Photography Tips: The Basics

by Ursula Hoffmann, with John Plischke III and Gerry Sheine

a camera, traditional or digital
a good color scanner, with optional capability to scan slides and transparencies
a good color printer -- use Kodak Premium Picture Paper Glossy
a good image editor; I like to use PaintShopPro, powerful and reasonably priced -- see

Traditional Camera
Use your favorite film.
Scan photos or slides for digital use, e.g., for high-quality photos for printing, or a CD or for the Web -- see below.

Digital Camera
Decide on end-use in advance:
1. For printing photos, use best setting on your camera ("Fine").
2. For the Web (i.e., e-mail or a website), use lowest setting on your camera: The resolution must be 72 or 75 dpi (dots per inch) = 640 x 480 pixels, and the image must be saved in .jpg or .gif format. These formats compress the image to make the size of the file (NOT THE SIZE OF THE IMAGE) smaller and so suitable for quick transfer by e-mail or FTP.  Note: Another way to compress the file is to ZIP it.
Before you save the image in the compressed format, edit it with a good image editor: crop the image, name it, etc.

Scanning photographs, slides, transparencies
Decide on end-use in advance:
1. For copying (i.e., for the printer to print a copy of your photo), scan at the highest resolution your printer can do, crop and edit the image and print it.
2. For use on the Web, for e-mail or posting to a website, scan at a resolution of about 72 dpi, save as .bmp. Then open the .bmp image, crop and edit the image, and save it as .jpg or .gif.  See detailed instructions.
3. For saving high-quality images to a CD for professional printing etc., calibrate your scanner to reproduce true colors (this is costly), scan at best quality, save in .bmp format.

Editing images:
Never edit the original. Open the original image (e.g., image), save it to a copy (e.g., image2). Now edit image2: crop it, adjust colors, rotate, add name, encryption, etc. Save after every change. If you make a mistake here, you can start over with the original image.
Finally, compress the image by saving it in .jpg or .gif format.
Please note that these compressed formats are "lossy" -- so every time you edit a .jpg image and then save it, the image loses quality. Therefore, do all of your editing before you compress the image.

Image requirements for submission to or any other website:
(Re)name every image -- do not use the number assigned by the digital camera.
Format: .jpg/.jpeg or .gif -- resolution between 72 and 96 dpi.
(Re)size every image, in pixels: maximum 400 width x 300 height but preferably smaller.
Image filesize: maximum 100.000 bytes or 100 kb. Anything larger will load too slowly or may even cause the DownloadWizard to time out. Viewers will not like it.
This also applies to images used in a Powerpoint presentation.

For more information on graphics, see Teaching with Technology,

February 2005 --  --