Migration from film to digital photos requires a little education

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 15, 2001

Photographs: they’re in our wallets and on our desks; in frames and in scrapbooks; loose in dresser drawers, stuffed into envelopes.

Photographs: they are artifacts and historical documents; love objects and distant memories; news items and bragging rights.

There’s Uncle Jim at the Alamo; Aunt Bess at the Falls. Look at Grandma in the funny hat; did you know how much you and Grandpa looked alike as babies?

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Photographs, from daguerreotypes to digital images, have captured man’s fancy for generations. What would the summer vacation be without the picturesque reminders of what we did, what we saw, who was there and how we looked through it all?

Many amateur photographers are taking the leap into digital cameras as the prices go down and the technology becomes simpler, and the choices are wide ranging, said Terence Nimox, photography instructor at Alcorn State University in Lorman.

&uot;For someone who wants to take snapshots on a vacation, there are digital cameras for as low as about $40,&uot; he said. &uot;But the digital camera the average amateur is buying is about $150 to $200.&uot;

Those who know little about digital technology should learn about it before plunging into it, Nimox said.

Most digital cameras store images in a format known as JPEG, which stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, the ones who came up with the technology.

Nimox pointed out that the digital photograph – like home video images – is comprised of pixels.

&uot;Because of that, the light requirements are different, and the images can be grainy,&uot; he said. &uot;Of course the higher end cameras give you better images&uot;

Advantages of digital photography are many. &uot;You can preview your image immediately to see how things are coming out,&uot; he said. &uot;You can upload your images and put them into the computer and easily e-mail them.&uot;

To store photographs before the user gets to the computer, the digital camera employs one of several devices such as SmartMedia card or Memory Sticks, where images are compressed and available to upload.

Choosing a digital camera should begin with an understanding of what each level of the technology can provide the user, Nimox said.

&uot;Will you use the camera for general snapshots just to have a memory of what happened? Are you going to enlarge the pictures as big as 8-by-10? Do you want the camera to be one you use occasionally or do you want it to last for long time?&uot;

Nimox said the novice photographer or the amateur who is cautiously moving into digital photography should start with the less expensive cameras and move up with experience.

Furthermore, the photographer starting out with the cheapest digital camera will want to invest in a software program such as Adobe PhotoShop or the less expensive Adobe PhotoDeluxe, which allow the user to upload the images and create a photo album on the computer.

Digital cameras offer tempting advantages over the traditional film-loaded cameras. The obvious difference is that the costs of film and processing are eliminated.

&uot;But you will use lots of batteries with the digital. And the more you preview your images, the faster you use up the batteries,&uot; Nimox said.

With the digital camera, the novice photographer has only to point and shoot. That has its good and bad results.

&uot;It’s the same argument we made when the auto-focus cameras came out. The digital camera will capture the image according to its computer reading,&uot; he said.

When using the point-and-shoot digital camera, the slight time between the shoot and the actual recording of the image – while the camera corrects for color, balance and focus, for example – can make a difference. Novices should be aware that there is no &uot;click&uot; to let them know the photograph has been recorded.

Can a digital camera user also make prints? Certainly, Nimox said. The home computer printer does a fine job, as do the machines at a place such as Wal-Mart, where a diskette loaded with the images can be put into the processor and previewed and the photos chosen for printing.

Paper that looks more like old-fashioned photographic paper is available for the home computer printer, too, if the amateur photographer wants a different look for the digital photo print.

&uot;The digital technology has not improved enough to rival film in some instances,&uot; Nimox said. &uot;Yet the average human eye can only see so many hues and colors. In some applications, you can’t tell the difference.&uot;

As for lifespan of the photograph, he said, &uot;trade magazines tell us the digital image is supposed to be good for 1,000 years if preserved properly in an electronic medium.&uot;

What’s more, bond paper, the choice of many who make prints of digital photos, has a long life span. &uot;What we don’t know about is the ink used on the paper,&uot; Nimox said.

That is in comparison with perhaps 150 to 300 years of life a photographic print may have if protected from damaging elements of light and heat.