Ten things to do with a digital camera, even if you’re a film-based photographer
See what things look like in black and white. The sensor in your digital camera doesn’t have the same spectral response as the film you’re using, and the LCD display on the back of the camera is small, but it’s a lot better than one of those dark brown gels.
Test filter effects. The caveats are the same as above, but holding a filter over the lens of a digital camera, making a test exposure and displaying the results in black and white can tell you a lot.
Preview IR shots. Find yourself a digital camera without an IR-blocking filter, slip an IR–pass (black) filter over the lens, and you can see the part of the spectrum that IR film sees and you normally can’t. Display as black and white for best results. Not perfect, because IR film responds to visible light as well, and the IR filter will make it so your digital camera doesn’t.
Test a new lens. This only works if you have a digital camera back that takes the same lenses as your main film camera. If that’s true, you could even test a used lens in the camera store before you buy it. Just find the right target and zoom in to 1:1 on the display.
Use it as a light meter. The histogram feature on many digital cameras can’t do everything a spot meter can do, but it can do a lot of things a spotmeter can’t. After you calibrate your camera, you can instantly see the range of zones in any part of the scene, and get an indication of how broad an area each zone encompasses. A related capability is using a digital camera’s overexposure detection feature (makes overexposed areas flash or otherwise look different from the rest of the scene) to see if any part of the scene will be blown out when you make the film picture; this is most useful if you use transparency film which, like a digital camera, doesn’t gracefully deal with overexposure.
Find out what happens when the flash goes off. For example, bounce flash is a pretty hit-or-miss unless you’ve scouted the location before. Try the shot with a digital camera first. Works best if the digital camera takes the same flash as your film camera.
Find the right shutter speed. Want that water blurred just right? Make a test exposure. Works best on digital cameras with big displays.
Find the right f/stop. You need to do some calibration for this, since small digital cameras use shorter focal lengths than most film cameras. Dpnt’ use this to make sure everything is sharp, but it could help in figuring out how to throw the background out of focus just so.
Scout a site. Sometimes you want to travel light when you’re looking around. Use your digital camera as a sketchbook to record camera positions, atmospheric effects, the light at certain times of the day and year – whatever you need to decide whether to go back with the big iron, when to go, and where to put your tripod when you get there.
Use voice recording capabilities to make notes on your exposures, locations, titles, development. Maybe you’ve got a notebook where you plan to record a lot of information about each exposure, but you don’t use it all the time. After you make your film exposure, try lining up the shot with a little digital point-and-shoot with a microphone, and attaching an audio file with all the information you want to remember later.