Learn how to organise your images so that they're easy to find, safely backed up, optimised for printing and much more. Once your digital photographs are transferred to your PC, learn how to "process" them for the best possible results.
The goal of this guide is to help you deal with your digital images after you've taken them -- to help you get better printing results, save them safely, and keep them organised so you can always find what you need.
First you'll learn how to make sure your camera settings are right and create a "workflow" that will make handling your images second nature from the moment you copy them to your hard drive.
Digital camera settings
Digital cameras have a wide range of settings depending on the model. A basic point-and-shoot camera won't offer the range of options available on a professional SLR-style camera. So depending on the camera you own, you might not be able to make all the suggested adjustments below. But don't worry, these are helpful but not required tweaks.
All digital cameras save pictures in JPEG format, but many offer other options including TIFF and RAW. JPEG is the most popular format because the image data is compressed, and therefore file size is considerably smaller than uncompressed formats like TIFF and RAW.
However, the JPEG's reduced file size is achieved by discarding some of the image's data. Fortunately, the discarded data doesn't affect the quality of the image very much -- JPEGs still look superb to the human eye.
Note: JPEG format is also the preferred format for Web sites, blogs, and sending photos via e-mail.
However, if you want the absolutely best possible image quality for print, switch your camera to save images as TIFF or RAW. But note that these files are considerably larger -- they'll fill your memory card twice as fast. And they'll require more work on your part later in terms of editing and tweaking. There are entire books about how to work with RAW files, so it's not for the faint of heart. And last but not least, you'll eventually have to convert them to JPEG format anyway for printing, e-mailing, or posting on the Web.
For the majority of users, JPEG quality is perfectly acceptable, however we recommend that you set your camera to "high quality" JPEG compression. Lower-quality settings allow you to fit more images onto your memory card, but the image quality may be muddy or pixilated (see the example below). You're much better off shooting on the highest quality you can, whether it's called "Super Fine," "L," "High," etc., and resizing the image on your PC.
Compare low-quality vs. high-quality JPEG compression settings.
Besides, the price of memory cards has dropped so much that buying a larger one (e.g. 1GB or more) is a good investment. And you can save your old card as a reserve for those days you're taking a lot of photos.
Some cameras also allow you to adjust their sensitivity. This is done by changing the "ISO" setting (a reference to film speed). Typically settings of 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 or higher are available. Higher ISOs mean being able to shoot in less light, and the "shutter speed" is faster which helps you get clear pictures even when your subject is in motion. But those benefits come at a price: graininess.
So if you want the best possible images, choose a lower ISO setting -- experiment until you find one that gives good results without too much motion blurring. If you're in a situation where you can use a tripod, that greatly helps to allow lower ISO settings.
Following all or some of these suggestions will help you get better pictures out of your camera, but -- especially if you shoot a lot of pictures -- what you do afterwards can make those pictures a joy to own ... or a mishmash of misplaced files and lost memories.