I've had an opportunity to exchange ideas about digital photography, the size of pictures and the cost of making them, etc., with other photography enthusiasts. I've thought about it, and then spent some time putting down my conclusions. Perhaps the information would be of interest to other members of LPA, because I think the discussion is relevant to who we are, what we are doing, and where we are going with the club.
The number of awards an individual received during past years, as well as other experience factors, provided a basis for the new photographer classifications; Novice, Amateur, Advanced, and Master Photographer. Objectively, based upon past performance, this method is a good indicator of the quality of photographs that could be expected from an individual in the future.
It leaves open, however, the possibility that each photographer is free to make a subjective choice of which category to compete in based upon their own assessment of how well they can do. That's fair, and each individual ends up in the classification they are comfortable with. It has also increased the size of pictures to more accurately reflect the goals of many members of the club who want to improve their photography skills, produce pictures for advanced competition, participate in gallery fine art displays, and show in other venues that may lead to profitable sales.
Since digital processing has become the norm for photo laboratories the kind of camera being used, digital or film, isn't considered significant anymore by those judging photographs. Both film and digital files are enhanced, and possibly manipulated in exactly the same way once the images are scanned into a digital file. The beauty of large projected images in the case of film transparencies will soon be matched by similarly large projected digital images as advanced technology projectors resolve the problem of matching profiles so that the projected digital image looks like the one that came from the camera.
We may see large projected digital images sooner than we think as the latest Prosumer Digital Projectors become more capable of duplicating the original picture. In regards to large projected pictures, it should be noted that large pictures are more able to embody the elements of Impact, Composition, and Presentation. The larger the picture the easier it is to assess technical qualities like color fidelity, contrast, saturation, focus, depth of field, and sharpness. Larger pictures are more likely to display the characteristic of drawing the viewer into a state of awareness where the two dimensional picture takes on a three-dimensional quality. A properly sized picture, with good perspective helps to re-create the realism of the scene in the viewer's mind.
As we review the elements of a photograph we must remember that there is a correct viewing distance for a given size photograph, and the use intended for the photograph pretty much determines what size it should be. Snapshots present a multitude of information about who was there and the activities engaged in, on a single page, whereas 8 by 10 portraits are intimate objects, at reading material distances, It follows then that larger photographs are meant for viewing at longer distances in more open spaces. As the size of the picture goes up the quality of it has to go up also so as to project the realism of the subject.
The craft of photography is reflected in the control of depth of field, the control of motion, and the hues and tones of light to enhance the scene and create a mood. All of these elements lead to feelings , emotions, and a relationship with the subject. I'm sure everyone, at some time has looked at a picture and felt strong emotions, then thought why did tears come to my eyes, it's only a picture. Yes, it's only a picture, but your brain is a multi--gigabyte memory device that responds to stimuli and evokes the feelings that cause the emotions. Fine Art, in many forms, does that.
Shooting and projecting slides continues as a primary means of showing pictures for some photographers. Until recently nothing else had been as colorful and elegant as a large projected slide. They continue to be competitive, and the rules encourage you to enter competition in either slides and/or pictures. Realistically, it's taken a long time to come up with an economical printing system that can make a large picture approaching the quality of an original projected slide. We've reached that point now, however, and you can compete with transparencies, with pictures made from a slide, or from a digital file, because all you have to do is take the Slide, or your Compact Flash Card to Costco, (or wherever), have them scan it and print a large picture from it.
Advances in printer capabilities and reductions in their price make it possible for us to produce pictures in sizes that sell, sometimes for hundreds of dollars. Combining the above qualities in a picture satisfies the nature of a collector that chooses art on the basis of feelings, emotions and relationships, as well as a counterpart that looks at the logic and rationale of the work and sees a story to which he/she relates. The picture needs to be large enough to dominate the viewers attention, as well as appropriately composed and enhanced to evoke the emotions intended by the artist.