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Digital Photography – Soup to Nuts

By December 11, 2003photography

Digital photography is here to stay. The pros have figured out that it’s cheaper to shoot in digital (no film costs and no developing costs); and they get immediate feedback on their pictures, which makes it easier to experiment with picture taking. Of course, for the rank amateur the immediate feedback is good because it lets you know if the shot even came out at all.

If those weren’t good enough reasons to take up digital photography, then how about this? Digital photography means never having to sort through and catalogue negatives and slides. You just put the files in your computer and organize them there.

So the first thing that people who take up digital photography will need is an organizing scheme. If you are an Apple computer user then you have iPhoto. If you are a Windows afficiando then I suggest you try Picasa, which is a $30 program that many people think is better than iPhoto. It’s free to download and you can try it for 15 days before you have to buy it. Another good choice is the new program from Adobe called Photoshop Album 2.0. You can download a trial version that has limited capability. The full version will cost $49.99, which seems a little steep for something that just lets you organize your photos. But if you want to manipulate them then you’ll probably want Photoshop Elements 2.0 by Adobe; if so, then it might make sense to buy the two programs together, which will give you a discount ($129 for both instead of $150 if purchased separately).

Anyway, after you have a program for organizing your pictures, you’ll want to be able to manipulate them. You can do a little bit of manipulation (i.e. fix red eye, or change brightness) in both Picasa and Photoshop Album 2.0, but believe me –if you are serious about your photos– then you should take full advantage of the computer’s ability to create a ‘digital darkroom.’ In other words, you need to consider Adobe Photoshop. But not the full-blown version; check out the $99 program called Photoshop Elements 2.0. You can do pretty much everything that you would want to do in Photoshop, and you don’t even want to know how much Photoshop costs.

The thing about Photoshop Elements is that it is so sophisticated that you can easily become overwhelmed. Therefore, I recommend a good book that will tell you exactly how to do everything that you would want to do to your photographs, and which explains it all in an easy way. For this you need Photoshop Elements for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby. With this book, you can smooth skin blemishes, change people’s hair color, create stunning black & white photographs, whiten teeth, make eyes sparkle and many other effects that are truly stunning. And the author gives you step-by-step instructions. The book is a steal at $30, and is easily the best investment you will ever make.

Recap: if you buy an organizing program like Picasa or Photoshop Album you are effectively spending $30, especially if you get the latter with Photoshop Elements ($99). Then you just need to get Scott Kelby’s book for $30 and you’re all set. The total investment is $160, but remember you aren’t ever going to buy any film or pay for any development costs.

What about printing you ask? Well, I’d just upload the photos to Ofoto, which is owned by Kodak (other simliar services are offered by Shutterfly, PhotoWorks and PhotoAccess). After you upload them you will have a copy online that you can always order high-quality prints from. And after you order them, they just show up at your house. So you save on gas too. Or you can buy a color photo printer, which these days are pretty effective and not too expensive (approximately $150 – $200 for a low-end, quality ink-jet). Epson, Hewlett-Packard and Canon seem to have a lot of choices in this price range.

Finally, after you master the art of uploading photos and ordering prints you might want to explore another possibility: getting a bound book of your special occasion photos. Apple’s iPhoto includes this feature automatically and makes it ridiculously easy. I created a photo book from my recent trip to Paris in about 20 minutes and then clicked a button, and 5 days later I got a high-quality coffee table style book delivered right to my home. Everyone who sees the book is blown away. Of course, I always use it as an opportunity to rave about how great Macs are, but the truth is even Windows users can create quality photobooks by using MyPublisher. Supposedly, this is the company that Apple uses for the books you order through iPhoto. The books aren’t cheap, but they are worth it for those special occasions like vacation photos and special family moments.

So what are you waiting for? Go get a digital camera and ditch the world of film. Unless you are a serious photographer (i.e. you lust after Hasselblads) then you are way better off with a digital camera and some powerful organizing and editing tools.


P.S. If you appreciate my observations, you might want to join my inner circle.

7 Comments

  • I especially liked the tip about MyPublisher. I put together a book of pictures of my wife’s family as a Christmas gift for her and it looked so darn professional. It was pretty expensive, but wow! Great tip!

  • Chaz Larson says:

    I’ve never had good luck printing my own pictures [Olympus 510 2MP, now Kodak DX4530 5MP] on my inkjet [Epson C80]. Sometimes they’ve come out well, but that’s after a fair amount of tweaking.

    I’ve started taking them to Costco. Burn the images to a CD-RW, take it to the store. 4x6s are something like 20 cents each [shutterfly is twice that before shipping]. Maybe a little more than ink & media if I printed them at home, but they come out great, are ready in an hour or two, and I don’t have to mess with it. Highly recommended.

    For photo management, take a look at the iView products, Media and Media Pro.

  • Dave says:

    Does Adobe Album have the same issue with large albums as iPhoto? (i.e., when you have more than 700 MB or so worth of pictures in your albums, the program begins to slow down considerably)?

  • Alex Scoble says:

    BTW unless you have a decent sized LCD display on your camera, you don’t exactly get instant feedback on the picture.

    What looks good on the LCD can often be very blurry when looked at on a monitor in real size.

    Also for most people, a 5 megapixel camera gives them the exact same resolution as a 35mm film camera when you consider that the largest most people will blow up a picture is to an 8 x 10 which is what a 5 megapixel gives you as wel.

    Also I would say with the newest professional SLR digital cameras out there, even serious photographers are way better off in a lot of ways with digital cameras.

  • Dave Stratton says:

    Re Picasa, I recently had some film developed at Ritz photo and ordered both prints and a CD-ROM of the photos. I was delighted to find that Picasa was included for free on the CD-ROM from Ritz. As far as I can tell, it is the full version.

  • TPB, Esq. says:

    I’m nowhere near serious about my cameras and I lust after Hasselblads…

    They’re definitely lustworthy.

  • cloudtravel says:

    This is a great piece of advocacy for digital photography. I did a post about digital cameras located at: https://radio.weblogs.com/0117154/2003/01/12.html

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