's mug shot from the Los Angeles
Police Department. It had been manipulated to make Simpson
look much darker and more menacing. Newsweek
ran the same photo on their cover without manipulation.
(For a side-by-side comparison of the covers click here.)
Photo manipulation is a problem for journalists because
the news is supposed to be an accurate picture of actual
events. Manipulation means photos can lie, a problem
not as easily achieved with film, and when their photographs
lie, journalists lose their crediblity.
"It takes a good system within a newspaper to keep
photographers honest," Boam said.
Lucero agreed, saying the Herald Journal hasn't
had many of these types of ethical problems because
of their strict ethical standard. Lucero said he doesn't
have many concerns with newspaper coverage, but with
other types of photography he has to raise an eyebrow.
"It makes me nervous," he said. "I can see something
hanging on the wall and I'm not sure if it's real or
Boam and Hopper both talk with their students about
these kinds of ethical issues and the effect it can
have on a journalism career. They said the studnets
seem to understand the dangers.
"Knowing that one lawsuit would irreparably damage
the whole thing makes students conform to very strict
guidelines in photography and copy," Hopper said.
Even though the practice of photo manipulation is
common in other photography related fields, in journalism
Hopper, Boam and Lucero all agree it's a big no-no.
Lucero said The Herald Journal doesn't practice
any type of photo manipulation other than cropping and
color correction. Hopper said her staff has only manipulated
one photo, a senior portrait, and it was done with permission
of the student.
Another problem with digital photography is quality.
Lucero said for the most part, digital works just as
well as film but the picture quality is just not the
same no matter what you do, especially if a photo needs
to be enlarged to a size bigger than 8-by-10 inches.
"A good camera is still not as fine as a grain of silver,"