The Digital Photo Edge: A Mac Perspective
by Judd Spitzer © 2002 For the Lockheed Martin Macintosh Guild
June 7, 2002



The Digital Photo Edge: A Mac Perspective

If you are like me, you have watched other people get digital cameras, and hop on board the exciting world of filmless photography. You may have thought to yourself, I'll wait until the quality gets better, or the price comes down. Yet more and more people are getting these cameras, and working with digital imagery, and you are forced to wipe the saliva from your lower lip.

First off, if you are on the fence about purchasing a digital camera I hope that I can push you right off the edge of it and convince you that now is the time. Prices are down, and the technology is there. Recently I bought a Samsung 210SE (2.1 megapixel) for $179. I saw a 2.0 MP Olympus for $166. From my personal experience, I think that the person who uses their camera for vacation shots and family outings, these are perfect cameras. They offer quality at a good price. But would these

Apple released a program within the last 6 months called iPhoto. It seemed that there was some hoopla surrounding this particular piece of software. I even saw a Quicktime interview with famed black and white photographer Annie Leibowitz who thought this was a real gem for photographers. Would iPhoto spark the world like iTunes had? This was what every Mac wanted to know.
When iPhoto came out, I did not have a digital camera. Of course I had some scanned images and pictures. I thought I would download the program and see what it was all about. Apple provides this software free to all owners of OS X v 10.1 or later. It was easily installed, and soon I began to explore the features.
My first impression was that this is a smooth program that seemed to have lots of features. Yet I wasn't really sure what big advantages this program had over other shareware and freeware programs. Of course I wasn't using the program with a digital camera.
Now that I have my digital camera, I revisited iPhoto.

When you have a digital camera, you soon find out that you are able to take snapshots of anything, anytime, anyplace and not have to worry about developing costs and the need to continuously purchase more film. Click away, upload your pictures to your computer (using iPhoto I hope), and erase the pictures off the camera or card, and take more pictures. The basic process of digital photography allows you to take photos without having any additional investment beyond the purchase of a camera and decent size memory card.


Memory Cards

First thing I did when I got my camera was attempt to use the software that came with the camera. Sure I could attach the camera to my iBook with a USB cable. Then I would have to use the OS 9 download software to bring it in, then if I wanted to view the pictures, I would have to use Quicktime or a variety of software to view and manipulate the photos. Truly unacceptable. I found out that my camera wasn't even compatible with iPhoto. I was up against a brick wall.

The solution was simple, get a memory card reader. My digital camera uses Compact Flash. Other cameras use a variety of other memory cards, but this format is readily available, and comes in sizes up to 512 Megs. iPhoto see the card reader as a source for downloading photos, and I found the import feature of iPhoto to work flawlessly. One of the best features is that it assigns Roll and Image numbers to all the pictures that it imports as well as time/date coding the entire import. One other advantage of the card reader is that you don't have to use up the batteries in your camera as well as being able to interchange memory cards as necessary.


Image Organization and Manipulation

Digital cameras give you the opportunity to take pictures in many different formats and sizes. You can take pictures in jpeg format, tiff, and many even offer other formats including the ability to create small AVIs or video files. On my particular camera the best JPEG photo is a 1600x1200 image. Once you import the image you can manipulate it further.

iPhoto allows you to create photo albums to store and organize specific pictures. Once there you can crop your images, adjust contrast and brightness, reduce red-eye, rotate or even convert the image to black and white. All of these processes are easy to understand and editing is a snap.


Sharing

This is really where the rubber meets the road with iPhoto. No single program comes close to Apple's iPhoto when it comes to creating a finished product for the end-user. Sure, you may find individual products that do one or two of the features, but nothing like this exists anywhere else.

I came back from a cruise to the Eastern Caribbean this last May, and within 15 minutes of walking in the door, I had my pictures available for public viewing.


Photo Processing

After looking through my 80 pictures, I choose 31 of the best images to be printed. Of course the option exists to print them out on your inkjet printer, but even using high quality glossy photo paper, it still isn't a photo process.

Apple and Kodak offer a photo processing of your digital prints. This means that your images are converted to a negative image and shot onto photo paper where your image is developed. All this is done without film. This process produces images that are sharp, brilliant and use the full spectrum of colors that your camera has captured. I would suspect that most people will have a difficult time being able to tell what photos were taken with a film camera, and those taken from a digital camera.

The cost of a 4x6 print is about 50 cents piece. Compared to reprints of APS which are about 50 cents, it is a reasonable cost. They offer sizes from wallet, 4x6, 5x7, 8x10, 16x20, to 20x30 sizes. Even more importantly, you only print the pictures you want as opposed to general photo processing, where you pay for the cost of the film, the cost to develop it, then all the prints. Then if you want reprints, you pay. In the end digital photography brings the price of your overall picture package down.

If you're like myself, you only care about a few of the many pictures you take. The remainder of the photos are sitting in a box or drawer somewhere never to be seen again. With digital photography, you can simply burn the images to a CD and have your archives for years to come.


Picture taking recommendations

Here's some tips that are useful with any digital camera.

1. Use at least 1200x1600 size resolution/high pixel density on all your shots.
This will ensure that you will get the best picture quality if you want hard copies. After all, once you get them on your computer, you can reduce the size.
2. Purchase a memory card of at least 128 Megs.
A typical image on a 2.0 MP camera is 1Meg if high-quality is used. 128 images is about the equivalent of 5 rolls of film.
3. Don't use your LCD screen except to review your images. 
There is a tendency to use these cameras like mini-camcorders. The standard viewfinders on most cameras work well. Using the LCD screen quickly drains your batteries. So save the screen viewing time for reviewing your images rather than taking them.
4. (NIMH) Metal-Hydride Rechargeable Batteries.
Since you will be using a lot of batteries, why not get some basic rechargeable. Both Rayovac and Energizer have some good deals. They cost a little more up front, but will save you big $$$ later on.
5. Experience Lithium.
If you need a long lasting batteries, Energizer makes AA and AAA Lithium batteries. They are great when you are using your flash excessively, and you don't want to have to carry a second set of batteries around.
6. Don't be afraid to take the picture.
The best part of your digital camera is you can keep shooting until you get it right.


iPhoto Pros


iPhoto Cons


Recommendations for an iPhoto 2.0 or 1.X

As stated before, iPhoto is an excellent image handling tool, but since I can dream of some features I would like to see, here they are.


That's just a few features that will ensure iPhoto to continue to be the regaining king of digital photography.


Summary

Apple really shines in the digital photo world. They make it easy to go from Point and Shoot to quality print in hand. This is reason alone to own a Mac! So put down that MP3 player and get out there and start shooting, our digital world awaits.

iPhoto gets the maximum 5 Mice rating.

For those who refuse to go to OS X, there is another optionÍ oFoto by Kodak. Kodak is the company that provides processing services for Apple, and has some software that is OS 8.6-9.X compatible. For the best Mac experience, however, I highly recommend iPhoto (even if it's the only reason to boot up in OS X).

See my photos at: 
http://homepage.mac.com/sailorj

Apple iPhoto: 
http://www.apple.com/iphoto
Kodak oFoto:
http://www.ofoto.com/



by Judd Spitzer © 2002 For the Lockheed Martin Macintosh Guild