DIY & Crafts

Digital photo myths debunked


Author: Canadian Living

DIY & Crafts

Digital photo myths debunked


Despite the increasing popularity of digital photography, there are still many widely held misconceptions about it -- misconceptions that prevent people from getting involved.

It's time to do away with these tall tales and reveal the truth behind them. This five-part series will address the major concerns that people have when deciding whether they should go digital: cost, quality, difficulty, creative freedom, and time. Here are the top five myths that persist about digital photography.

Myth #1: Digital photography is expensive
Like any hobby, digital photography requires that you spend some money up front. But once you've bought the equipment, the process is virtually free of charge. In fact, it even saves you money in the long run.

Add it up
Let's begin with an obvious advantage: Digital photography saves you the price of rolls and rolls of film and development. So you can shoot lots of photos at no cost.

Costs are still incurred when you store or print, of course. And batteries will probably be your major expense over the life of the camera. But if your camera uses rechargeable batteries, you can shoot pictures all day for a few cents' worth of electricity.

Only the best
You're not going to want to keep every photo you take. Face it: Even the best photographers take lots of so-so pictures. Digital cameras instantly show you how your pictures look, so you can choose only the best, which means you save money by not printing the mediocre or bad ones. With traditional film, these photos would still get developed and printed before they finally wound up in the trash bin. At least with digital photos, you're only paying to print the good ones.

Dollars and sense
But you don't have to print every photo you keep either. If you've been a traditional photographer for any length of time, you're used to sharing photos primarily through developed prints.

However, once you get accustomed to seeing your photos on a computer and then sharing them electronically for free, you won't look upon prints as the only way to share your photography. You can easily e-mail your pictures to friends or post them on photo-sharing websites like

Let's say you shoot 24 photos. You may discard half, e-mail a handful to friends, and print out a few to display or send. In this way, the expenses are far lower than they would be with a film camera. And you're sharing photos more effectively and inexpensively than ever before.

New and improved
As digital cameras have increased in quality, their prices have dropped dramatically, as have the costs for both capturing images and printing them.

Are you one of those people waiting until the prices hit rock bottom before you jump in? It's only natural to think you should wait to buy a digital camera: In six months you'll get much more for your money. The problem is that you can use this rationale to delay a purchase for years; the new and improved models will always be just months away.

It's similar to buying a computer. People buy their computers when they need them, knowing that they'll upgrade them in a few years or replace them with newer models. Similarly, you may want to replace your digital camera every few years. But that shouldn't prevent you from getting involved now.

Myth #2: Printing digital photos is too time-consuming
Some people see digital photography as a time-eating activity. Isn't it easier and faster, they ask, just to drop your film off at a photo lab and forget about it? To answer that question, here's a little tale. It's set in the olden days...before digital photography was born.

Once upon a time....
Once upon a time, you had to drive to the store to buy rolls of film whenever you wanted to take pictures. You had no idea of how your pictures looked until you shot a whole roll, drove to the store to drop off the film, waited at least an hour (often a few days), and then returned to the store for the prints.

And if you wanted to share pictures with your friends, you'd have to go back to the store and get reprints, and then mail them out. Later, if you wanted to enlarge a favorite shot, you'd have to search through a shoebox full of negatives. And then it was back to the store again.

Is it really easier, then, to just drop off your film at the store? Let's take a closer look at how digital photography can save you time.

Instant gratification
Printing photos at home puts an end to all the waiting. If you want a photo now, you can print it now. As soon as you get back from your trip to Europe, you can hook your camera up to the computer and view your photos at once. And you don't even have to use a PC anymore. Many HP printers allow you to edit your photo and preview it on an LCD screen. You could even take a portable printer (like the HP photosmart 230 on your trip and enjoy your photos immediately!

If you have a photo printer at home, you don't have to drive to a photo lab to drop off, wait for, and then pick up, your pictures. You can even produce high-quality prints right in your kitchen. No more trips to the film lab, or waiting hours or days for the prints or slides to come back.

Plus, you're always ready for picture-perfect moments with a digital camera. No more trips to the store for film. And you no longer have to wait to finish a roll of film before having it processed or waste unexposed film when you can't wait.
Finally, when you decide that you need reprints or enlargements, you can make them yourself: saving yet another trip to the store, and paying a fraction of what you'd pay a lab.

Don't keep grandma waiting
The digital camera has forever changed the way we share images. While it's always been possible to share photos quickly, new advancements in camera technology have virtually eliminated any waiting time, so you can share photos instantly.

Today there are inexpensive inkjet printers that let you plug in your memory card and push a button for a print of each photo on the card. Software improvements simplify this process even further, allowing you to eliminate any unwanted images before the printing process begins.

Many HP Photosmart digital cameras provide an incredibly helpful function unique to HP: HP Instant Share, which allows you to snap a photo and then choose where you want it to go.

You essentially "tell" your camera how you want to share your pictures. You can select from several different destinations, including e-mail addresses and printers. Just pick a digital photo, select the destination (Grandma's e-mail address, the printer in the den, etc.) with the press of one button, and connect the camera to a PC, Mac, or optional HP Photosmart digital camera dock. And presto! Photo sharing without the wait.

It's in the mail
If you really love taking digital photos but feel very strongly about not printing them yourself, then you don't have to. You can use an online photo-finisher. There are online services, and even some local drop-off locations, where someone else will print them and send them to you. Websites like HP Photo and Ofoto let you upload your digital images and order prints in whatever sizes you want. Then the photographs arrive in your mailbox without any work on your part.

Of course, that means you miss out on all the fun, and miss out on a chance to live the glamorous life of a home photo developer! But the point is, you don't have to miss out on the benefits of digital photography just because you don't want to be part of the printing process.

Myth#3: Digital pictures aren't as high-quality as traditional photos
In every myth you'll find a kernel of truth. Yes, it is true that digital camera photos still can't match the quality of those made with traditional cameras. But that gap in image quality is shrinking all the time. (Keep in mind that digital technology is in its infancy, whereas traditional photography has been perfected over the past hundred years.)

Frankly, traditional photography offers more resolution and detail than is really necessary to make an excellent print. So while traditional photography still has the upper hand in terms of quality, it's a difference that is only noticeable in certain circumstances. Will you notice the difference in quality in an 8" x 10" snapshot? Unless it's a gigantic print, probably not.

The print challenge
The quality of digital photographs has improved dramatically in recent years. Cameras offer incredibly higher resolution and greater sensitivity than they did even a year ago.

At 3.3 megapixels, a digital camera can technically create a photo-quality 8" x 10" photo. So if you were comparing an 8" x 10" digital print taken with a 3.3-megapixel camera to an 8" x 10" traditional print, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference. Unless you're a professional planning to exhibit your large-format photos in a gallery, then the quality of today's digital cameras should work just fine for you.

Quality control
From click to print, you control the entire digital photography process-so you really have more control over the print quality of a digital picture than you do over that of a traditional print. You can preview photos and choose only the best ones, and you can immediately delete the low-quality pictures. No more disappointments later when your film is developed!

Quality that lasts and lasts
As digital cameras have improved significantly in quality, so have inkjet photo printers. Now the in-home photo lab can create the same high-quality prints that a professional photo lab can. If you print pictures on HP premium plus photo paper with HP ink that's formulated for your printer, you'll get archive-quality photos that last longer than most traditional prints: up to 73 years!

Pixels aren't everything
HP engineers believe that the science of color holds the key to higher quality. HP Imaging Technology automatically adjusts the camera for each individual scene. The result is clearer pictures from fewer pixels … something that traditional photography could never achieve.

Getting better all the time
Some people believe that digital photography could surpass traditional photos in quality very soon. The pictures you can get today with most 3+-megapixel cameras are already pretty astonishing, and 11+-megapixel consumer models have already hit the market. It's an exciting time to be digital photographer!

Myth#4: Digital photography is too complicated: I'm not a technical person.
Who says digital photography is only for "computer people?"

Maybe it used to be, back when digital cameras were oddly shaped giant blocks that were hard to operate and covered with lots of strange buttons. But that's not so anymore: Today's digital cameras look so similar to traditional ones, it's difficult to tell them apart. They have become extremely easy to use, with one-touch features that make snapping (and even printing) photos incredibly easy...even for the technologically challenged.

Look ma, no computer!
With many HP all-in-ones, you don't even have to use your computer to print and share photos. All you have to do is remove the digital storage media from your camera (whether it's SmartMedia or CompactFlash) and insert it into the slot on the front to receive a proof sheet of thumbnail photos.

Then, simply fill in the bubbles next to the photos you want to print, as well as the paper type and size, and the number of copies you want. You then place that sheet on the scanner and press a button. The device reads the sheet and prints all the pictures you've selected.

It's so easy that even someone who has never touched a computer keyboard can do it. All you need is the ability to fill in tiny bubbles with a pencil. It doesn't get any easier than that! Learn more about using your HP all-in-one as a photo lab in digital photo lab at home .

PC positive
OK. So you don't have to deal with a PC to print digital photos. But let there be no mistake about it: To make the most of your digital camera, you really need a computer-ideally, a reasonably powerful computer with plenty of memory, a big monitor, a nice printer, and a CD recorder.

Without a PC, you have limited ability to retouch your photos, and no long-term storage solution. So even if you aren't a "computer person," don't completely rule out adding a PC to your digital photography setup. Keep an open mind. After all, many other not-so-technologically-inclined people have found that a passion for digital photography has bridged the computing gap for them.

Learning curve
When a PC enters the picture (pun intended), the process is still remarkably easy. You can connect a digital camera right to the computer: no fussing with a mountain of cords. Photo software comes built in to your camera and guides you every step of the way. Learning how to download and adjust your digital photos might seem a little daunting at first. But when you see how much fun you're having and what great pictures you get with practice, you'll be glad you took the digital plunge! Once you get comfortable with the basics, you may want to read photo-editing possibilities to have even more fun with your pictures!

Myth#5 : Digital cameras don't offer the creative versatility of their traditional counterparts
It used to be that only very high-end digital cameras had any kind of advanced manual controls. They were all automatic and adjusted all the settings for you whether you liked it or not.

But many digital cameras on the market today can give you creative control that rivals that of a great many traditional cameras.

Advanced controls
Digital cameras have come a long way in the past few years. And we're not just talking about the high-end devices. Middle-of-the-road models and even entry-level point-and-click cameras are now offering a host of special modes for specific photographic situations, including full-auto, manual, night scene, landscape, and portrait. And the latest digital models even give you control over shutter-speed priority and aperture priority modes, just like their traditional counterparts.

In addition, you can view images before they're printed, and if you don't like what you see, you can easily edit them to perfection or delete them. Now that's versatility!

Master manipulator
Have you ever received your prints from the film-processing lab only to be very disappointed in their quality? Well, when you make your own prints at home, you're no longer at the mercy of the photo print-making machine. No more assembly-line photos for you! You can crop your photos to really focus in on a subject, make flaws magically disappear, remove a distracting object from the background, or merge two photos.

To learn more, read photo editing possibilities and photo cropping basics.

Photographic freedom
Although both the immediacy and flexibility of digital photography have made it very popular, there is one aspect that is rarely mentioned: the freedom it gives you to explore creative photography.

With a traditional camera, many people hesitate before taking a picture. Is it worth wasting my precious film, they ask? Out of that indecisiveness, mediocrity is born. Many people pass up trying new things for fear of wasting money, thereby losing the opportunity for creative growth.

Digital photography gives you the opportunity to explore without hesitation. Go ahead, hand the camera to the kids, or try your hand at some weird and unusual angles. Do a headstand and take photos from there. No shot is too risky when you have the control to print only the photos you like. In the end, that's the kind of freedom that can result in some really good art.

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DIY & Crafts

Digital photo myths debunked