Digital Photography

Travelogues Wallpaper Candidates Mobile Internet Digital Photography

Information Sites

Here are a few sites that I have found to be excellent sources of information about digital photography: Reviews, News, Discussion, Opinions and Tips.

  Great Reviews, and the best discussion forums.
 Another very authoritative review site
  Steve combines excellent reviews and the latest news
 Dennis writes books about photography and posts them here

Introduction to Digital Photography

I have created a set of PowerPoint presentations that I use when asked to explain digital photography. Numbers 1 and 3 are over 5 megabytes because of the photo examples they contain. They are:

Introduction to Digital Photography I: Basics

Introduction to Digital Photography II: Camera Features

Introduction to Digital Photography III: Post processing


The Megapixel Race

Manufacturers are finding hard to tell all of the features of a digital camera in ten words or less, so their marketing departments seem to have settled on the number of picture elements (pixels) that make up the picture as the thing they use to tout the advantages of their products. "This is a six megapixel camera: it must be better than that mere 5 megapixel camera." Don't fall for it. Analyze your own needs.

What is the minimum image size you need? It depends on your purpose. This table is my opinion:

Image Size

Megapixels

Typical file size

Purpose

640 x 480 0.3 60KB Web pages and e-mail
1024x768 0.75 150KB Everything above and up to 4 x 6 prints
1600 x 1200 2 400KB Everything above, detailed image editing, and up to 8 x 10 prints
2288 x 1712 4 800KB Everything above and up to 11 x 17 prints
3024 x 2016 6+ 1.2MB to 6MB "Prosumer" level cameras (often store uncompressed photos).

Note that doubling the number of pixels only gives you a 40% improvement in the number of pixels along the edge of the picture. We found that our 2.1 megapixel cameras (Olympus c-2100UZ) gave us all the detail we need for everything we were doing  Larger images would have to be cropped or resized even more for us to use them in web sites. We could easily fit a whole day's vacation picture taking on a 128MB Smart Media card. Once you have enough resolution for your planned usage, there is no requirement to go beyond that.

Of course I have to note that our C-2100UZ's had a major advantage over other digital cameras: they have mechanically stabilized 10x zoom lenses. This gives us the ability to frame our pictures tightly and exactly at the time we take them. If we had only 3x zoom (a typical value) we might need more megapixels so we could crop the picture we really wanted out of the larger picture. If we needed a 2 megapixel image for printing, or a one megapixel image for the web site, we could choose that small an area out of a 4 megapixel image to partially make up for the lack of zoom.

[January 2004] I got a new camera for Christmas and I think that I have found a worthy successor to our C-2100UZ's! The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10 has a 12x Leica Elmarit f/2.8 optically stabilized lens and a 4 megapixel sensor. It has a wide range of manual controls for the situations where they are required, and takes beautiful shots in automatic mode. It adds a hotshoe for flash, and takes away the autofocus assist light, but overall I find it to be an improvement over the (discontinued) Olympus C-2100UZ.

[June 2006] My daughter needed a new camera, so I passed along my DMC-FZ10. This is what the family refers to as "the food chain." After the usual amount of research, I replaced it with a Panasonic DMC-FZ30, This is an incremental improvement over the DMC-FZ10. The lens barrel no longer retracts, so it starts up much quicker. They added a zoom ring on the lens barrel, a great improvement over the electric zoom controls. The viewfinder has better resolution, and the LCD screen can be tilted and rotated for shooting at odd angles. They cranked it up to eight megapixels, but with the drop in price of one gigabyte Secure Digital chips, we can still shoot all day on one chip. They brought back the autofocus assist illuminator, for low light situations, and made a number of other improvements. Marie tried it and liked it, and I couldn't get it back. Now we have two DMC-FZ30s. For our first trip using the new cameras, see Puget Sound 2006

[December 2007] I am now using a DMC-FZ50.

{July 2009] Marie took one look at the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 12MP waterproof camera with 4.6x wide angle MEGA Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.7 inch LCD that I got to take snorkeling, and decided that that was her camera when I wasn't actually in the water. She likes the wide variety of pre-set scenes: the sunset setting was just right for the top of Haleakala. The "Intelligent Assistant" mode recognizes various situations and automatically compensates, Her only caveat: "Always carry an extra battery!"

 

Monitor Calibration

Here are a couple of sites that can help you adjust the settings on your monitor to get the best color representation. This is very important when you are adjusting your images prior to posting them or printing them

http://www.displaycalibration.com/

Accurate Image Manipulation for Desktop Publishing

[March 2009] I am now using a Pantone Huey to automatically calibrate my monitor to a fixed standard.


 

How I Create my Photo Albums

I have often been asked how I create my web photo albums. I have streamlined the steps from raw pictures to finished web site so that now I can usually post the pictures within a week of getting home. Here are my steps:

  1. Triage. We shoot over a hundred pictures a day apiece. Some are out of focus, some are washed out, and some are just clunkers. We now use Picasa to examine the pictures. It allows us to straighten them, add fill light, correct the exposure, add a comment, and crop to a more dramatic image. Much of this can be done evenings, on the road since I copy each day's shooting to my laptop. As soon as I get home, all the pictures are backed up to CD-R. Then the ones selected for the web site are exported and resized down to 1024 x 768.
  2. Editing. A few of the images need more editing than can be applied in Picasa. This includes panorama stitching, removing power lines, complex exposure correction, etc. I use Adobe PhotoShop Elements and Panavue Image Assembler. Exifer is a utility which allows me to restore some of the internal image data after editing; things like date taken and camera settings. We often use bracketing to take three shots of the same scene at different exposures. Photomatix then takes the best from each shot to create a High Dynamic Range (HDR) result.
  3. Organization. Next I divide them up into directories mirroring the final web site: one directory per web page. Usually this is simply chronological, but sometimes a group of related images need to be brought together in a sub-directory.
  4. Graphic Design. Now I have to decide if I have a story to tell, or if I am simply commenting on the pictures. To tell a story, I will use Microsoft Expression Web to create a web site with text and pictures, such as I did for our trip to Austria. If the pictures are the main reason for the web site, e.g. Puget Sound, I will generate the website using JAlbum.
    1. Expression Web. This is a longer process. I create a theme using CSS, then I intersperse blocks of text with tables putting text alongside thumbnails. Expression Web has an auto-thumbnail function which simplifies the editing. Having direct control of the text allows me to insert relevant hyperlinks. I also get to include Google ad-sense blocks.
    2. JAlbum. First I use the Edit tab of JAlbum to arrange the images, and attach a comment to every picture and directory. Some of these comments might have been added in Picasa, during the Triage step. Then I choose a color scheme for the Chameleon skin. After selecting my favorite set of options, I let JAlbum generate the web site. If desired, I could then go in with Expression Web for any tweaks I wanted to apply.
  5. Publish. My web sites run really, really big, so I don't want to pay some hosting company by the megabyte for storage space. My ISP provides me with a fixed IP address for my Peacham.com domain, and I run the Tomcat web server on a cheap "Netbook" computer. All I have to do is copy the web site to the server's hard drive.

Software

These sites sell or give away very useful programs for digital photography. Note that I am a PC user, so I don't know enough about Mac software to include any here.

Google Picasa is a great free photo organizer. It simplifies basic corrections without modifying the original file.
JAlbum is an open source photo album generator. It keeps getting better and better!
Adobe  Authors of PhotoShop and PhotoShop Elements (my favorite picture editing program)
Photomatix icon Photomatix from HDRSoft. The solution to exposure problems.
Free program to view and organize pictures. Creates slide shows and web pages. Don't forget the add-ins: it includes a loss less JPEG rotator.
LogoPanaVue ImageAssembler  Excellent program for stitching multiple shots together into a single larger image.
Qimage Pro The best way to print your digital images. Fits them on the page, and has very good cropping, exposure adjustment, color adjustment, etc.

Shopping

These sites will help you select an online vendor. Don't pay much attention to their feature comparisons. Sites such as Digital Photo Review are much more accurate and objective.

The lowest advertised prices are often from a store which makes its money on overpriced accessories. The scam goes like this: You place an online order for a camera. The next day a salesperson phones you to "verify the shipping address." You are offered a $20 set of filters for $60, a $15 case for $55 and so forth. If you refuse to buy, the camera you want is "out of stock" and they'll let you know "as soon as they get some in." At that point you cancel the order and find a more reputable dealer.

mySimon  Price comparison across many sites
 Price and feature comparison.
 Price and feature comparison
ResellerRatings.com Customers opinions of how they were treated by vendors. Verrry interesting!
 
2009, F. W. Schneider
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