We live in the age of high resolution. Millions upon millions of pixels are being captured in micro-seconds. What started with the megapixel race, has continued into the quest for ultimate Dynamic Range (the capability of a camera to capture detail in both highlight and shadow). The original digital enthusiasts flocked to cameras that offered more megapixels, and when that importance waned, Sony and digital Medium format offered 16-bit RAW. All the while, film photographers continued to tout analog as being the ultimate resolver of detail.
The argument still holds. While many believe that digital has finally surpassed film, true old-school players know that an 8x10 film scanned in a drum scan provide something in the realm of -over- 1,000 megapixels - 15x more resolution than any digital camera to date.
Now that you understand the backstory, I’d like to bring up the more important question: what do we DO with all this digital real-estate - all of this space, which ultimately (in many circumunstaces) will be viewed on a screen, tablet, or the couple square inches of Instagram’s virtuosic platform?
The truth is, few make prints anymore - and the photographers who do print work rarely have their work seen primarily in that medium.
Printing offers the ability to take an image and blow it up to a size where one can really see the details.
On platforms like instagram, or facebook where you can’t zoom - the photographer is left with a debilitating choice: do you alter the composition by cropping in order to reveal the details, or do you leave the image as is, where one can view the entire picture but none of it’s magical minutia.
Take a moment and look at the image below, and then look at it’s crop. Were the image to be printed, one could simply step closer and look at the small details (for instance the lettering on the man’s jacket, or the individual snowflakes) and then step backwards to take in the picture as a whole.
It is a necessity that has become far less relevant to the art of photography. It is mildly ironic that as technology provides us a greater ability to capture detail, the evolving systems have no way to showcase those details to the greater public. Only the photographers themselves have the ability to look at images in their full glory - zooming, panning, and printing. It really is a totally different experience to have a FULL image, and to be able to zoom and manipulate it. It in many ways reflects the impossibility of modern society: the general public “can” do so much more, and yet the grand majority does so much less. We have all the details, but we spend so little time looking at, and considering them.