Want to know more about digital photography?

by David Peters

The Photoshop plug-ins which are available can help perform tasks much faster and more efficiently than performing these tasks by hand. The 3D plug-ins are used to create 3D images and type very quickly and elegantly. The color management Photoshop plug-ins can create new colors to correspond to the printer that you are using, or the monitor that you are using to create your graphics. The digital asset management plug-ins are used to organize all of the digital images that you have created so that finding the correct image is much easier than without it. The photographic ones give many different professional lens techniques that you can apply to any picture to create amazing effects.

There are a few formats for digital photography, different formats have their own advantages. For instance the jpeg format is the default format used by almost every digital camera ever made. Named after its developer, the Joint Photographic Experts Group (and pronounced “jay-peg”) this format often lets you specify both image size and compression. At the moment you capture an image in this format a processing chip in your camera manipulates it based on the camera settings you used, and then compresses it to reduce its size. The changes made to the image cannot be undone later because it’s the final, altered image that is saved in the image file. Some of the original image data is lost for good. This is a handy format because it is the most basic and commonly used.

Lossy compression (rhymes with “bossy”) can dramatically reduce file sizes. However, this process degrades images to some degree and the more they’re compressed, the more degraded they become. In many situations, such as posting images on the Web or making small to medium sized prints, the image degradation isn’t obvious. However, if you enlarge an image enough, it will show. The most common lossy file format is JPEG and many cameras let you specify how much they are compressed. For example, many cameras let you choose Fine (1:4), Normal (1:8), and Basic (1:16) compression. This is a useful feature because there is a trade-off between compression and image quality. Less compression gives you better images so you can make larger prints, but you can’t store as many images.

RAW lets you decide on most camera settings after you’ve taken the picture, not before. For example, when you shoot a JPEG image under fluorescent lights, the camera adjusts the image to remove the yellow-green tint. Any changes you make later are on top of this initial change. If you shoot the image in RAW format, the camera just captures the images as is and you decide what white balance setting to use later. You can even create different versions of an image, each with its own white balance. RAW images can be processed again at a later date when new and improved applications become available. Your original image isn’t permanently altered by today’s generation of photo-editing applications even if they don’t support non-destructive editing. You can generate alternate versions of the same RAW image. For example, many photographers will adjust highlight and shadow areas and save these versions separately. Using a photo-editing program, they then combine the two images as layers and by selectively erasing parts of the top image layer let areas of the lower image layer show through so all areas have a perfect exposure.

Folders are used to organize files on a drive. Imagine working in a photo stock agency where you’re told to find a photo of “Yosemite” only to discover that all of the photos the agency ever acquired are stored in unorganized boxes. You have to pick through everything to gather together what you want. Contrast this with an agency that uses a well-organized file cabinet with labeled hanging folders grouping related images together. For example, there might be a hanging folder labeled California National Parks. If a further breakdown is needed, labeled manila folders are inserted into any of the hanging folders-basically, folders within folders. There might be one labelled Yosemite containing images of the park. With everything labelled and organized, it’s easy to locate the images you need. The same is true of your memory cards and drives on your computer system. Both are equivalent to the empty file cabinet-plenty of storage space but no organization. The organization you need to find things on the camera’s memory device (which we discuss here) is created by the camera, but on your computer, you have to create it yourself (as you will see later).

The first four characters in an image file’s name, called free characters, can only be uppercase letters A-Z. The last four characters form a number between 0001 and 9999 and are called the file number. Canon uses the first four free characters IMG_ followed by the file number, Nikon uses DSC_, and Sony uses DSC0. Once transferred to your computer, or sometimes while transferring them, you can rename images with more descriptive names.

IPTC: Using an image management application, you can add information to an image such as keywords, a copyright notice, or a caption. The problem is that when you send the image to someone else, that information is usually not sent along because it’s stored on your computer in the database and is not part of the image file as Exif information is. (As you will see shortly, one solution to this problem is the xmp file.) To solve this problem, the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) defines a format for exchanging such information. Programs that support this standard let you add, edit, and view this information that’s embedded in a file just as Exif information is.

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