Cheat Sheet

Digital Photography For Dummies

To take quality photos on a digital camera, you need the correct resolution, format, and ISO setting. Most digital cameras display common symbols for exposure modes and offer basic file formats for creating and saving your digital photos.

Resolution in Digital Photos

The number of pixels (picture elements) in your digital photos is managed by resolution. If you don’t have enough pixels per inch (ppi) in your images, they will appear blurry. Here is the minimum pixel count you need for quality photos:

Print Size Pixel Count Megapixels
4 x 6 800 x 1200 1
5 x 7 1000 x 1400 1.5
8 x 10 1600 x 2000 3
11 x 14 2200 x 2800 6

Based on 200 ppi; 1 megapixel = 1 million pixels


Format of a Digital Photo

Format is the way your camera records and stores the data that make up a digital photo. Camera Raw or a high-quality JPEG format, which usually comes standard on digital cameras, is your best bet for a clear image. A low-quality JPEG can result in a blocky, defected image like this one:


The ISO Setting on Your Digital Camera

The ISO (International Standards Organization) setting on your digital camera controls how sensitive the image sensor is to light. The higher the ISO, the less light you need to capture a photo. Beware: An ISO set too high may cause an image with noise, or a speckled defect.


File Format Guide for Your Digital Photos

When you take and store a digital image, you need to choose a file type, or format. Here are the popular choices when you choose a format for your digital photo:

Format Description
Camera Raw A format offered by some digital cameras. Stores raw, “uncooked” data from the image sensor, without applying normal adjustments to sharpness, color, and exposure. Gives photographers ultimate control over images and editing flexibility, but files must be converted to a standard format before sharing online, printing, or viewing in most photo programs.
JPEG The most popular digital photography image format. JPEG compresses images to make files significantly smaller, but too much compression reduces image quality. Used for print, the Web, and email.
TIFF The leading format for files that will be used in print publications, such as newsletters and magazines. Preserves all image data but usually results in larger file sizes than JPEG and can’t be displayed by Web browsers and e-mail programs. The best format for storing converted RAW files and for edited JPEG files.

Exposure Modes on Your Digital Camera

Most digital cameras offer you a choice of exposure modes. Here are common symbols on a digital camera menu or mode dial that represent exposure modes:

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