Using Digital Cameras & Editing Photos
by Mr. Minich
other computer workshops can be located at www.minich.com/interneteducation
- What is a digital camera? Digital cameras are still more expensive than
normal ones even with falling prices.
- Purchasing a digital camera
- See this Digital
Camera Buyer's Guide at http://ecoustics.epinions.com/buyers_guide/Digital_Cameras_buyers_guide_p1.html
- See this How
to Buy a Digital Camera Guide at http://www.pcworld.com/howto/bguide/0,guid,12,page,1,00.asp
- Megapixels - One megapixel is a million pixels. A
pixel (i.e. "picture element") is one tiny dot of a picture. A 5 megapixel
camera, in its
highest resolution setting, can use 5 million pixels to create a picture.
This makes a picture that is more realistic than a picture that is made
up of only 2 million pixels. You'll find cameras for sale in the
range from 2-8 megapixels. If you purchase
not be able
with only 2 or 3 megapixels, you may not be able to print high quality
photographs that are bigger than 5" x 7". A 2 megapixel camera can produce
pictures of about 1600 by 1200 pixels. This allows for
high-quality 5-by-7 prints. A 3 megapixel camera can produce images of
pixels, allowing for 8-by-10 prints. The higher-resolution
images take up more space on your camera's memory card, so you may only
be able to take a small number of shots before you have to download them
to your computer.
- Zoom - Many advertisements list a camera's optical zoom and its digital
zoom. It's most important to purchase a camera with a high optical zoom,
especially if you think you'll be taking pictures from a distant and
you'll want to zoom in (e.g. at a baseball game). An optical zoom of
3x or 4x is pretty standard on entry-level cameras. You can almost disregard
the digital zoom of a camera since it's a computer-generated zoom and
doesn't lead to high quality pictures. Some cameras have as much as a
10x zoom which can allow even a 2x megapixel camera to hone in close
enough to a subject to get a high quality print.
- Size - Some smaller digital cameras have as many or more features than
larger ones. Some are only 4 ounces and can fit in a shirt pocket.
- Price - I've purchased a digital camera for as little as $10. Average
price is $200-300 but professional photographer-quality cameras
can cost over $1000.
- LCD Screen - Practically all decent digital cameras come with an LCD
screen that lets you preview a scene before you take a picture and that
allows you to review pictures that have already been taken.
- Advanced Features - image stabilization, manual aperture & shutter
- Connectivity - All cameras come with a USB cable that
allows you to download your pictures to your computer. Some cameras can
download your pictures to your computer.
- Batteries - Most digital cameras work with proprietary rechargeable
batteries and some drain their batteries significantly faster than others.
allow you to use normal AA batteries!
- Manufacturers - See this Consumer
Guide at http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/pguide/0,p,cameras,pgid,31,00.asp
an updated list. The following models and prices may be a bit out-of-date since
they were published in May 2004
- Nikon Coolpix 3700 - $400, 3.2 megapixel, 16 MB SD card, 35-105mm
- Kodak EasyShare DX6440 - $350, 4 megapixel, 16 MB SD internal
memory plus SD slot, 33-132 mm focal range
- Kodak EasyShare CX7430 - $280, 4 megapixel,
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P10 - uses Sony Memory Stick
- Nikon - The Nikon Coolpix 3700 has very good battery life.
- Canon - Canon sells the CP-220 Compact Photo Printer for $180.
- Olympus - Olympus Camedia D-560 Zoom ($224) is simple to use and
features manual exposure control.
- Minolta - the Minolta DiMAGE Xt ($265) includes a charger for its
battery pack. Uses Sony Memory Stick.
- Memory Cards - Cameras typically come with a removable
memory card. Once you fill up the memory card with pictures, it is time
the pictures to your computer. But you may want to purchase an extra
memory card or two if you plan to take your
between downloading them to your computer. Most digital cameras come
with one 16MB card. The capacity (size) of the image memory storage will
many images you
can store. There are a number of different
kinds of memory cards (and different sizes) and it depends on your
to use. The most popular forms of
removable storage memory are
- Compact Flash (CF) cards
- Sony Memory Sticks
Media (SM) Cards.
- Photo Printer - Some printers are made especially
for producing high quality prints on premium paper as opposed to general
needs. However, regular color printers can do a decent job printing high
quality photos as well. Premium paper can be purchased at Walmart or
Best Buy but it is relatively expensive.
- Memory Card Reader - If you have a pretty new computer, it may have
a memory card reader built-in on the front of the computer. Otherwise,
you may want to purchase a memory card reader. A memory card reader allows
you to eject the memory card from your camera and insert it into the
reader and then download the pictures onto your computer hard drive.
This process is a bit easier than connecting the digital camera/computer
cable each time you want to download pictures from your camera to your
- Extra Set of Rechargeable Batteries - to alternate with your main batteries
because it can take 6 or more hours for batteries to recharge
- Battery Recharger - allow you to recharge one set of batteries while
the other set is in the camera. Otherwise, you must plug your camera
into the electric socket in order to recharge your depleted batteries.
- Scanner - Scanners are very inexpensive these days. You should only
need to spend $80-200 on a scanner that is capable of scanning existing
photos at a high resolution and quality.
- Taking Pictures
- You need to choose a resolution or level of compression when taking
a picture. Be careful though. The higher the resolution, the larger the
picture file. You may only be able to fit 15-20 pictures on a camera's
memory card if you take the pictures in high resolution. In a lower resolution,
you may be able to fit dozens of pictures on the memory card. When a
memory card is full, you can preview and delete individual photos leaving
more room on the memory card for more pictures. Otherwise, you must download
the pictures to your computer and delete them from the memory card before
you take more photos.
- Using a higher resolution breaks the picture up into more pixels. Thus
the level of detail and picture quality is higher with high resolution.
If your camera gives you various levels of compression to use, the lower
compression level setting will yield better picture quality (and larger
- If your camera include the ability to save files in the RAW format.
This format gives the most overall image quality since the camera does
not compress the photo at all. The RAW format is better than the jpg
format for this reason.
- If you plan to keep your pictures on a computer and you don't plan
to print them out on photo-quality paper, it is unnecessary to take pictures
at your camera's highest resolution. This is due to the fact that modern
computer monitors can't display pictures with as much quality as a printer
can print them out.
- Figuring out those icons on your camera's dial:
- Auto Mode - use this mode if you want the camera to set all exposure levels automatically
- Manual Mode - you have total control to change shutter speed and aperture size. Be careful though of under- or overexposure.
- Aperture Mode - When you set the size of the aperture, the camera finds the right shutter speed for best exposure. This mode can be used to blur the background or keep whole image in sharp focus.
- Shutter Mode - use this mode for action photography. This allows you to blur the scene or freeze the scene. The camera automatically matches the exposure to the aperture.
- Program Mode - this mode automatically sets the aperture size and shutter speed for best exposure but you can still change things like the white balance and exposure compensation.
- Movie Mode - If your camera allows you to record MPEG or QuickTime videos.
- Macro Mode - to focus on objects that are a few inches from the lens
- Landscape Mode - the camera chooses the best aperture and shutter speed setting for increased depth of field
- Sand and Snow - the camera overexposes the scene if it contains brightly colored objects
- Action (Sports) Mode - uses highest shutter speed for a clear, unblurred picture
- Night Mode - uses slow shutter speed to allow enough light into the picture
- Using focus, f-stops (aperture), and shutter speeds - read this article
- Top 7 Mistakes made by digital camera beginners - read this article & its associated links
- sending enormous files by email
- not backing up your photos
- using the camera's digital zoom feature
- using too much in-camera compression to reduce memory use
- using low resolution to reduce memory use
- settling for the software that came with your camera
- not taking the time to learn the equipment
Tasks - There are a number of editing tasks that the casual
home user can perform.
- Sharing your photos
- online photo-printing services -You can upload your
pictures into an online album to friends and family the ability to
view and print your photos.
easier and more convenient than emailing pictures as attachments to
your family. It
much cheaper than spending lots of money for printer ink cartridges.
You can either set your
be viewed by
set up a password and
friends and family for them to view the pictures at no cost.
These web sites make money by selling prints (usually about 19-29 cents for
a 4" x 6" print)
which are then mailed to whoever orders them. People can even order personalized
calendars, mouse pads, coffee cups, refrigerator magnets, and T-shirts.
At clubphoto.com, you can even have a photo printed on Rice Krispies treats!
These sites also allow you to have some editing control over your photos.
The sites give you a custom URL Web page address that can be shared with
and family in order to see the pictures in your album.
You can change the tint, color saturation, red-eye reduction, add borders, and edit your photos at many of the sites.
- imagestation.com - unlimited pictures can be stored for free, 19 cents per 4"x6" print
- snapfish.com - popular service, 19 cents per 4"x6" print
- shutterfly.com - very popular service, 29 cents per 4"x6" print
- ofoto.com - 22 cents per 4"x6" print, subsidiary of Kodak; soon customers will be able to print lower quality versions of the shared photos directly from the web site for free
- funtigo.com - $8/month and 1,000 photos
- photosite.com - $10/month and 500 photos
- sacko.com - free but no custom URL Web address for you photos
and your friends must register to view your photos
- smugmug.com - $30/year
- mobile.yahoo.com/uploadphotos - Yahoo allows you to upload and store unlimited photos taken with your camera cellphone for free
- WalMart - unless you purchase space, your uploaded pictures disappear
after 30 days; print quality is not great
- photoworks.com - easy-to-use
- Kodak Picture Center Online - free
- sending photos as attachments - The tried and true
way to share a photo with someone is to send an attachment. It is best
to make sure that a
photo is in the jpg or bmp format if you are sending it as an attachment
to be sure the other person will be able to view the picture. You should
realize though that some people have virus programs that prohibit all
attachments. There are a few inexpensive programs that make it real easy
to edit and email photos to friends. These programs are not Web site
based like the photo-sharing services listed above and they are not full-fledged
image cataloguing programs like those listed below. But they are suitable
for conveniently distributing photos by email and they often resize the photo so it's not a gigantic email attachment. They include Picasa's
Hello, PiXPO, ourpictures.com ($50) & sharealot.com (free).
- Storing digital pictures on your computer
- You can store pictures in folders that you've created on your computer.
It is best to store the pictures in your My Pictures folder if you use
a Windows computer.
- Image cataloguing software - Image cataloguing
software is especially created to
you store pictures, search for pictures, create categories and add
image cataloguing programs include:
- features of this software include:
- accept pictures directly from the camera, a
a USB key
drive, or a photo CD
- scan your whole hard drive
for all photos so that you can catalogue and organize your
to actually move the files
- You can also type one or more "tags" to
accompany each picture. A tag is a short description of a photo
that can then be
- search for photos based on date, folders, albums
- methodically browse through thumbnail
of your photos
by date or category
pictures and perform other basic editing tasks such as contrast/brightness
adjustments & red-eye reduction
- use preset options for printing to various sizes and types
of photo-quality paper.
- make it easy to email pictures to friends
by helping you reduce the
size and easily send the photos as attachments
- Adobe Photoshop
you to email a PDF slide show.
- Editing photos
- There are a number of programs made especially
for editing digital photos. Typically, these programs can also catalogue your photos like the programs listed above. While high-end
graphics programs such as Adobe Photoshop (> $600) can be used to edit photos, the learning
curve for such programs and the expense is steep.
Your digital camera may have come with a simple graphics program.
All Windows computers include the program Paint which is found by clicking Start/Programs/Accessories/Paint.
Paint can perform simple tasks such as rotating, cropping, or resizing a graphic.
Some of the photo-sharing Web sites have editing tools built in.
- Software programs especially made for editing digital photos include:
- Adobe Photoshop Elements - $99; 30 day trial; includes photo browser (which is modeled after its sister program Adobe Album); Quick Fix one-touch adjustment feature, Cookie Clutter tool that makes custom shapes for greeting cards, handles RAW files, makes cards, photo album pages, and many other features
- Ulead PhotoImpact - $89; image cataloguing & editing, many
one-click wizards, more powerful than Elements, 30
- Microsoft's Digital Image Pro - about $100
- ACDSee - about $50
- PhotoWorks Digital Partner 1.0 - FREE; popular download at download.com
- Microsoft Plus SuperPack - $26; builds slideshows; review
- Kodak EasyShare Software - FREE; organizes & shares photos
- Macromedia Fireworks - approx. $99; mainly suited for developing
graphics for Web sites, it is relatively simple and includes the
that most other graphics programs including the cropping
tool, the text tool,
the rubber stamp, the eraser tool, etc.
- Editing tips and tricks
- Some of the tips below involve clicking a tool in the toolbox of your graphics
program. The toolbox is a set of icons that usually appears on the left edge
of the window.
- adding text - look for the text tool on the toolbox
in your editing program. The toolbox is usually on the far left
side of the window and the
is indicated by the letter A or T.
- cropping a picture - look for the cropping tool. Click and drag your
mouse to select a rectangular region of the picture. Double-click within
the center of the rectangular area in order to crop the picture.
- erasing part of a picture - look for the eraser tool. It can be used
to erase part of the picture.
- rubber stamper tool - look for a tool with a small picture of a rubber
stamper. After selecting this tool, you click once to indicate a region
that you would like to copy and then you click and drag some distance
away from the first click in order to overwrite that area with the
graphic in the original area. This tool can be used to repair cracks
or blemishes in the picture.
- brighten dark pictures - look for a menu command that indicates brightness
or color. Some programs have preset options for lightening or darkening
a picture. Some programs include a dodge and burn tool. The dodge tool
can be used to lighten a region while the burn tool darkens it. The
color and hue of the underlying pixels is not affected.
- rotate a picture 90 degrees - look for a menu command called rotate.
- resize a picture - look for a menu command called image size. The
default units of measurement will be pixels or inches. Keep in mind
that the size of a graphic on a computer screen is a little bigger
than its size when printed on paper.
- creating a slide show - many photo-editing programs help you create
a slide show or an interactive photo CD-ROM that you
can view on your DVD player.
- red-eye removal - look for a menu command that lets you highlight
an eyeball. The software removes the red hue of the pixels in that
- adding borders - look for a menu command that allows you to place
a fancy or basic rectangular border around the picture.
- sepia or grayscale - look for a menu command that mentions sepia
or grayscale to create the look of an old-time
- stitching panoramas - Some editing programs allow you to take two
or more pictures of a scene and then stitch them together into a continuous
- Converting between formats (jpg, gif, bmp) - Click this link for a guide to
converting a graphic file from one format to another. Most pictures are
saved or converted to the popular jpg format. The format of a graphic file
the file extension (i.e.
the letters of the dot in the file name) though some
people's home computers are set to hide file extensions. If the file
extension doesn't appear when you read the file name on your computer,
icon and clicking the Properties command. You may be
able to tell the file's format somewhere in the Properties panel. Many
editing programs will allow
you to use the File/Save As command or a File/Export
menu command to change the format of a picture but typically there is no
reason to since most
and editing programs
default to the jpg format. Though many graphics on the Web
are in the gif format, this format is not recommended for digital photos
since it washes out a lot of the color in a real-life photo.