The Do’s and Don’t of Digital Imaging

How many digital photographers does it take to change a light bulb? Three. One to decide how many watts the bulb should be, one to argue with the first person based on something he read on the Web, and another to look at the fixture, tell the first two they’re wrong, and drive to Home Depot and get the right bulb. —Old joke

Everybody knows that digital imaging is easy, don’t they? Camera manufacturers and software companies say it all the time: “It’s easy-to-use.” I’m guilty of this too, sometimes forgetting what Señor Wences once said, “Is easy for you, is difficult for me.” It ain’t always that easy.

Part of the problem is unrealistic expectations but user errors are responsible for just as much of the frustration of capturing, enhancing, and printing digital images. So what’s a poor Pachyderm to do?


  • Read the camera manual. I know this will be difficult for some of you, especially those of the male persuasion who prefer to hack through a camera’s complex layer of menus because they used to own a Pentax K1000, but do it anyway. OK, maybe the manual stinks but ya gotta start somewhere.
  • Read a book. The titles of “Brain Surgery for Dummies” and similar tomes may be a little offensive to some but most of them are well written and can help you in the transition from film to digital image making.
  • Read a magazine. Just a suggestion by maybe Shutterbug? Read all of the stories in it, not just the ones with pretty pictures. I promise you’ll learn something new. And if you have a chance, check out what I have to say in my monthly Geared Up column.
  • Speak the language. If you aren’t fluent in pixelese take the time to learn. If you get stuck, visit FOLDOC, the Free On-Line Dictionary Of Computing terms. It’s British but you’ll understand what it says.


Just as important as the do’s are the don’ts.

  • Don’t assume that because you have high scores in Gran Turismo 6 that you know computer basics. That thing on your desk with the cord is a card reader, not a mouse. Don’t laugh, I had a student who continuously tried to use his card reader as a mouse during a workshop in Miami.
  • Don’t buy thousands of dollars worth of digital cameras and computer equipment and try to make it all work together at once. Take it one piece of hardware at a time.
  • Don’t call your friend Oliver too many times asking where the Fade command is located in Photoshop or how to change a folder‘s name. You aren’t the only person calling her for advice and she has a life.
  • Don’t forget that Google exists. I get lots of e-mail question from people that are answered by my simply using Google. This is a corollary to the above rule and one of Farace’s Immutable Laws of the Computing Universe.
  • Don’t get frustrated when something doesn’t work the way you think it should. You may be wrong, then again you may be right and the manufacturer is the dufus. It wouldn’t be the first time.

50pathsOne photography book that I recently liked is Michael Freeman’s 50 Paths to Creative Photography. You can read my review here and pick up a copy from Amazon here.

Author: Joe Farace

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