Society & Culture & Entertainment Visual Arts

Documentary Photography

The documentary uses of photography range from the most prosaic and practical - progress reports on building projects, for example - to the most altruistic and idealistic - such as recording the plight of endangered species or the effects of environmental pollution.

Using even the most basic digital camera, you can take a picture of, say, an accident for insurance purposes or an item for auction and confirm instantly that it accurately records the features required for its purpose. Another advantage is that many digital cameras are near silent and inconspicuous in operation. This means that if you are an accepted part of an event, photography can proceed without anybody really noticing. This is further helped if your model has a swiveling lens or LCD screen, as you don't have to hold the camera up to your eye in order to shoot. If you use this technique, however, you will be holding the camera lower than usual, so you should therefore try to photograph from a higher viewpoint in order to compensate.

For formal documentary work, it is important that the digital image is not altered. Although a digital image is far easier than an analogue one to change, it is also easier to build into an image a feature that will prove this has happened. There are systems that conceal a code in the image that changes if the image is altered in even the minutest or most innocent of ways, such as a change in brightness or resolution. In addition, each image can be tagged with information about the date and time it was taken, increasing its value as a piece of documentary evidence. Various systems are available, and when a validation system is in operation you should expect the reading and writing of files to take longer than usual.

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