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Going Digital

Learning Goals

  • Understand the difference between digital photos versus traditional photos
  • Know the basics of how a digital camera works
  • Understand what information is included in a digital photo
  • Learn some great picture shooting tips

Welcome to the Digital Age!

Digital photos are quite different from their traditional counterparts.  Here are some characteristics that have made digital photography popular:

 Opportunities     Challenges
 See your picture immediately
 Take lots of pictures for no cost
 Easily edit and change the picture
 Organize your picture collection
 Find your pictures in your collection
 Learning new "dark-room" skills

Pictures Made of Dots

A digital picture is also different because it is made up of dots, called pixels.  In fact, usually millions of dots, or Megapixels.   The human brain, when confronted by such a huge number of tiny dots, puts together all these dots in a smooth coherent picture.  Unless you use a magnifying glass, or zoom in on the picture, you would never notice the fact that it is a digital picture.

In fact the picture of the earth shown to the left is made up of:
  • 300 pixels wide
  • 303 pixels high
  • Total of 90,900 pixels or dots
That's not a lot, most digital photos contain 3,000,000 or more dots.

When you zoom in on a digital picture, or blow it up into a very large image, it starts to become pixelated.  The human eye begins to see the individual dots and the quality of the picture is significantly compromised as shown in the example below.

How Many Pixels Do You Need?

Although there are a number of factors to consider, here are some rules of thumb:

High Quality
Acceptable Quality
5 MP = 2592 x 1944
10 x 13 inches
13 x 19 inches
4 MP = 2272 x 1704  
9 x 12 inches
12 x 16 inches
3 MP = 2048 x 1536
8 x 10 inches
10 x 13 inches
2 MP = 1600 x 1200
4 x 6 inches, 5 x 7 inches  
8 x 10 inches
Under 2 MP
Email or wallet-size prints

How many pixels do your really need?  Check out the video below on the MegaPixel Myth:

How a Digital Camera Works

Here are a couple of great articles on how Digital Cameras work.
Basic Mechanical Functions of a Camera all relate to how it handles light:
  • Exposure - setting how much light reaches the film or sensor.  Controlled by flash, aperture, shutter, and sensitivity (ISO)
  • Color of Light - adjusting or compensating for the color of light in a setting
  • Focus - adjusting the lens to get the desired magnification (zoom) and clearest picture (focus)

Each digital photo not only includes a picture, but also contains lots of information about the picture.  Included are things like:
  • Date and time the picture was taken.  (Make sure you set your camera date and time properly)
  • Make and model of the camera.
  • Settings used when taking the picture.

Exercise 1

Let's take a moment to look at two images and the information that is stored with them.  

First, download the image of the world found above in the tutorial:

  1. Right-click on the image
  2. Save Image As...
  3. Find the Image and Right-Click
  4. Click Properties...
  5. Find the number of pixels
Next let's download a picture with photo information.  
  1. Go to www.morguefile.com
  2. Click on Free Images
  3. Click on an image you wish to download
  4. Click Download
  5. Find the image
  6. You can view the camera data by <Right-Mouse-Clicking> a photograph and selecting Properties from the menu.  
  7. Then click on the Details  tab to view the info.

About Lenses

It's also important to have a great lens.  Optical zoom is not the same as digital zoom.  Digital zoom simply reduces the number of pixels in the diagram and should be avoided while shooting.

Here's a few pieces of additional equipment you should consider for your camera:
  • A quality lens cleaning kit.  A fingerprint or smudge on your lens will completely ruin your shooting experience.  See this video from Nikon for a detailed step by step procedure for cleaning your lens.
  • A tripod.  With a little help, you can get great enhanced shots, and have the ability to get yourself into the picture.

Photography Tips

  • Take lots of photos
  • Rule of Thirds
  • Get up close - fill the frame
  • Catch the natural moments
  • Creative tips from MomPhotographer
Basic tips for taking good photos:

View this video for some more advanced photo taking tips:

Beyond Automatic

View our new tutorial for learning about some of the simple "manual" features of your camera and how to use them.

Additional Info