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How Does Digital Photography Work?

written by: Kristina Dems•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 3/15/2011

How does digital photography work? It pretty much is the same process as that of film photography, but only in the beginning. Light is captured through the lens of a camera, but what happens to that light next in digital photography is way different from what happens to it in film photography.

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    Digital Photography The fundamental difference between film photography and digital photography is how information is stored and transferred. Capturing data pretty much follows the same set of rules for both methods, but the digital process is faster, more efficient and has a more promising future. But how does digital photography work exactly? Let us discuss some of the basics of digital photography to find out.

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    Capturing Light

    Unlike film cameras that rely solely on light, chemicals and mechanical functions to capture images on film, digital cameras capture images with electric power and binary information composed of ones and zeroes. These values of ones and zeroes make up pixels, which is basically a colored dot, which in turn make up a digital image. Any electronic device that knows how to read and output pixels can be used to store or display digital images. This makes the transfer of digital photos faster and easier from the camera to different devices such as computers.

    Light goes through the lens and is captured by the sensor which turns it into digital information. For varying effects, shutter speed, aperture size and focal lengths can be customized to get different amounts of light that passes through the camera's lens. This primary function of a camera is pretty much the same in both film and digital cameras in terms of capturing light and using it to produce an image. However, unlike film photography were light is captured on film and processed via chemicals to produce a physical copy of the image, digital photography captures light and turns it into a series of pixels which can then be transferred to all sorts of devices like a printer to print out a physical copy of the image or mobile devices.

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    Film cameras generally have a higher image quality than most digital cameras, so in terms of image quality, we can't really say that digital photography is better. However, with digital cameras gaining capabilities to handle more pixels, hence more details, digital photography is catching up. In digital photography, photographers can limit the size their photographs take up in storage devices by picking a compressions format for their images. Compressing images requires them to lose some information, which means they lose quality as well. This is a choice that can be made in digital photography, making it a more efficient and practical process for capturing images.

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    Storage and Applications

    Digital information is very flexible and customizable. This also applies to digital images. One can store hundreds and even thousands of photos in a small memory card embedded in a digital camera, giving photographers more room for experimentation and mistakes as opposed to the limited number of photos provided by film cameras. From these tiny storage devices, digital photos can be transferred to other forms of storage devices like cellphones and computer drives. From there, they can be used in web pages, digital photo albums, computer wallpapers and more.

    The question of how does digital photography work is similar to asking how does film photography work, but that is only at first. After light passes through a camera's lenses, everything is different from there. Digital photography integrates the process of capturing images with every other piece of technology available.

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    Photo Courtesy of / Supplied by Arvind Balaramand -