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What is Digital Photography?

Brief overview of the basics of digital photography

Its popularity is exploding everywhere, but what is digital photography? For lots of beginners, digital photography can be boiled down to pointing a camera at a subject and clicking!

But it's well worth getting a better idea of what digital photography actually involves. It will give you more confidence when buying equipment and more control when using it.

Digital photography is basically where digital technology is involved in the creation of a photographic image. This also entails post-processing and printing methods.

Below is a short and sweet overview of the basics of digital photography, with key digital camera facts and explanations of post-processing and printing techniques.


What is digital photography? Key digital camera facts

Digital cameras have replaced their film counterparts so rapidly because they streamline the whole photographic process to a quick, clean and convenient business.

It's appropriate, really, since photos are formed in a split second, that the attendant preparation, paraphernalia and processing should be minimally time consuming.

These basic digital camera facts will help give you a clear idea of some major features of digital photography:


Electronic sensor

Digital cameras, unfortunately, aren't cheap. In large part we have the electronic sensor to thank for that! But we also have it to thank for making photography so much easier to do.

The electronic sensor belongs inside the body of a digital camera and it's where photos are formed. Whilst film cameras use a chemical process involving light sensitive film, digital sensors are electronic.

Film can only be used once, but the sensor creates images that are stored electronically on a memory card and can be used over and over again. That makes life a whole lot easier!

Sensors create images that are comprised of pixels ('picture elements' - little bits that make up an image), or megapixels. The more MP's in a photo the larger it can be printed before quality declines (pixilation).


Memory Cards

Memory cards are one of the basics of digital photography. They slot into digital cameras and when photos are taken they are stored on the card. Memory cards can save pictures in a range of quality settings (e.g JPEG Fine, JPEG Basic) and file types (Raw/JPEG).

One of the first things that comes to mind when asked 'what is digital photography?' is the ability to instantly delete pictures you have taken to free up space for new ones.

You are not limited to a set number of shots. If you don't like one you've taken, just delete it from your memory card and try again!

Memory cards can be plugged straight into a lot of printers directly. This allows you to bypass the 'computer' stage completely and reel off prints in no time!


LCD Screen

The LCD screen on the back of digital cameras is usually about 2.5 - 3 inches. You can use it to preview your shots, set up a shot (the viewfinder is better though) and access the camera menus with all the digital camera facts and settings in them.

This screen is present on all digital cameras and is one of the basics of digital photography. It's so handy to be able to take test shots that are instantly viewable. Underexposed? Delete them and take some more! Bad colour tone? Hit delete and adjust the white balance!


What is digital photography? Types of camera

Broadly, there are 3 types of digital camera you can choose from.

  1. Compact cameras: Small, lightweight cameras that make basic photography easy and convenient. Small sensors reduce the potential size of prints and (usually) limited manual controls reduce creative freedom when taking pictures. (Here are some basic photography tips on finding the right compact for you)

  2. Bridge cameras: A half-way house between DSLR's and compacts. Better quality, larger sensors than compacts make for good image detail and potential print size. More manual controls offer creative freedom. Bridge cameras have greater focal lengths than compacts, but the lenses are not detachable as with DSLR's.

  3. DSLR's: Large cameras with detachable lenses that open up the possibility for every type of photography. Larger sensors than bridge cameras enable bigger prints to be made. Full manual controls provide total creative freedom. The same 'reflex mirror' system as in film SLR's is used, but accompanied by digital technology. (More digital camera facts on DSLR's)


What is digitial photography? Post-processing

Post-processing and fine tuning images after they have been taken has always been a big part of photography.

Sometimes people assume it was only with the arrival of clever software, like Photoshop, that photographers began making big adjustments to their images.

In, fact, many famous film photographs have been heavily edited using all kinds of long drawn out techniques in the dark room. That required a lot of time, money and expertise; but Photoshop is for everyone!

Digital photography allows us to transfer pictures to a computer and play around with them in all sorts of ways using Photoshop. Whilst great pictures are still made in the moment the shutter release button is pressed, Photoshop does make it very quick and easy to make effective adjustments.

The comparative ease of digital post-production to the darkroom has made Photoshop one of the digital photography basics. You don't have to splash out on the full version either; Photoshop Elements gives you all the core functions of Photoshop CS for a tiny fraction of the price.


What is digital photography? The printing methods

New printing technology and methods have arisen alongside digital photography. Digital photos are typically printed using inkjet printers.

The inkjet system involves thousands of drops of ink being squirted onto a page to create accurate reproductions with subtle graduations between different colours.

Prints can be made from files stored on your computer or directly from the images on a memory card (if the printer has a slot for it).

Inkjet printers use a CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, key black) colour system. Since this differs from the RGB colour system of digital files it's often necessary to tweak the colour settings of your printer in order to get the best result.


What is digital photography? Displaying pictures

Beyond the tiny previews on LCD screens of digital cameras and the ability to view pictures on a computer screen, the only major digital alternative for displaying pictures is digital photo picture frames.

These are really cool because they allow you to view images in a frame - on constant rotation. So you never get bored of looking at the same one!

The Photography Crash Course: 17 Short Lessons To Camera Mastery

Where Next?

Online Digital Photography Courses

Digital Photography Magazines

Canon Camera Reviews

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