Digital Photography tutorial
Digital Photography has truly revolutionized photography in many ways but it’s more of a practical revolution than anything else. The basics of photography largely remains unchanged.The biggest difference between film and digital photography is in how you handle your digital photographs after they are taken.
Storing and sharing your photos
Storing your digital photographs can be quite iffy and I have several friends that lost all their photographs after a fatal hard disk crash.
Even if you back up your files on a CD or DVD there is no guarantee you can open your files after a few years because the information on the discs can get lost or damaged over the years.
There are several ways you can store your digital photographs
- Your computers hard disk
- Burn CD or DVD’s
- USB hard disk
- USB memory stick
- Photo sharing sites
- Some iPods can store photographs
Always keep your photographs on at least two places, preferably two physically separated places in case of fire or theft.
You will definitely need a good system to catalogue and categorize your photos so you easily can find them. Otherwise you’ll end up with a major chaos of unstructured files on your computer.
iPhoto is a good software that takes care of structuring your photographs and it comes installed on all MAC computers. You can also do basic editing with iPhoto.
Windows PC users you can try Picasa which is a free software from Google.
Digital photography makes it very easy to share your photographs with friends and family when you travel the world.
New photo sharing sites are started daily so it should not be a problem for you to fine one. Here are the two photo sharing sites i personally use.
Photo sharing sites can also be used as an alternative storage for your digital photographs.
Social networking sites such as for instance myspace.com or facebook.com can also be used for sharing your photos.
Printing your photos
With digital photography there is obviously no cost for developing film and you can see the result immediately on your computer.
This is great but in some cases it just feels good to have a “real” photo to hold in your hand so in this case you have no choice but to make a print.
There are a two basic options to make prints from your digital photographs
- Buy a color printer or borrow from a friend
- Use a printing service
It doesn’t make sense to print at higher resolution than 300 DPI (dots per inch) because the human eye won’t appreciate the difference. Most printers today are capable of printing 300 DPI or higher so you don’t have to worry about the resolution.
The tricky part is to get the colors right in your prints. Imagine your printer gives a slightly greenish tone to your face, this is not making you happy.
Most printers comes with a default color profile that in theory corrects the colors and create prints in perfect colors. The color profile is however perfected for the “average” printer in the production line. The problem is that consumer printers can deviate quite a lot from the “average” so your prints might be slightly off-color and this can be really distracting.
You can buy printer profiling equipment but it’s not an easy process and cost quite a lot of money to buy.
The second option is to send your digital photographs to a printing service. You upload your photos, select print size and pay. Your photos will come directly to your home within a couple of days.
The printing service provider will make sure their color profile match their printer so you don’t have to worry about that.
There are lot’s of printing services out there so it should no be a problem to find one.
Some printing services like for instance CafeeExpress.com will even make T-shirts, mugs and large posters from your digital photographs.
Edit your photos
One of the biggest advantages with digital photography is that you easily can edit your photos without having to scan your film.
- Here’s some editing you can do quite easily:
- Crop out parts of the photo
- Change color tones and saturation
- Change the contrast
- Make the photograph darker or brighter
- Remove red eyes
- Convert between different file formats
- Change file size and resolution
- GIMP is free and have advanced professional functionality (gimp.org)
- IrfanView is free and easy to use (irfanvew.com)
- Picasa is free and easy to use (google.com)
- iPhoto comes delivered with all MAC computers
The exposure is the amount of light that passes through the lens, into the camera and captured by the sensor/film.
Sounds simple right?
But how do you control how much light is captured by the sensor or film?
The amount of light that is captured by the sensor/film is controlled by four factors:
- Shutter speed
- ISO speed on film or sensor
- Focal length of the lens
Any change of these four factors will either directly or indirectly change the exposure.
Shutter speed is measured in time, sometimes in seconds but mostly fractions of a seconds. The longer time the shutter is open the more light flows through the lens and captured by the sensor or film.
Fast moving objects will be blurred with a slow shutter speed and frozen with a fast shutter speed.
Aperture is measured in f-stops (f/5.6 for instance) and controls how much light passes through the lens per time unit. A bigger aperture will allow for more light to pass through the lens and a smaller aperture will allow less light to pass through the lens and on to the sensor.
Shutter speed and aperture always goes hand-in-hand. You can shorten the shutter speed and get the same amount of light captured by the sensor or film if you a bigger aperture.
The aperture affects the depth of field which determines how much of what you see in the viewfinder will be in focus.
Shutter speed and aperture always goes hand-in-hand. You can shorten the shutter speed and get the same amount of light captured by the sensor or film if you open up the aperture.
ISO speed determines how fast a sensor or film reacts to light. A slower ISO means you either need a longer shutter speed or need a larger aperture and vice versa for a faster ISO speed
On a digital camera you can change the ISO speed with a push of a button. With a film camera it’s not so easy so you need to rewind the film, remove the film and replace it with a new film with faster or slower ISO.
The focal length of the lens affects the exposure but more indirectly than shutter speed and aperture. The focal length affects the depth of field in your photos which in turn affects the aperture and shutter speed you need to create the exposure and composition you desire.
A large aperture was used in the photograph below causing two of the flowers purpously go out of focus.
Example: Large aperture
Have you ever wondered why some photos are more appealing than others?
One of the main reasons you find some photos more appealing than others is because of their composition.
The main purpose with composition is to find a pleasing selection and arrangements of subjects within the picture frame.
By placing objects in certain positions of the picture frame or by choosing a different point of view with your camera you can make a dramatically composition.
Even thought some snapshots may turn out to be appealing and have good composition, most good photos are carefully crafted.
A snapshot can occasionally turn out great, but to consistently take well composed photos you need to carefully plan and wait for the right opportunity.
The good thing is that composition skills can be learned by following some simple guidelines. You'll soon find that these guidelines will become second nature to you if you use them consistently.
The basic components for composition are
- Rule of thirds
- Avoiding mergers
In the photograph below you can see several components of good composition:
- It's extremely simple and one of the reasons is that the photo is framed so it doesn't include any distracting objects
- The tree is placed on the upper third intersection
- The snowtracks form a line that leats the eye all the way up to the tree.
- There are no mergers in the photograph
- The photo is very balanced
What format to use?
It’ so much easier to “rescue” a badly exposed photograph if you use RAW format compared to using JPG format. You can correct the white balance and correct an badly exposed photograph in a snap. RAW format also gives your digital photographs a sharper and better quality.Digital photographs in RAW format are stored exactly as your camera recorded the scene. RAW format is also called a “lossless” format because no information is lost.JPG however is a “lossy” and compressed format so some information is lost on the way and can never be recovered.So it sounds like RAW format is hand down best for digital photography? It’s not as easy as that...The RAW format has some serious disadvantages...RAW files are huge so you need a large hard disk capacity. You also need special software to convert the files before they can be printed and shared. Some cameras can store two photographs, one in JPG format that that can be viewed immediately and one in RAW format you can use to pull out the best possible quality from later.So while RAW format gives you the best quality it can be time consuming and overwhelming to use for a beginner.I personally always shoot my digital photographs in RAW format. The photographs I like I correct for best quality and convert to JPG or TIFF format. The photographs I don’t like as much I either delete or just leave them “as-is”.
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