Anne Darling Photography

The Disadvantages of Digital Photography

The disadvantages of digital photography are numerous and varied and it is important to know what they are as in today's high-tech world the advantages are pushed at us through advertising and the media.

This list is not designed to put you off but to make you aware before you buy so you can make an informed decision.

Cost: the outlay for a digital camera is initially more expensive than a similar-quality film camera. You will also need to invest in memory cards which can be quite expensive. You may find that the memory card you used with one digital camera, is not suitable for your new one.

two digital cameras photographs

Complexity: if you have a digital camera, you need to be able to use a computer to upload and manage your images. If you are not confident with computers then a learning curve awaits you. You may also need to learn how to use software such as Photoshop to improve the quality of your images which means more time spent on the learning curve. A digital camera is really a computer too albeit with a lens on the front so you need to be prepared to spend time reading the manual to learn how to get the most out of all the different functions and controls.

Quality: dust particles can and do get into your digital SLR camera and will lodge themselves on the sensor. These can be difficult to remove and for beginners particularly this can be a problem as the camera may need to be cleaned by a professional. Film cameras don't have this problem as each shot is on a new piece of film.

Exposure: another of the disadvantages of digital photography is that digital cameras are less forgiving of exposure problems than film cameras and even bracketing your exposures may not get you just the exposure you wanted.


Detail: with film, detail is often better than with digital, particularly in the whites and blacks. If highlights are burnt out there will be a total loss of detail whereas with film, some detail will still be retained. At high ISO (in other words when shooting in low light), digital noise will show up as multicolored speckles rather than the less-objectionable "grain" of high-ISO film. Noise can be removed by special software but fine detail is usually lost in the process.

Focussing: some digital cameras are worse than others but all of them can be tricky to focus at times as the camera 'hunts' for around to find the exact spot to focus on. Not always a problem but more noticeable when light is low.

Artistry: because it is possible to shoot lots of images and manipulate them afterwards using a software program, some argue this leads to poorer creative thinking - meaning you can come to rely on the computer to fix your mistakes afterwards resulting in a loss of good decision making at the time of taking the shot. Because the photographer can try out a shot many times, they don't learn to plan for a shot before actually pressing the button.

Some people also think that digital photography is not as subtle as film photography, a bit like the argument of acrylic paint versus oil paint. So if you want to create art photographs then you may perceive digital as being inferior.

Noise: one of the worst of the disadvantages of digital photography is that digital cameras have a lot of 'noise' (called 'grain' on film) particularly in low light compared with film cameras. This gets worse at about 400 ISO upwards although Canon cameras are better than most.

Sales: some agencies still prefer film particularly with respect to nature photography and other scientific subjects. This may be a consideration if you are planning to sell your work in the future.

Obsolescence: the future of digital photography is not certain but one thing is sure: the digital camera you buy today will be obsolete in not too long a while. Yet another of the disadvantages of digital photography is the need to upgrade frequently and selling your old camera second hand will not get you anything like the price you paid for it as they depreciate quickly.

Equipment failures: Digital memory cards sometimes fail, the complexity of the camera's internal computer means that it may crash too. Don't let that panic you though - like a computer, usually all you have to do is turn it off and on again, in other words, reboot!

I hope this list of the disadvantages of digital photography hasn't put you off buying a digital camera or perhaps you need to buy a film camera AND a digital camera!

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