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Digital Photography

April 2003 Issue

Safety On Wheels

Digital Photography

Quick Sweet
Summer Treats

A Cure for the
Backseat Blues

Developing “Little
People” Skills

Did You Know?

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If you are still taking photographs with that old dependable 110mm or 35mm camera you have had for the past twenty years, it may be time to leap into the new millennium and consider digital photography. Digital cameras have come into their own and have already changed the way people capture, store, use and display their personal photo memories. Over the past five years, digital cameras have seen quantum leaps in technology resulting in greatly improved picture quality and image storage capacity. Those aspects alone have helped to convert many traditional film photographers to the digital side of the fence. Even today, quality advances and the introduction of cameras with interchangeable lenses are beginning to make professional photographers (dedicated to film) take a second look at the digital world.

For non-professionals, digital photography presents a number of advantages. First, processing costs are greatly reduced. A digital camera enables you to process only the photographs you deem worthy of printing. Just think of how many rolls of film you have had processed (and prints produced) to wind up with four images that you keep and display. With a digital camera, you can preview the images, select those worth printing and delete the remainder or store them on a CD for future reference. Headless shots, closed eyes and out of focus images will never have to be printed.

Once your images are stored, you can then have them printed at just about any photo-finishing store, or print them from your home computer on a standard or photo printer. When printing at home, be aware that standard inks and papers are not as stable as photo paper. Check your printer and paper choices for lifespan and resistance to moisture. If the image is important and will be framed as a keepsake, have the digital image printed at a retail store on photo paper.

Another benefit of digital photography is the ability to easily manipulate digital images on your home computer (often with basic software that comes with your digital camera). This software allows you to crop and fix imperfections in images, which can often turn a mundane image into a true keeper. Although the same technique can be achieved by scanning an existing print, there is an inherent loss of quality in the process that doesn’t occur when working with the original digital image.

When you decide to make the switch to digital photography, there are a few things to keep in mind. Set a price point for your budget and find the camera that provides the highest resolution to optimize your photography skills. Resolution is measured in pixels (the digital “dots” that make up an image). Most camera stores will have samples of images taken at different resolutions and then enlarged to a variety of typical print sizes (3"x 5", 4"x 6", 8" x 10" and 11"x 14"). You will be able to see how a higher resolution gives sharper images over a wider range of enlargements—so make your choice according to your anticipated needs.

Instead of film, digital cameras use a memory card to store the image information. It is important (from both quality and convenience standpoints) to purchase a large memory card for your camera. By doing so, you will be able to take the highest resolution images possible with your camera and also have room to store them (higher resolution images require more memory and thus reduce the number of images that may be stored on any given memory card).

A final thing to consider is battery life. Digital cameras are power hungry. The energy used by the small viewing screen is a great drain on the power supply. Cameras use a variety of battery types depending upon the make of the camera. If the camera uses standard alkaline batteries, consider purchasing a home battery charger and rechargeable batteries for convenience and cost savings. Most cameras come with their own rechargeable battery that remains in the camera at all times. You simply plug the camera in, the battery recharges, and you are set to take more pictures. Be aware that the battery life on a charge may not take you through a full day of photography. Consider buying an additional battery to carry as a backup on vacations and important events so you are not left without a power supply. Also, check prices of replacement battery packs before buying a camera—they can be pricey and may need to be factored into your budget for the purchase.

In making your decision, talk to friends and ask to see samples at retail stores specializing in digital photography. An informed purchase is always a smart purchase!

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