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Digital Photography Explained

Sudbury & District Camera Club

Page updated - 15 October 2006


From Cornard News - These articles were first published in Cornard News

Part 1 - What is Digital? Why Digital?

The Dixons electrical chain in the UK has recently announced that they are no longer going to stock 35mm film cameras. A glance at Dixon’s website lists only two compact & four single lens reflex cameras on sale but there are sixty-eight digital cameras listed.


Technology has made digital cameras possible.  With ‘old’ film the chemicals responded to light acting on them but with digital the light acts on a sensor as an electrical charge. The chief difference, as far as the consumer is concerned, is the immediacy of the process. With film you either took it into your darkroom to be developed and then printed (a relatively time-consuming, process) or took your film down to your friendly local ‘Boots’ shop, and in an hour (or several days) you received the results of your endeavours with a strip of negatives that you kept for subsequent printing.


With a digital camera you can see what you have taken at once on the camera’s screen. If the ‘shot’ was no good then just delete it and try again! With the use of a PC, a printer and an editing programme you can print off what you want and how you want it.  No mess, no wet chemicals – and pretty well instantaneously.  I still get a kick out of being able to take, say, a photo of a flower in my garden, printing it on a birthday card for a friend and getting it in the post within thirty minutes. Even quicker than this, the image can be e-mailed to anybody with a computer anywhere in the world at the press of a button.


In the next issue we will be describing some of the hardware and software available for digital photography.


Hugh Homan – Sudbury & District Camera Club


 25 Oct 2005


Part 2 - Taking, Storing & Manipulating Digital Images

Batteries - Digital cameras ‘eat’ batteries!  Whether you are looking to buy a digital camera, or already own one, it can be beneficial to have one that uses common and inexpensive ‘AA’ size batteries.  Additionally beneficial is investing in rechargeables: ‘AA’ size 1700mAh or 1800mAh are typically supplied with cameras.  Those rated 2300mAh and higher last noticeably longer between charges.


Media Cards - Details of the number of images that a card can hold are found in camera instruction manuals.  Be aware that digital cameras can take pictures even when the card is full but the image isn’t being saved – always check any warnings!  The big advantage of digital capture is the ability to immediately see what you’ve taken.  Don’t like it? Erase it.


Saving Images to Computer - Transferring images to your PC by connecting it by a lead to the camera wastes the camera’s battery power.  A matching card reader overcomes this.  For easier access, rename the downloaded folder to reflect the content (separate images into related subjects if it helps) and ensure that folders are less than 700Mb in size because it is essential to get into the habit of recording the images immediately to an external storage like a CD or DVD disc. You’d lose all your photos if your PC crashed….


Manipulate - Whichever software you have try this basic routine to improve your images:

  • retouch – remove blemishes (it helps to magnify the image)

  • tone – increase contrast for punchier black and whites

  • colour – add yellow/cyan or green/magenta to lose colour casts on screen

  • selective – enhance an area – i.e. generate tone in deep blacks, reduce red-eye

  • sharpen – ‘unsharp mask’ appears to improve clarity

Printing - Matching the printed colours to the monitor’s is best demonstrated in a practical situation.

In the club, we have the technology to guide ‘digital’ beginners.  Give our secretary, Trevor Green, a ring on (01787) 372505.


Peter Norris – Sudbury & District Camera Club


29 Jan 2006


Part 3 - A Personal View

When digital cameras first started making a big impact some five or six years ago, I was very much a sceptic.  My trusty Canon EOS 5 film camera (groundbreaking in its day with its eye-controlled focussing) seemed perfectly adequate. I couldn’t see why I needed to change; all that messing about with the pictures afterwards seemed time-wasting and unnecessary. Since my wife and I acquired our first digital camera in 2002 I have completely changed my opinion.


I love the freedom of the digital process. First of all you can see immediately what you’ve taken.  No good? Bin it!  Want a simple print to give to friends?  Easy, either use one of the dedicated small printers available for a very modest sum or you can turn out a professional looking print or enlargement on your inkjet machine that is indistinguishable from the best photos you can obtain from your local retailer.


Once you’ve invested in some photo software (programmes for your PC or Mac to manipulate the image you’ve taken) like the new Photoshop Elements 4 (many PCs have simpler proprietary programmes already installed) the sky’s the limit. I produce individual cards with my photos for birthdays and anniversaries. Granddaughter, Tabitha, is over for the afternoon?  Mum and Dad can take home one or two of the best pictures. Don’t like great-aunt Ermintrude spoiling that picture of adorable Tabitha?  Remove her!


[Having taking the photos & completed any photo editing, back-up all electronic files; not just to the hard drive but preferably to CD. CD-R’s & CD writers are so cheap and often the composition for the photo will never occur again! – Tony.]


Even the very cheapest new cameras (or even, of course, the better phones) can produce images that you’ll treasure. It’s a whole new world out there and Sudbury Camera Club can help you too. Why not make the next few months a digital experience?  If you’d like to come along to a meeting ring our Trevor on 372505.


Hugh Homan – Sudbury & District Camera Club


06 Aug 2006