How to Get the Best from a Digital Camera

Reducing your workload

Although it may seem that anything is possible in the digital darkroom, it makes sense for you to get your images as good as possible before resorting to digital techniques: that way you’ll save time that can then be used creatively at the computer. Here are a few tricks to ensure you start work with the best-quality digital images.

White balance

Unlike film-based cameras that need filmstock appropriate to the lighting source, digital cameras can be set to the character­istics of virtually any light source. This feature is known as the white balance. You can set the white balance on most models to daylight (full sun or overcast) and a range of specific artificial lighting types. In this way, unwanted color casts in your image are fixed. You can also set the white balance control to ‘auto’, which is particularly useful when working in mixed lighting conditions. Digital cameras are particularly adept at handling fluorescent lighting, a problem area for conventional film.

Digital zoom

Some basic digital cameras – and quite a few midrange models – feature a digital zoom, either in place of, or in addition to a conventional optical zoom. It works by expanding and recording only the central part of the image, and in doing so, records the image at much lower resolution. There is absolutely no benefit in this. Record your scene without the digital zoom and you can achieve the same effect using software later; and with a ‘full’ image, you could alter the crop afterwards for better results.

In-camera special effects

Some cameras (usually basic to midrange models) allow you to apply special effects (such as sepia toning, posterisation, star filter effects and more) to a recorded image. Beware. It’s always best to record the image without such effects. With digital imaging software you can apply your choice of thousands of such effects to your image once you have captured it, whereas an in-camera effect cannot be removed.

Image enlargement

Similarly, there is no gain in scanning at a higher resolution, even if you intend to print the scanned image at a higher resolution. You can change the image’s size and characteristics more effectively later.

Magazine, fine art and newspaper images

If you want to scan an image from one of these sources, there’s a strong possibility that the dot pattern that comprises the image will interfere with the scanning pattern of the scanner head, resulting in what are known as moire fringes. You can prevent this by setting the Descreen control in the scanner software to the appropriate setting for the source image.

Image storage

Contemporary cameras create largish image files – perhaps 12MB or so. To get a reasonable number on to the camera’s memory card requires each file to be compressed. Such compression can be mild or extreme, the latter producing an image that is subsequently lower in quality. Where quality is important, ensure that you record images at the best quality possible: this is normally described as ‘best’ or ‘fine’ quality. The drawback, of course, is that you’ll be able to store far fewer images when the file size is large.

Effective scanning

If you are using a scanner to digitize your images, here are a few tips for getting the best results.

Understanding image resolution

If you are scanning a photograph (even a high-quality print made on pin-sharp material such as Ilfochrome), the equivalent resolution will be no more than 233 dots per inch. So there is little point in scanning at a significantly higher resolution: 300dpi should be sufficient.

Bit depth

Many scanners can be set to scan at different bit depths, with consequential effect on the image size. Normally, 24-bit color is sufficient. Scanning at 36- or even 48-bit will result in an image that features far more subtle gradations, but it will almost always need to be converted to 24-bit color for further processing and printing.

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Filed Under: Computers & Technology


About the Author: Justin Belden is a freelance web & graphic designer with over 15 years' experience. He is also an Avid member of the Design/Development community and a Serial Blogger who loves to help people by sharing interesting and informative tips and trick related to computer and technology.

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