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Photography Tips: The Basics

by Ursula Hoffmann, with John Plischke III and Gerry Sheine

a camera, traditional or digital
a good color scanner, with optional capability to scan slides and transparencies
a good color printer -- use Kodak Premium Picture Paper Glossy (and be sure to print on the glossy side)
a good image editor; I like to use Jasc's PaintShopPro, powerful and reasonably priced -- see www.corel.com; I believe Adobe now has an affordable version of PhotoShop; the two products are competitive and very good.

Traditional Camera
Use your favorite film.
Scan photos or slides for digital use, e.g., for high-quality photos for printing, or a CD or for the Web -- see below.

Digital Camera
Decide on end-use in advance:
1. For printing photos, use best setting on your camera ("Fine").
2. For the Web (i.e., e-mail or a website), use lowest setting on your camera: The resolution must be 72 or 75 dpi (dots per inch) = 640 x 480 pixels, and the image must be saved in .jpg or .gif format. These formats compress the image to make the size of the file (NOT THE SIZE OF THE IMAGE) smaller and so suitable for quick transfer by e-mail or FTP.  Note: Another way to compress the file is to ZIP it.
Before you save the image in the compressed format, edit it with a good image editor: crop the image, name it, etc.

Scanning photographs, slides, transparencies
Decide on end-use in advance:
1. For copying (i.e., for the printer to print a copy of your photo), scan at the highest resolution your printer can do, crop and edit the image and print it.
2. For use on the Web, for e-mail or posting to a website, scan at a resolution of about 72 dpi, save as .bmp. Then open the .bmp image, crop and edit the image, and save it as .jpg or .gif.
3. For saving high-quality images to a CD for professional printing etc., calibrate your scanner to reproduce true colors (this is costly), scan at best quality, save in .bmp format.

Editing images:
Never edit the original. Open the original image (e.g., image), save it (Save As) to a copy (e.g., image2). Now edit image2: crop it, adjust colors, rotate, add name, encryption, etc. Save after every change. If you make a mistake here, you can start over with the original image.
Finally, compress the image by saving it in .jpg or .gif format.
Please note that these compressed formats are "lossy" -- so every time you edit a .jpg image and then save it, the image loses quality. Therefore, do all of your editing before you compress the image. OR, if that is not possible, re-compress it with the lowest available compression rate, such as 1%.

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Last revised November 2004 --