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Basics of digital photography (06/24/2007)
By Tom Hirsch

Okay, let's get serious about digital photography. This is a relatively new phenomenon, and improvements are continually being made in the digital field, including improved cameras, image sensing devices and other stuff. Also, prices for these things are continually dropping.

Digital photography may not be for everyone. If you're satisfied with your trusty compact or SLR film camera, there may be no reason to go digital. That is unless you own a computer and an inkjet printer, would like to dabble with your pictures to improve them, and/or are an e-mail geek.

To elaborate, all digital images can be downloaded onto your computer. And many digital cameras come with an easy to use image-enhancing software package that allows you to alter your images for color balance, composition, or to make almost any other changes that fit your needs or wants. From there you can print your pictures for sharing or displaying on the wall, and/or you can send pictures online to family and friends who also have access to e-mail.

Buying a digital camera is more complex than looking for a film camera. Although prices have come down, and continue to do so, you'll still want to consider the sticker price of a digital camera. Because of the electronic wizardry imbedded in a digital camera, it will still be more expensive than a similar film camera. Well, that isn't exactly correct because the two types of cameras aren't exactly similar. We'll look at the differences, but first we'll examine their similarities. This will establish a point of reference.

Both digital and film cameras have lenses that focus light which is transmitted to an image-recording medium. Both types of cameras must be held steady and properly focused in order for the photographer to get sharp images. With both, sufficient light is required in order to record images. And both digital and film cameras come in a range of complexity, varying from very basic point-and-shoot models to extremely sophisticated single-lens reflex types provided with every conceivable option, and then some.

All cameras must be handled with care, like avoid bumping a camera into things. Also, don't get the camera wet or overheated. Water can really mess up the workings of any camera. Heat can also be disastrous. Avoid the traditional hotspots like putting a camera in the glove compartment or trunk of a car, or on a car seat where the camera can absorb the sun's rays. When you're outside with the camera on a bright, sunny day, keep the camera in a carrying case, or prevent direct sunlight from striking the camera for long periods of time. Shielding it from the sun with your body will do.

Another similarity is that most modern cameras are supplied with built-in flash. When photographing people near you on bright days, use the fill-flash feature by setting the flash dial to the lightning bolt. The flash will come on, and its light will fill in the shadows that would otherwise cause the subject to be too dark in the pictures.

Before moving on to the differences between film and digital cameras, which will be covered next time, it should be mentioned that if you don't own a computer, you can still use a digital camera and get pictures. All you have to do is take the camera or image recording device to almost any photo processing facility, and they can either make or have pictures made for you. 


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