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Part I: Laying the Foundation—Basic Digital Photography.
Chapter 1: What You Need to Know to Get Started.
Chapter 2: Basic Camera Operation.
Chapter 3: Taking Interesting Photographs.
Part II: Taking the Next Step—Photographs That Wow!
Chapter 4: Creating Magic with the Right Lens.
Chapter 5: Going to Extremes: Aperture and Shutter Speed Magic.
Chapter 6: Expanding Your Horizons: Panoramic and Bad Weather Photography.
Chapter 7: Let There Be Light.
Part III: Tackling Different Photographic Subjects.
Chapter 8: Photographing People.
Chapter 9: Photographing Sports.
Chapter 10: Photographing Nature.
Chapter 11: Photographing Landscapes.
Chapter 12: Photographing Travel Destinations.
Chapter 13: Telling a Story with Pictures.
Part IV: Doing Your Own Image Processing.
Chapter 14: Introduction to the Digital Darkroom.
Chapter 15: Image Processing.
Chapter 16: Setting Up a Workflow.
Chapter 17: Image Management and Archiving.
Part V: Photography for Professionals in Other Fields.
Chapter 18: Getting It Together: Help for the Occasional Photographer.
Chapter 19: Digital Photography for Realtors.
Chapter 20: Digital Photography for Automobile Sales.
Chapter 21: Digital Photography for Company Newsletters.
Chapter 22: Digital Photography for Insurance Adjusters.
Chapter 23: Digital Photography for Research and Documentation.
Chapter 24: Digital Photography for Artists and Graphic Artists.
Chapter 25: Digital Photography for Public Relations Specialists.
Part VI: Putting Digital Photography to Work.
Chapter 26: Creating a Digital Presentation.
Chapter 27: Photographing Business Subjects.
Chapter 28: Techniques for Unusual Images.
Appendix A: Digital Photography Definitions.
Appendix B: Digital Photography Techniques.
Appendix C: Tools, Solutions, and Emergencies.
Appendix D: What’s New in Photoshop.
Digital cameras are sexy! Digital cameras are exciting! Digital cameras are fun!
If you're one of the many people who has responded to the promises made about digital photography, you may have found yourself lured into considering the purchase of a digital camera. Let's face it, it's nice to be able to take as many pictures as you want for free, and even better, to be able to see those pictures immediately after you press the shutter release.
Yet, for many people, these promises of pure ease and simplicity are left unfulfilled. After they bring their high-tech camera home, they find things are more complicated than they thought. What looks and sounds so easy and fun in the camera ads turns out to be more complicated than it first appeared.
My intention in this first chapter is to help bring the fun and excitement back to your digital camera purchase by giving you some tips on choosing the best camera for your needs.
The Advantages of Digital Photography
Digital photography offers many advantages over film. For one, you can take as many pictures as you want without the burden of buying and processing film. In addition, most digital cameras offer a built-in LCD screen that allows you to view an image right after you've tripped the shutter.
These factors alone make digital photography a wonderful tool for better photography. You can fire off a shot, review it on the LCD screen, and decide whether you should try to take the shot again.
Digital images also offer the advantage of perfect reproducibility. You can make as many perfect duplicates of your images as you want without trouble. This makes sharing photos much easier. You can e-mail pictures to friends, or you can upload them to online photo printers and send folks the URL to the online photo album. That way, they can order whatever prints they want.
Getting a Handle on Digital Camera Choices
Digital cameras have introduced a new wrinkle to the equipment upgrade issue: The lure of this attractive new technology causes you to want to go out and buy new gear. But this same technology is changing so quickly that it forces you to face a much faster obsolescence path than you ever witnessed in the past.
The first digital cameras on the market offered minimal resolution (640 x 480 = 640K), rapidly replaced by higher resolution (1068 x 768 = 1.4 megapixels), replaced by still higher (1600 x 1200 = 2.1 megapixels), and so on. The current high-end crop of digital cameras hits about 6 megapixels for point-and-shoot cameras and more than 10 megapixels for digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras. So digital camera buyers, much like computer buyers, have become conditioned to upgrading their machines every couple of years.
Even though you may be tempted to upgrade more frequently, you also get increasingly more bang for your buck as the price-to-power comparison becomes more pronounced. The 2.1 megapixel camera that cost $1,000 when it was first introduced is replaced six months later by a 3.4 megapixel camera at half the original price. Plus, this newer model corrects some flaws in the previous version and tacks on some extra features, such as the capability to record audio or video. So suddenly, that expensive camera is a much more attractive (and affordable) purchase.
The fundamental question, then, for most prospective camera buyers is "How do I figure out which camera is right for me?" The following sections try to answer this question.
Camera Basics-What's Important?
Auto-focus, built-in flash, video, megapixels, built-in MP3 player, PDA, built-in cell phone, TV remote, remote control garage door opener-okay, I'm kidding about the garage door opener (I think). But digital cameras come with so many features these days that it's enough to make your head swim. How do you ever decide which features are important and which aren't?
Answering this question properly, more than anything else, will determine how happy you are with your digital camera. All too often, buyers go for the fully loaded "does everything" camera and find that it's too complicated to use and doesn't make it very easy to do any one thing-including taking pictures-well.
So the first step in figuring out what kind of camera you should buy is to determine your photographic needs. The following list can help you make this determination:
* Output: What kind of output are you looking for? Most people prefer 4 x 6 prints. If it's been more than a year since you last had a picture blown up to an 8 x 10 or larger, guess what? You're normal. The average person takes a bunch of pictures, gets 4 x 6 prints, and puts them in a photo album designed to hold 4 x 6 prints.
* Resolution: If you fall into the normal category, a camera capable of creating 2 to 3 megapixel images will meet your needs just fine. In fact, it will give you some quality to spare, just in case you do decide you want to get an enlargement made.
See Chapter 15 for some advice on how you can stretch those pixels even further.
* Hype: So why all the hype about 4, 5, and 6 megapixel cameras? Well, it helps manufacturers sell cameras, for one thing. And there are some people who really do want to make big prints. If your budget allows for the extra money, buying a higher resolution camera can offer you practical advantages over one with the minimum requirements. On the other hand, if your budget is tight, save a few bucks and skimp a little on resolution. It's okay, you can spare it.
If you are one of the few who expect to regularly produce quality enlargements, then by all means look toward the higher resolution cameras.
Decisions, Decisions: Point-and-Shoot versus DSLR
As prices drop on DSLRs, more and more people are choosing them over their point-and-shoot counterparts. How big an advantage are interchangeable lenses, and are there any other advantages to using a DSLR over a point-and-shoot camera? The following sections compare the two so that you can make the right decision for your situation.
Most people find that a good point-and-shoot does an adequate job. Certainly, if taking pictures at a gathering or an event isn't your first priority, a small, versatile point-and-shoot digital camera may provide all the photographic capability you need.
Even sophisticated amateurs can find high-end point-and-shoot digital cameras, such as the Canon G series and the Nikon Coolpix, that are capable of delivering professional quality images and giant enlargements. Many of these cameras also accept add-on lenses to extend their wide-angle and telephoto range and have powerful accessory flash units available.
These cameras pack a lot of photographic power into small, lightweight packages that are easy to carry and use. This can be a real boon for older photographers. The weight of a heavy camera bag and the stress of handholding a big lens and camera combination can aggravate joint pains and afflictions such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
As terrific as point-and-shoot cameras are, they still don't provide the versatility and control available in a good interchangeable lens DSLR.
Through their use of interchangeable lenses, DSLRs provide you with a huge range of options. Most camera manufacturers offer not only a variety of focal lengths, but also provide multiple choices for the most popular lens types. Third-party lens makers such as Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina provide even more options with their lens lines.
With the many lens choices offered by DSLR manufacturers, you can tailor your camera bag to meet the needs of a particular shoot. If your passion is close-up photography, you can choose from close focusing and macro lenses, as well as a whole range of other tools, such as extension tubes, bellows, and add-on close-up lenses (not to be confused with filters, even though they look like filters). All these tools mean that you can take your photography beyond the norm, one of the secrets to producing memorable images.
Figure 1-1 shows an example of a photograph I took using my DSLR and some special tools. I was out photographing the flowers in a springtime display at a botanical garden. Wanting to try something different, I brought out a 400mm telephoto lens (normally used for sports and wildlife photography) and a set of extension tubes.
On The Web
Don't forget, you can see each figure in full color on this book's web site at wiley.com/compbooks/simon.
By using an extreme telephoto as a close-up lens (made possible by the extension tubes), I was able to create an entirely different look for these daffodils. Such an image would have been impossible for most point-and-shoot cameras, but a DSLR handled the challenge fairly easily.
You can read more about lens choices in Chapter 4 and extension tubes in Chapter 5.
The downside to going the DSLR route includes higher costs and carrying more weight when you're out shooting. Still, if photography is your primary reason for leaving the house, it's hard to beat a good DSLR system.
Project: Choosing a digital camera
Choosing the right digital camera can be a challenge. All too often, camera buyers obsess more over what brand to choose than what features they need. The first step is to think about how you plan to use your camera. For most people, a general-purpose camera will do quite nicely. There are, however, some uses that cry out for more specialized equipment. To help you determine what type of camera best fits your photography needs, work through the following steps:
1. Consider the kind of photography you will use the camera for most of the time. The following list explains some of the types of photography you may want to consider:
Sports photography: Taking photographs of sporting events requires long focal lengths, fast shutter speeds, and high-speed motor drives, if possible. Although you can create memorable action photos without a fast motor drive (five frames-per-second or better), it does make your job more difficult. The Fujifilm FinePix S5000 Z has a 5fps motor drive and 370mm focal length at the long end of its zoom.
Nature photography: Photographing birds in flight and animals in their native surroundings are a couple of the most difficult photographic challenges. Wildlife pros rely on top-of-the-line cameras and lenses costing thousands of dollars. If you're planning to do this kind of photography as a hobby, and you're on a more limited budget, look for a camera with a longer zoom range (preferably greater than 300mm with the capability to accept add-on lenses). Keep in mind, another option popular with amateur wildlife photographers is something known as digiscoping. Digiscoping involves mating a camera and spotting scope to greatly boost the reach of the camera lens. Cameras such as the Kodak DX6490 and Canon PowerShot S1 IS offer such capabilities.
To find out more about digiscoping, see Appendix B.
Underwater photography: Specialized underwater digital cameras are available for the scuba or snorkeling enthusiast. These cameras are either built to be watertight or come with their own custom housings. It's frequently more economical to buy a digital camera specifically designed for underwater photography (such as the Sony DSC-U60) than it is to buy a camera and underwater housing separately. One thing to watch out for is the distressingly low maximum resolutions (1.3 megapixels) some of these cameras offer. Such a low maximum resolution means you can put a lot of images on a memory card, which is no small thing since changing memory cards under water isn't really an option. Unfortunately, it also means that you won't be able to do much in the way of enlargements if you just happen to capture the Loch Ness monster swimming by while on her Caribbean vacation. Even using some of the pixel-stretching options I discuss in later chapters, it's doubtful that you'll ever be able to do any better than an 8 x 10 or maybe an 11 x 14 print.
You can find more information about pixel-stretching options in Chapter 15.
Architectural photography: It's possible to use a point-and-shoot digital camera for basic architectural photography provided that you can finish the process in the digital darkroom with an image-editing program such as Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. These programs can be used to manipulate and correct images in all sorts of ways. Keep in mind, however, that photographing skyscrapers on crowded city blocks calls for very wide-angle lenses. Even more important, the lens needs to be wide enough to provide the necessary extra space around the building in order to correct the keystone effect. This effect makes the building look like it's falling away from you when you tilt the camera up to fit the entire structure in the image. DSLRs that accept special tilt/shift lenses to control this problem can offer better results than you can achieve with a point-and-shoot camera.
To find out more about the keystone effect, see Chapters 15 and 19.
2. Think about what, if any, extra features you want your digital camera to have. If you're not planning to engage in any of the specialized uses mentioned in Step 1, then it's just a matter of looking for a basic camera. Although manufacturers hype extra features such as the camera's capability to record video or serve as an MP3 player, you're better off focusing on whether the camera is easy to operate and can take the kind of pictures you want it to. Even if the camera can record video, how good is the quality, and how likely is it that you will ever do anything with that video? Using your camera to play MP3s ties up memory capacity, drains batteries, and is all too frequently a more complicated process than the average person wants to be bothered with.
Excerpted from Digital Photography Bible by Dan Simon Excerpted by permission.
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Posted October 3, 2008
I worked for this man briefly at a small newspaper and I learned more from him after an hour of listening than any book could have taught me after weeks of reading. I highly recommend anything this author has to say.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.