DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY

This purpose of this article is to encourage you to investigate digital photography.  It is NOT a buying guide to cameras or printers.

WHY SHOULD I CONSIDER DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY?

For us, there were two major reasons to buy a digital camera:

  1. Cost.  As full-timers, we would be taking a lot of pictures.  With a digital camera, there are no film costs or developing costs.  We are able to shoot a lot of pictures, download and store them on the computer, and only print out the best pictures.
  2. Space savings.  We don't have to find space to store negatives or pictures since they reside on the computer hard drive.

There are numerous other advantages.  We are able to digitally touch up the picture with the software that came with the camera.  This same software allows us to add special effects and use our pictures to create calendars, greeting cards or even stationary or address labels.  We can print the pictures at virtually any size we want.  We can take several pictures of a scene and digitally "stitch" them together to create a wide panorama.  Also, we can e-mail pictures to family and friends.

Our digital camera has virtually replaced our film camera.  However, we still use the old film camera as its long telephoto lens is not compatible with the digital camera.

WHAT DO I NEED?

First, you will need a digital camera.  You will want to get one with an image resolution of at least a megapixel.  The larger the image resolution, the better your pictures will look if you print really large prints, such as 8 x 10.  However, don't be fooled into buying more camera than you really need.  Our camera is only capable of 0.775 megapixel resolution, and it prints perfectly fine pictures at 8 x 10.  You can buy a digital camera for between $40 and $2500.  The upper price ranges are for professionals and the bottom range is only useful for posting images on the web.  You can buy a very good digital camera for around $200.  Preferred capabilities include at least a 3x optical zoom and a through-the-lens or LCD viewfinder.  Cameras store images in various formats.  Ideally, the camera would have the option to store images in TIFF format as it is a "non-lossy" format that results in best images, especially if you plan on converting them to other more memory-efficient formats or plan on doing a lot of editing.  However, TIFF requires a lot more memory than JPEG, which is the most popular image format.  Some cameras are capable of adding audio to a picture or even taking a short 10 or 16 second video.  However, the video will not be comparable to a video camera.  Although most cameras store their images on a RAM chip, Sony offers some cameras that use a floppy disk.  However, if you store your pictures in the highest resolution, you may only get a few pictures per floppy.  Investigate recent articles in the computer magazines before making any purchase.  You may also want to shop the web for the best price once you decide on a camera.

The second thing that you will need is a good photo quality color printer.  You can get a good printer for $200, such as the HP 932C.  You can print your pictures on photo glossy paper that will have the look and feel of regular pictures for a cost of about 90 cents a sheet.  Depending on the size of picture that you want, you can get 6 or 8 pictures per sheet.  However, you can get VERY GOOD pictures on a photo paper at around 10 cents a sheet, but it will not have the feel of photo glossy paper.  Perfectly-acceptable pictures can also be printed on copy paper.  However, the real cost of owning an ink-jet printer is the ink cost.  Printer manufactures sell their printer near cost and make their money on ink cartridges.  I highly recommend that you buy a refill kit that allows you to refill your ink cartridges yourself as this will greatly reduce your printing costs.

The third thing that you will likely need is additional storage for your computer, as you will likely run out of storage on your hard drive.  Again, prices have decreased rapidly as capability has increased.  As a bonus, this external storage will allow you to back up your computer's hard drive.  This is something that we all must do to protect our valuable data.  Storage options include Iomega ZIP drives, Castlewood ORB drive, and small external true hard drives.  Investigate the price for the drive and media and look for the best price per megabyte.  You will also need to ensure that your selection will interface with your computer, usually via the parallel or USB port.

I hope that this is enough to get you started.  There is a lot of info available on the web and also in magazines to expand your knowledge.