Picture a Digital Camera in your Business Inventory

By June Campbell

If you're operating a small business, a digital camera could be on your wish list. You could:

  1. post appropriate pictures to your web site.
  2. email product pictures to customers wanting additional information.
  3. customize your pictures digitally for creative purposes.
  4. print out your pictures at snapshot quality resolution.
  5. edit pictures for use in your promotional materials.
Here are the basics:

Digital cameras are essentially small computers. When you take a picture, the computerized image is saved on a tiny diskette similar to the floppy disks you use in your personal computer. You use no film and no cash is wasted if the picture doesn't turn out. You just delete it and try again.

After you have taken your pictures, you can transfer (i.e. download) them to your personal computer for editing, resizing, printing or posting to your web site. Most cameras include the basic hardware and software needed to transfer the pictures from camera to computer.

Digital cameras come in a wide price range. Your choice depends on your intended use.

Lower priced cameras are suitable for pictures to be posted to the web or otherwise viewed on a computer. If you require pictures suitable for printing, you will need a higher priced camera -- possibly in the range of $600 US or more.

To understand digital photography, you will need to understand a few basic concepts. First, digital pictures are not solid blocks of color as they appear to the human eye. They are comprised of thousands of tiny colored dots, called pixels. The quality of the picture depends on the number of dots in a unit of measurement -- usually called dots per inch, or DPI.

Images used on a computer need only be 72 dots per inch, or 72 DPI as it is called. Pictures to be printed require a resolution of at least 300 DPI or higher.

The number of pixels (dots) in an image is fixed. A picture that is five square inches with a resolution of 72 DPI, will contain (5 * 5)*72 = 1700 pixels. If you resize the picture and make it larger, the number of pixels does not change. There will now be fewer pixels per square inch, the resolution decreases, and the picture appears fuzzy.

If you resize your picture and make it smaller, the number of pixels per square inch increases accordingly. The resolution improves.

If you want pictures for the web, a lower priced camera will give you excellent results at a resolution of 72 DPI. For good printed pictures, look for a more costly camera advertising itself as "2 mega pixels" or even "3 mega pixels." Without going into the technical explanation, this quality camera allows you to acquire a picture suitable for printing. Typically, a 2 mega pixel camera will produce a 6" by 5" picture at 300 DPI. A 3 mega pixel camera will give larger pictures. However, if you want full-page printed images, a film camera is still the best bet.

Although most cameras come with basic image editing software, you might find that you require more sophisticated software for professional results. Look for software that will allow you to resize, change color modes (RGB for web; CMYC for print), and convert your pictures to a selection of file formats including gifs and jpegs (for the web) and tifs, picts, or bmps (for printing).

Many small home printers lack the memory needed to print high resolution images. In this case, you can copy your pictures onto a diskette or other storage media and take them to a professional service for printing.

Lastly, there is a creative aspect to good photography. If you are not one of the lucky few born with an eye for imagery, you can learn much of what you need to know from books, workshops, courses or other means.

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