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Digital Photography Tips

(Excerpts from Mr. Modem's Weekly Newsletter)

Taking the best photos possible is the ultimate objective of all photographers, so it never hurts to review some of the basics. And let me state at the outset that I will not be sharing Mrs. Modem's patented "finger-in-front-of-the-lens-obliterating-the-headless-subject" technique. I'm sorry; some things just cannot be shared.

The following are 10 of my favorite tips, guaranteed to improve your picture-taking prowess – or the cost of this article will be cheerfully – well, perhaps begrudgingly refunded. (I shutter to think of it.)

Digital Photography Tip 1: Why Digital Photography?

1. It saves money: No film is required, so there is no film-processing expense, nor toxic chemicals required for film processing.

2. You don't have to wait until a roll of film is completed before seeing your photos.

3. Instant gratification: Your photos can be viewed instantly, plus digital photography provides the opportunity to reshoot pictures, if necessary.

4. Using graphics editing software – which generally is bundled with the purchase of a digital camera – you can easily edit your photos.

5. Digital photos can be emailed to friends, used in virtual greeting cards, placed in online albums for viewing by others.

Digital Photography Tip 2: Who Needs A Digital Camera?

I suppose the appropriate answer to this question is "Anyone who really wants one." Of course, not everybody needs a digital camera. If you rarely take photographs or you're content with your film camera and not curious about digital photography, a digital camera might not be worthy of consideration. But if you constantly take pictures or feel that you would take more if you could view them on the spot or email them to friends and family, then a digital camera is the way to go.

Digital Photography Tip 3: Which Digital Camera to Choose?

All digital cameras are not created equal, so which camera is right for you really depends on your needs. If you only want to email pictures, a 1-megapixel camera is all you need. I would not recommend a 1-megapixel camera, though, because of its limitations. You may start out just emailing photos, but in time you'll probably want to do more.

If you plan to email pictures, upload them to a Web-based album and occasionally make a print that won't be larger than 5 x 7 inches, a 2-megapixel camera will get the job done.

If you want the most versatility, which includes the ability to make 8 x 10 prints, get a 3- or 4-megapixel camera, if your budget will permit it.

Definition: Megapixel: Pixel count is a way of measuring image resolution in digital photography. One megapixel equals 1 million pixels, and a pixel (short for "picture element") is a tiny dot that together with many other dots, make up a digital image. The higher the camera's megapixel rating, the better quality the picture.

Digital Photography Tip 4: Storage Media

Once a picture is taken, the image data is saved – not unlike how a document is saved on your computer – so it can be viewed or edited later. Sometimes the data resides in a buffer or short-term storage area and is then written onto what's called removable media such as CompactFlash or Smart Media.

Most digital cameras today use some form of removable storage media, usually flash memory cards, but occasionally small hard disks and even CDs. Whatever the form, removable media let's you remove one storage device when it's full and insert another.

The number of photos that you can store in a camera depends on a variety of factors including the capacity of the storage device (expressed in MB or megabytes); the resolution at which the pictures are taken (higher resolution images consume more space); and the amount of compression used. Compression refers to the process of compacting digital data so it takes up less room.

The number of images you can store is important because once you reach that limit, you have to stop taking pictures, erase some existing ones to make room for new ones, or replace the storage device.

Enjoying this article? Then why not subscribe to Mr. Modem's Weekly Newsletter ( today! Computer tips, tricks, virus alerts, hoax information, plus prompt, personal responses to your computer questions!

Digital Photography Tip 5: Transferring Data

Once you take photos, you'll need to move the data stored in the camera to your computer. To do that, either remove the media (such as a flash memory card) and insert it in an external device called a media reader that's connected to your computer, or hook up your camera directly to your PC via USB, serial or FireWire connection. The image data is then transferred to your computer so you can view, edit, print, or email your photos to others.

Digital Photography Tip 6: Using Auto-Focus

Before taking a photo with a digital camera, push the shutter button halfway down to allow the camera to auto-focus and set the auto-exposure levels. Virtually all digital cameras have auto-focus capability. If you prefer complete control over your photos, you can turn your camera's auto-focus feature off. The specific steps will vary by camera, so look in your camera manual under "Auto-focus."

Digital Photography, Tip 7: Know Your Camera's Lag Time

Most digital cameras have a delay between the time the shutter button is pressed and the moment the shutter actually releases. This lag time can result in inadvertent camera movement, particularly if you think the photo has been taken. Simply being aware of your camera's lag time by using your camera frequently, you can improve the odds of getting the shot you want or not moving the camera until a picture has been taken.

Digital Photography Tip 8: Carry Extra Batteries

"Don’t forget the juice, Bruce!" Digital cameras can consume lots of power, particularly if you use the camera's on-board previewing and editing features. It's a good idea to always carry at least one fully charged extra battery. Two is even better, particularly if you're on vacation and without ever-ready access to the ability to recharge. If you're in a very warm location, place your extra batteries in an air-tight Baggie and keep them in an ice chest or other "cooler" location, if possible.

Digital Photography Tip 9: Choose Your Resolution

Be sure to select the appropriate resolution for your shooting needs. Lower resolution, 72 to 100 ppi or dpi (pixels-per-inch or dots-per-inch), is appropriate for email and for pictures that will be displayed on the Web. The overall file size should not exceed 50KB (kilobytes), with 35KB being ideal.

Use higher resolutions if you're planning to print photos. To print photo-quality digital images requires a resolution between 180 to 240 ppi, or whatever resolution results in the size image you want. The higher the resolution, the larger the file size of each photo, so the more camera memory the photos will consume. You'll need at least a 2-megapixel camera for decent looking 5 x 7 photos, and a 3-megapixel camera to print 8 x 10s.

Digital Photography Tip 10: Be a Picture Director

Take control of your picture-taking and you'll see your photos dramatically improve. Become a picture director, not just a passive picture-taker. A picture-director takes charge and selects the location: "Everybody go outside and stand under the tree. Don't worry about the lightning. It will be a great picture!" A picture-director establishes the emotional ambiance: "Girls, tell the boys to start smiling and pretend this is fun before I smack 'em." A picture-director arranges people: "Now move in close and lean towards the camera. Shaquille, I think it would be better if you were in the back row." Most pictures won't be this involved, but if you take charge of your pictures, the results will be noticeable.

If you're digital-camera shopping, click HERE to access PC Magazine's "Snap Happy" review of 21 popular digital cameras. If you would like additional assitance selecting a digital camera, click
to review a wonderful tutorial on the subject.

Happy Snapping!

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