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Basic Features

Photography: Buyer's Guide to Digital Cameras-Basic Features


Aperture Priority

Aperture priority controls the depth of field. This is an image that has a foreground area in focus and the background is completely out of focus-easily achievable with aperture priority.


Shutter Priority

Shutter priority stops action. Although this may not be important for shooting your artwork, it is a feature that will allow you to grow into your camera down the road, and something to consider as you make a new purchase.


Info Playback

Info playback is available on almost all digital cameras. Info playback allows you to see your camera's shutter speed and aperture setting for the image right after it was taken. As you learn more about your digital camera and you become more involved in photography, this is a nice feature to have.


Histogram Playback

The histogram playback gives a graphical representation of exposure. This allows you to check the exposure on your camera's LCD screen to find out whether it was underexposed or overexposed. Many people think that the histogram is the biggest advantage of shooting digitally over shooting film. Don't be intimidated by the histogram. There will be more information in your camera's owner's manual regarding the histogram playback feature. You can search for more information online, and with a few moments reading and a few days practicing, you'll have it mastered.


Highlights Playback

The highlights preview is a playback mode that blinks from white to black and will show you areas of your image that are overexposed. Similar to histogram playback, it's another way for you to gauge exposure while you're out in the field shooting, before you get back to your computer and realize you've made a mistake.

As you can see, an area that's blinking black is overexposed. This indicates to you as you're shooting that you'll need to change your exposure or alter the light in some way.



All cameras have the ability to capture in the JPG format. You can shoot and upload your work online or make prints without doing any additional work.

Photographing in Raw format allows much more control. Raw is a file format that preserves all the original data, unlike the JPG which uses compression. The Raw format has to be processed using special software, readily available in Photoshop. The advantage is you can adjust exposure, hue, saturation, sharpening, contrast, and other image parameters before you upload the work or make a print without destroying your original.

This does require extra time and it requires basic software skills. Sometimes software that processes Raw files comes with your camera, or you can use a free version through Adobe Photoshop. If you like this type of control, be advised that capturing in Raw format may only be available on advanced sub-compact cameras or mid-size/prosumer cameras. Almost all digital SLRs have this capability. It's another feature worth considering.



As you plan your new camera purchase, make sure you leave room in your budget to buy a tripod. You won't have to spend too much money, and it's worth it.

A tripod allows you to precisely frame and compose your artwork in-camera. You will capture images with better focus and reduce what is referred to as "camera shake." You're definitely going to need a tripod using the lighting techniques shown in the videos here, and anytime you're indoors or in cloudy conditions, make sure you get one.

"Gorilla pods" are very handy, small, and lightweight. They're available in different sizes depending on which camera you own. You can bend them into a million different shapes and place them just about anywhere.



Gorilla pod

Gorilla Pod



It's also important to have enough storage capacity to photograph without having to download and clear out your storage card. It doesn't cost much money to get a few extra gigabytes of storage space for your digital camera.


Finally, here are some helpful websites:

  • http://www.imaging-resource.com- From there, go to the section labeled "Dave's Picks." You'll see cameras grouped into different categories and you'll also see the four types of cameras that we covered here.
  • http://www.dpreview.com- Cross check Dave's reviews with another web site: DPReview.com. Anything that Dave likes, I'm sure to stand by, and anything that DPReview likes is another solid indicator of a good camera.
  • http://www.steves-digicams.com- The third site to check out would be Steves-digicams.com. These three sites are terrific, and there's no need to search anywhere else.