A lamp shines through the leaves of a tree along Buendia Avenue, Makati City. Taken 6 March 2011.

Looks like one of those hipstamatic prints, no? It was taken with a Samsung Galaxy Tab GT-P1000 with whatever setting was default out-of-the-box.

Photography has come a long way since I was a teenager toting a Kodak or Minolta instamatic camera loaded with Kodak or Fuji color film. (When I was in college, it was cheap black-and-white “reload” film for journalism classes.)┬áThere wasn’t such a thing as instant gratification when it came to photography. You just kept clicking the shutter, hoping that at least one out of the 36 shots in the roll wouldn’t suck so badly. Then you took the roll of film to a photo shop where developing could take as fast as an hour or as long as a week or two, depending what year it was and what kind of shop you visited.

It was exciting to take the rectangular packet filled with prints, open it, and survey the images you took. First thing I’d do after opening the packet was inhale to get that special “new photo” scent of developer chemicals. Prints could be done in matte or glossy; another term used was “silk”. Glossy was nice and shiny but prone to fingerprints; you didn’t get that problem with silk but then the image wasn’t as spectacularly vibrant.

Usually the shop would screen your roll and not print the bad shots; you’d be charged only for the good shots.

The quality of the images varied. I only had point-and-shoots and had no idea about settings, so I always hoped for the best. Sometimes they’d come out grainy, or there’d be ghost images or effects, or the colors would be washed out, or the image would be off-center, or half the photo would be fine and the other half golden or greenish. It was like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.

I didn’t get much of an allowance during my student days so film and developing cost quite a lot for me; the upshot was that I couldn’t indulge my interest in photography as much as I wanted. I greeted the digital age with much rejoicing and fanfare.

The digital format is less expensive and gives you instant happy because you can look at your images while still in the camera. There’s hardly any lag time for “developing”, because you can upload the photos from your camera into your laptop anywhere you are, and do cropping, tweaking, and all sorts of image manipulation that would not have been possible during the film days without your own darkroom and lots of knowledge and skill.

Today portable gadgets such as mobile phones, laptops, and tablet computers have built-in cameras! What convenience – there’s no need to bring a separate camera if all you need is a simple image.

But what I notice with phone and tablet images is that even if you can see on your gadget what you just shot, it’s a different thing once you upload to your computer. The images can be grainy, distorted, discolored, and whatnot – harking back to the days of film photography when you never knew what you were going to get.

Now we get to have both worlds. What exciting times we live in.

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