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iLife Basics: Shooting Good Digital Snapshots and Putting Them in Your Mac

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This lesson will demystify the way a computer can talk to (and control) a digital camera. It will give you some basic guidelines for handling your camera and creating impressive snapshots, as well as dealing with less-than-ideal lighting and subject orientation. It will also introduce you to iPhoto, the iLife tool for moving those photographs from camera to Mac, and ultimately organizing and sharing them.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Lesson Files

Lessons > Lesson03 > L3.Student roll 1

Tools

iPhoto

Time

Approximately 45 minutes

Goals

Learn how to use composition and lighting for better photographs

Import pictures into iPhoto

Rotate and delete images in iPhoto

This lesson will demystify the way a computer can talk to (and control) a digital camera. It will give you some basic guidelines for handling your camera and creating impressive snapshots, as well as dealing with less-than-ideal lighting and subject orientation. It will also introduce you to iPhoto, the iLife tool for moving those photographs from camera to Mac, and ultimately organizing and sharing them.

You'll follow Jennifer, the studio owner, as she looks at her inventory. She might use a camera to help catalog and organize her ceramics, so that staff can identify pieces or vendors can fill a certain order. But as she gets more creative, she sees she can make beautiful photos of her ceramics that could inspire customers, creating not just “mug shots” but advertisements.

To see the process of getting shots into iPhoto, you'll also follow Charlie, the high school student, as he begins to prepare photos for his school project.

Getting to Know Your Digital Camera

It can be daunting to buy a digital camera. The technology changes very quickly, as do the prices and features of the cameras. There are professional-quality cameras with interchangeable lenses, hefty weight, and high-end controls. There are compact consumer cameras with mostly automatic controls, a small zoom lens, and a flash. There are numerous features by which you can compare cameras, but perhaps the most significant is that of image quality. To make image-quality comparisons, all digital cameras are rated by a number of megapixels. Aside from how the camera feels in your hands, and, of course, its price, megapixels are a key measurement for digital cameras.

Understanding Your Camera's Resolution

You can't talk about digital cameras without someone mentioning megapixels. Pixels are the smallest elements of a picture, like the dots on your TV screen if you look at it up close, or those of a newspaper photograph. Images are made up of these tiny dots of color and shade; the more of them, the higher the resolution; higher resolution means better-looking images. Of course, high-resolution images take up more space on your Mac's hard disk (and your camera's memory card) than low-resolution images do, so for any given memory card or storage device, there's a trade-off between more low-quality images and fewer high-quality images. A megapixel is a million pixels, and it's a pretty good place to start when comparing cameras. All digital cameras use between, say, 1 and 6 megapixels to capture an image. And in many ways, this defines how good the camera is.

But how many megapixels is enough? The answer depends on what you plan to do with your photographs. If you want to look at them on a TV set, the resolution can be pretty low, because a television is a very low-resolution display (equivalent to about 1/3 megapixel). Using images on the Internet allows even smaller files—and thus no matter how good your camera, you'll end up squeezing the image down to a radically lower pixel resolution (well below 1 megapixel). On the other hand, printing images demands the highest resolution—the larger the print, the higher the resolution you want.

Prints this small make it hard to reveal the difference between resolutions. Still, the image on the left could be blown up to a poster and look pretty good. The one on the right is already suffering even though it's small.

A 2-megapixel image will print with excellent quality at typical snapshot sizes (3.5 × 5 and 4 × 6 inches). If you want to make enlargements at, say, 8 × 10, you may want to move up to 3 or 4 megapixels. And if you're a pro, or you plan to do really high-quality photography, 5 or 6 megapixels will likely do the trick. If you never plan to do anything more than display images on TV or on the Web, you can use the lowest-megapixel cameras available and save yourself some money.

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