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Digital Photography - General Information


An external studies course to develop the learner's ability to produce photographs using digital technology (digital or conventional photography combined with computer software and hardware for processing the photographs).

100 hours (study at your own pace, the average time to complete this module is 4-6 months part time)

Open all year

Fee Code: S2

On enrolment, you will receive:
Course Materials including:
  • A Subject Guide: Notes, simple explanations of various aspects of digital photography, instructions for practical work & assignments.
  • A text book such as:
    Teach Yourself Digital Photography in 14 Days by Rose.
    Essentials of Digital Photography by Kasai et al
Videos are available for loan through the school's library.

Throughout the course, you are guided by tutors, who are accessible by mail, fax, email, phone or in person. Tutors are accessible 5 days a week. If necessary, we can arrange for tutors to contact a student after hours.

Students within driving distance of our 2 locations are welcome to make use of our school's library. Alternatively, tutors can provide additional information for your course upon request.

This course is divided into eleven lessons as follows:.
  1. Introduction To Digital Technology
    How images are captured and stored, categories of equipment & software, scope of applications
  2. Equipment
  3. Digital Technology - Colour, resolution, sensors
  4. Digital Cameras
  5. Taking Photographs
  6. Scanners
  7. Uploading Images
  8. The Digital Darkroom
  9. Compositing & Imaging - Production & manipulation of images
  10. Special Effects
  11. Outputs & Applications- Printers, The Internet
You will need access to a digital camera and some type of storage or output device during the course.

This is required so that you can take some photographs on a digital camera and submit them as a print or as a digitised file. An inexpensive digital camera and a printer or 3.5 inch floppy disk would be a minimum. If you plant o purchase a digital camera, but have not yet decided what to buy, it is recommended that you delay buying a camera until you have completed Lesson 3 and commenced Lesson 4. It is also suggested that you ask your tutors advice as to which camera would best suit your needs. Access to a suitable computer is also advantageous but not essential.


An excerpt of text material from Lesson 1.

Conventional and digital photography are in many ways very similar, but just as many ways, different. Both have advantages over the other, so in the foreseeable future, there will remain applications for both.

Conventional photography using chemically photo sensitive film is a well known and developed quantity. We know how to use it, how to get the best out of it, and how it's life span con be optimised -largely because it has been around for so long, used so much and had so much effort and money spent on its development.

Digital photography is on the other hand, a relatively new and radically different technique which records and stores images in the form of digital (ie. 2 digit) codes. In simple terms digital codes are similar to morse code. One number or digit is indicated by a pulse of electricity, a second digit is indicated by no electrical pulse. By combining these pulses and lack of pulses into codes, we create representations for letters of the alphabet; allowing us to write language or text on a computer. When we combine these electrical "pulses" and "no pulses" in more complex combinations, we can create more complex representations including the colour, and degree of darkness or brightness in a spot on a picture...when huge quantities of such dots are combined together, we can then create a digital picture (This is how digital photography works!)

As time passes, digital photography tends to become better and better in many respects, however, due to its nature, it is unsure whether it will ever reach a point of making traditional chemical exposure photography totally redundant.

Traditional (Silver halide) photography does tend to produce better photographs (ie. sharper resolution) which store easily and cheaply. The equipment generally has a long useful life (ie. the same camera can be used professionally for decades). Also, photos can be taken in quick succession, with less than a second between each photo in a sequence of maybe 20 or so photos.

Digital cameras are generally slower (they cannot take a very fast succession of many photos), the equipment is changing so fast that what you buy this year will probably be out of date next year, and the lifespan of a photo is uncertain (ie. We know for instance that a colour transparency film will be degrading after 35 years; but we do not know whether a computerised image will be degrading in less or more time -given that the equipment we are using may have only been designed and built in the last year).

Digital photography however is computer friendly and inexpensive, once you have the equipment. You can take any number of photos, place them onto a computer, manipulate the images to use them in different ways, or change effects; and even send the image via the internet quickly to any part of the world.

Digital images may be more expensive and difficult to store. The form of storage (with computers) has changed several times in the past decade (from 5.25 floppy disks to 3.5 floppies, to CD Roms....and possibly in the near future to DVD disks). We may not have the equipment in the future to read the storage systems we use today.

While film will generally keep well under the right temperature, humidity and light conditions, digital information may require routine copying onto new media in order to preserve it.

Digital images are made up of a large number of elements called "pixels". A pixel can be thought of as being a spot of complex colour made up by combining a series of smaller spots of simple colour called a bit. Bits are primary colours such as red, green and blue.

Each pixel can be thought of as a patch or spot of colour which gets it's characteristic colour from the way in which the bits it incorporates are combined. Different pixels are different colours.

Bits are also arranged in three dimensions (ie. A layer of many bits side by side in a sheet lays over the top of another sheet of bits which lays over the top of further more sheets of bits).

When we see a point on an image, we are seeing the combined effect of several bits on top of each other (eg. If green bits lay over red, then the merged image and becomes an orange pixel).

There are two main characteristics to a digital image:
  1. Spatial Resolution
  2. Colour Resolution
Spatial resolution can be expressed in either of the following ways:
  1. As an absolute resolution (for example: 1200 X 1000 (pixel image)).
  2. Dimension in combination with pixel frequency (for example: a 4 X 6 inch print at 300 dpi (ie. dots per inch)).
Colour Image tells us how fine and accurate the colour values are (also called Colour Depth) Typically, there are 8 layers of colour (ie. This gives 8 bits of colour thick and spots or patches clustered to give an individual pixel with a particular colour). An RGB is an image made up of red green & blue coloured bits). This RGB image normally has 8 bits of red, 8 blue and 8 24 bits per pixel, and over 16 million possible colour values.

The more bits in a pixel, the greater the ability to manipulate and obtain better quality images.

Many scanners and digital cameras actually have the capacity to deal with more than 24 bits per channel.

Colour or Black & White?
Digital colour images are defined by the number of channels, with one channel being provided for each colour A black and white image only requires one channel for brightness.

There are two main Colour Systems
  1. RGB - where colours are built up from red, green & blue
  2. CMYK - colours are built up from Cyan, magenta, yellow and black.
Digital Cameras and Scanners capture in RGB.

All computer monitors display in RGB.

CMYK is the system used in the printing industry.
Virtually all printers use a four ink system, meaning that a conversion needs to happen to get a print out.


Graphics Until the past few years, computer graphics handling has been quite primitive, but now programs and screens allow for images that rival television and sometimes photos. Graphics with computers can be used for creating business presentations, signs, newsletters, backdrops for TV, etc. You can also incorporate photos, logos and diagrams into word processor documents. A computer, scanner, laser printer and a bit of talent can replace the need for hiring a printing agency.

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Computer programs and systems have been developed which can be used in designing, planning, adjusting and outputting models and images from a range of fields such as engineering, manufacturing, architecture, interior design and science. Some products or concepts which are designed or planned using CAD applications are tools, cars, planes, residential and tourist developments, molecules and drugs, electronic circuits and hundreds of other things.

The process usually involves the direct input of information (lines, symbols, figures, etc.) using keyboard, mouse, light pen or graphics/digitising tablet. The CAD software enable the images to be viewed in two or three dimensions and to be manipulated by moving, twisting, editing or otherwise changing the data or image. The image can be displayed as a 'skeleton', shaded, or solid.

The programs used to run CAD have a lot of graphics and mathematics to deal with so it is important that the computer is very fast and has plenty of RAM (at least 4 Mb, preferably 8 Mb) and the screen should have high resolution also.

Multimedia is a popular buzzword in the computer industry. It consists of many mediums, hence the name. These mediums are sight (ie. animation, graphics, text), sound and user interaction.

An excellent example of this is a multimedia encyclopedia. All the data in the encyclopedia is stored on a CD that can be read by the PC (CD's can store 2 types of information; audio, what is found on music Cds and data, what computers read as programs). You read the encyclopedia by using the computer by entering the topic you are interested in. Up pops a description and picture. For example, if you choose a tiger, you would get a picture and description of the computer, along with two boxes titled "sound" and "animation". By choosing sound you would hear a digitised roar, whereas choosing animation, you would be given a short movie of a tiger running through the jungle.

Multimedia is still in a formative stage and is primarily used for educational purposes and games. In time it is expected to find its' way into most aspects of computing.
Read a book, do a course, join an organisation; talk to people, observe the world.
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