Digital Photography For Dummies

Digital Photography For Dummies

2.8 31
by Julie Adair King

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Get going with your digital camera and start taking great photos right away!

Whether you're considering your first digital camera, planning to graduate from point-and-shoot to dSLR, or wondering about your camera's features, you need this bestselling guide! It tells you things you won't find in the camera manual, like time-honored photographic techniques, tips

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Get going with your digital camera and start taking great photos right away!

Whether you're considering your first digital camera, planning to graduate from point-and-shoot to dSLR, or wondering about your camera's features, you need this bestselling guide! It tells you things you won't find in the camera manual, like time-honored photographic techniques, tips for certain types of photography, printing options, and much more.

  • What you need — learn what the different camera features do and determine what works for the way you take pictures
  • Ready, aim, shoot — set up your camera and learn how to get the best shots in any mode
  • Take control — explore your camera's setting options and apply them to get better photos
  • Learn from the pros — experiment with recommended settings and techniques for portraits, close-ups, action shots, and landscapes
  • Bring them to life — review photos using your camera's playback features, then download and share them

Open the book and find:

  • Advice on choosing the camera that best suits your needs
  • Set-up options that produce better photos
  • Accessories your digital studio should have
  • How to get better action shots
  • When to shift your dSLR out of auto mode for better results
  • All about using (and not using) flash
  • How to diagnose and fix focus problems
  • Ten essential camera care tips

Learn to:

  • Take better pictures with your point-and-shoot camera or dSLR
  • Set your camera to improve color, focus, and lighting
  • Upload, edit, and share your great photos


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Digital Photography For Dummies

By Julie Adair King

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-9802-3

Chapter One

Filmless Fun, Facts, and Fiction

In This Chapter

* Understanding the differences between digital cameras and film cameras

* Discovering some great uses for digital cameras

* Comparing scanners and digital cameras

* Assessing the pros and cons of digital photography

* Calculating the impact on your wallet

I love hanging out in computer stores. I'm not a major geek - not that there's anything wrong with that - I just enjoy seeing what new gadgets I may be able to justify as tax write-offs.

You can imagine my delight, then, when digital cameras began showing up on the store shelves at a price that even my meager budget could handle. Here was a device that not only offered time and energy savings for my business but, at the same time, was a really cool toy for entertaining friends, family, and any strangers I could corral on the street.

If you, too, have decided that the time is right to join the growing ranks of digital photographers, I'd like to offer a hearty "way to go!" - but also a little word of caution. Before you hand over your money, be sure that you understand how this new technology works - and don't rely on the salesperson in your local electronics or computer superstore to fill you in. From what I've observed, many salespeople don't fully understand digital photography. As a result, they may steer you toward a camera that may be perfect for someone else but doesn't meet your needs.

Nothing's worse than a new toy, er, business investment that doesn't live up to your expectations. Remember how you felt when the plastic action figure that flew around the room in the TV commercial just stood there doing nothing after you dug it out of the cereal box? To make sure that you don't experience the same letdown with a digital camera, this chapter sorts out the facts from the fiction, explaining the pros and cons of digital imagery in general and digital cameras in particular.

Film? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Film!

As shown in Figure 1-1, digital cameras come in all shapes and sizes. (You can see additional cameras throughout the next several chapters.) But although designs and features differ from model to model, all digital cameras are created to accomplish the same goal: to simplify the process of creating digital images.


When I speak of a digital image, I'm referring to a picture that you can view and edit on a computer. Digital images, like anything else you see on your computer screen, are nothing more than bits of electronic data. Your computer analyzes that data and displays the image on-screen. (For a detailed look at how digital images work, see Chapter 2.)

Digital images are nothing new - people have been creating and editing digital pictures using such programs as Adobe Photoshop for years. But until the advent of digital cameras, getting a stunning sunset scene or an endearing baby picture into digital form required some time and effort. After shooting the picture with a film camera, you had to get the film developed and then have the photographic print or slide digitized (that is, converted to a computer image) using a piece of equipment known as a scanner. Assuming that you weren't well-off enough to have a darkroom and a scanner in the east wing of your mansion, this process could take several days and involve several middlemen and associated middleman costs.

Digital cameras provide an easier, more convenient option. While traditional cameras capture images on film, digital cameras record what they see using computer chips and digital storage devices, creating images that you can immediately access on your computer. No film, film processing, or scanning is involved - you press the shutter button, and voilà: You have a digital image. To use the image, you simply transfer it from your camera to the computer, which you can do in a variety of ways. With the latest digital cameras, you can send your pictures directly to a photo printer - you don't even need a computer!

Fine, but Why Do I Want Digital Images?

Going digital opens up a world of artistic and practical possibilities that you simply don't enjoy with film. Here are just a few advantages of working with digital images:

  •   More creative control: With traditional photos, you have no input into an image after it leaves your camera. Everything rests in the hands of the photofinisher. But with a digital photo, you can use your computer and photo-editing software to touch up and enhance your pictures.

    Figures 1-2 and 1-3 illustrate the point. Figure 1-2 shows an original digital photo that I shot while taking a walk with the three girls and their mothers. In addition to being slightly underexposed, the picture contains too much background, and the sidewalk at the top of the shot creates an unwanted distraction from the subjects. I opened the picture in my photo editor and took care of all these problems in a few minutes. You can see the much-improved picture in Figure 1-3.

    You could argue that I could have created the same image with a film camera by paying attention to the background, exposure, and framing before I took the picture. But sometimes, the situation doesn't allow that kind of preparation. Had I taken the time to make sure that everything was perfect before I pressed the shutter button, my opportunity to capture the interaction that was unfolding in front of me would have been long gone. And had I asked the girls to stop and wait for me to take their picture, they likely would have adopted a stiff pose that would be far less endearing than this candid moment. I'm not saying that you shouldn't strive to shoot the best pictures possible, but if something goes awry, you often can rescue marginal images in the editing stage.

  •   Instant, easy, photo sharing: You can send an image instantaneously by attaching it to an e-mail message. Not only is electronic distribution of images quicker than regular mail or overnight delivery services, it's also more convenient. You don't have to address an envelope, find a stamp, or truck off to the post office or delivery drop box.

    In addition to sending photos via e-mail, you can share photos with friends, family, and clients, no matter how far away, via a personal Web page or a photo-sharing site such as the Kodak EasyShare Gallery (formerly Ofoto,, featured in Figure 1-4. (Chapter 10 explains everything you need to do to prepare your images for online sharing or any type of on-screen display.)

  •   More interesting presentations: You can include pictures in business or educational presentations that you create with programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint. For more casual audiences, you can produce fun multimedia slide shows and burn them to a CD or DVD using programs such as PhotoShow Deluxe from Simple Star, shown in Figure 1-5.

  •   More useful databases and household records: You can include digital images in business and household databases. For example, if your company operates a telemarketing program, you can insert images into a product order database so that when sales reps pull up information about a product, they see a picture of the product and can describe it to customers. Or you may want to insert product shots into inventory spreadsheets, as I did in Figure 1-6.

  •   More creative fun: You can have a lot of fun exploring your artistic side. Using an image-editing program, you can apply wacky special effects, paint mustaches on your evil enemy, and otherwise distort reality.

    You can also combine several images into a montage, such as the one featured in Chapter 13, and apply special-effects filters that give your photo the look of a painting, pencil sketch, or other traditional art medium, as shown in Figure 1-7.

    You can also create your own personalized stationery, business cards, calendars, mugs, t-shirts, postcards, and other goodies, as shown in Figure 1-8. The figure offers a look at Microsoft Digital Image Pro, an easy-to-use program that provides templates for creating such materials. You just select the design you want to use and insert your own photos into the template.

    After you place your photos into the templates, you can print your artwork on a color printer using specialized print media sold by Kodak, Epson, HP, and other vendors. If you don't have access to a printer with this capability, you can get the job done at a local quick-copy shop or e-mail your image to one of the many vendors offering digital printing services via the Internet.

    These are just some of the reasons digital imaging is catching on so quickly. For convenience, quality control, flexibility, and fun, digital does a slam-dunk on film.

    But Can't I Do All This with a Scanner?

    The answer is, yes. You can do everything that I mentioned in the preceding section with any digital image, whether the picture comes from a scanner or a digital camera. However, digital cameras provide some benefits that you don't enjoy when you work with film prints and a scanner:

  •   Print only the good ones: If you're like most people, only a handful of pictures from every roll of film falls into the category of "that's a great picture" or even "that's an okay picture." Divide the cost of film and processing by the number of good photos per roll, and you'll discover that you're paying a lot more per picture than you thought. With a digital camera, you can review your pictures on the camera's monitor and then print only those that are really special. If the picture isn't any good, you simply delete it. And because you're no longer wasting film, you can experiment freely with different camera settings and photo techniques.
  •   Never miss important photo ops: Instant, on-camera review of your pictures also means added peace of mind when you're photographing onetime events such as an anniversary party or business conference. You know right away whether you snapped a winner or need to try again. No more disappointing moments at the film lab when you discover that your packet of prints doesn't contain a single decent picture of the scene you wanted to capture.
  •   Save time and effort: If you shoot product pictures on a regular basis, digital cameras offer significant timesavings. You don't have to run off to the lab and wait for your pictures to be processed. In addition, digital cameras free up time that you would otherwise spend scanning pictures into your computer. Even the best scanners are painfully slow when compared with the time it takes to generate an image with a digital camera.

    In short, digital cameras save you time and money and, most important, make it easier to produce terrific pictures.

    Now Tell Me the Downside

    Thanks to design and manufacturing refinements, problems that kept people from moving to digital photography in the early days of the technology - high prices and questionable image quality being the most critical - have been solved. But a couple of downside issues remain, which I should bring up in the interest of fairness:

  •   Today's digital cameras can produce the same high quality prints as you've come to expect from your film camera. However, to enjoy that kind of picture quality, you need to start with a camera that offers moderate-to-high image resolution, which costs a minimum of $70. Images from lower-priced models just don't contain enough picture information to produce decent prints. Low-resolution cameras are fine for pictures that you want to use on a Web page or in a multimedia presentation, however. (See Chapter 2 for a complete explanation of resolution.)
  •   After you press the shutter button on a digital camera, the camera requires a few seconds to record the image to memory. During that time, you can't shoot another picture. With some cameras, you also experience a slight delay between the time you press the shutter button and the time the camera captures the image. These lag times can be a problem when you're trying to capture action-oriented events. Generally speaking, the more expensive the camera, the less lag time you encounter. With some of the new, top-flight models, lag time isn't much more than you experience with a film camera using an automatic film advance.

    REMEMBER Many digital cameras also offer a burst or continuous-capture mode that enables you to take a series of pictures with one press of the shutter button. This mode is helpful in some scenarios, although you're sometimes restricted to capturing images at a low resolution or without a flash. Chapter 7 provides more information.

  •   Becoming a digital photographer involves learning some new concepts and skills. If you're familiar with a computer, you shouldn't have much trouble getting up to speed with digital images. If you're a novice to both computers and digital cameras, expect to spend a fair amount of time making friends with your new machines. A digital camera may look and feel like your old film camera, but underneath the surface, it's a far cry from your father's Kodak Brownie. This book guides you through the process of becoming a digital photographer as painlessly as possible, but you need to invest the time to read the information it contains.

    As manufacturers continue to refine digital-imaging technology, you can expect continued improvements in price and image-capture speed. I'm less hopeful that anything involving a computer will become easier to learn in the near future; my computer still forces me to "learn" something new every day - usually, the hard way. Of course, becoming proficient with film cameras requires some effort as well.

    Whether or not digital will completely replace film as the foremost photographic medium remains to be seen. In all likelihood, the two mediums will each secure their niche in the image world. So make a place for your new digital camera in your camera bag, but don't stick your film camera in the back of the closet just yet. Digital photography and film photography each offer unique advantages and disadvantages, and choosing one option to the exclusion of the other limits your creative flexibility.

    Just Tell Me Where to Send the Check....

    If you've been intrigued by the idea of digital photography but have so far been put off by the costs involved, I have great news. Prices for cameras, printers, and other necessary equipment have fallen dramatically over the past few years. Camera features that would have cost you $600 two years ago can now be had for under $100. (Don't you wish everything would keep coming down in price the way computer technology does?)


    The following sections outline the various costs of going digital. As you read this information, keep in mind that digital photography offers some moneysaving benefits to offset the expenses. As I mentioned earlier, you can experiment without worrying about the cost of film and processing. If you don't like a picture, you simply delete it. No harm, no foul. If you're a prolific photographer, this advantage alone adds up to significant savings over time. So even though the initial outlay for a digital camera may be more than you'd pay for a film camera, digital is cheaper over the long run.


    Today's digital cameras range from inexpensive point-and-shoot models for casual users to $1,500-and-up pro-sumer models that offer the high-end photography controls demanded by advanced photo enthusiasts and professional photographers.

    You can get a bare-bones camera for less than $40. But models in this price range produce very low-resolution images, suitable for Web pictures and other on-screen uses only. They usually also lack some important convenience features, such as removable image storage and a monitor for reviewing pictures.


    Excerpted from Digital Photography For Dummies by Julie Adair King Excerpted by permission.
    All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
    Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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