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.