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by Randy Glass and Rachel Lewis

You’ve been communicating with Bill and Jan Smith for several weeks now. They are prospective buyers that contacted you from your Web site, and are relocating to your city in six months. They’ve asked to see some of the other homes you’ve recently built in the 2000 sq.ft. range. What’s the simplest and quickest way to handle this?

The answer is, emailing a photo from your digital camera!


Sending photos via email is simple and easy with today’s digital cameras and the Internet. They capture images that are ready to use in a matter of seconds. Since there is no film to develop, it means no trips to drop off film or finished photos to pick-up. And there’s no scanning of the photos to get them into your computer.

Most email programs have an "Attach" button - click it and a file-search box pops up. Select the picture that you've put into your computer from your digital camera, when the message is sent, the photo goes too!

Normally digital cameras also have a "Play" mode for looking at pictures stored in the camera. You can see if the image was successfully captured, and reshoot if it isn't right. No more waiting for the film to be developed, then finding that you have to start all over because the photo didn't come out.

The speed and convenience of a digital camera are appreciated when you have a customer or supplier waiting for a picture, or when words just won’t create the image you want to convey.


As with most purchases during your lifetime, the old age saying "you get what you pay for" generally rings true when buying a digital camera. While a cheap model with lots of bells and whistles may seem tempting, upon further investigation- it might be quite useless for your needs and more frustration than help. As a builder, you know how important it is to use the right tool for the job, so consider the following points and you'll end up not with any digital camera, but the right digital camera.
In the past 10 years or so, few technological devices have evolved as much as the digital camera. In the late 90's, digital cameras were large, expensive, slow and most importantly, poor quality. Those days are long gone and digital has now reached a point where the image quality is as good as, if not better than film. Digital cameras can cost anything from $100 to 10,000 but excellent results can be achieved with a budget in the hundreds, not thousands of dollars.
It seems the main point of comparison for most people is the number of megapixels on offer. To the layman, the larger the number - the better the quality of image. A few years back, cameras with less than 1 million pixels were sold and the images were too small to be enlarged much bigger than a postcard. Nowadays, 6 megapixel is a good starting point and quite acceptable for enlarging and the majority of uses.
When buying a digital camera, you have a choice between a "compact" with a permanently fixed lens or an SLR (single lens reflex), which has interchangeable lenses. The price of digital SLR cameras has dramatically fallen in the last couple of years and is now comparable to the more expensive compact models. The advantages of SLR cameras are numerous - higher quality images (due to better lenses and a larger image sensor), flexibility with lenses (especially wide-angle) and flexibility with accessories such as external flash.
When choosing a camera to photograph homes, it's important to look for one with a wide-angle lens, as it will help make rooms look spacious and permit photography of tight spaces such as bathrooms. Compact cameras that have a wide-angle lens as standard will often distort much more than SLR cameras.
This is not to say that you'll always be using your camera on its widest setting. You might need to send a detailed picture of damage to an insurance company or take some photos to document progress of a job to show your client. So a camera that can zoom and maybe photograph close-up should also be considered.
Another consideration when purchasing a digital camera is what type of batteries it uses. Ideally aim for a camera that uses a dedicated Li-ion (Lithium-Ion) battery rather than conventional AA style batteries. These batteries can be recharged hundreds of times and have much greater capacity than conventional AA's. Finally, get into the habit of charging your battery every time you return home so your camera is always ready to go.
Once you've purchased your camera, take some time to explore its features before going out to shoot anything important. White balance adjustment while often automatic, can be adjusted manually to improve your images. For example, a room photographed at night under tungsten light may appear overly warm, even yellow. Set your white balance control and colors should appear cleaner and more accurate. On most cameras exposure can also be altered with a +/- setting. To lighten an image, try +1 or +2 and keep your results for later comparison as the viewing screen can often look brighter than that of the computer. Another useful setting is a 'night' or long exposure setting that tells the flash not to fire and captures the natural lighting within a room. To best use this feature, attach your camera to a tripod or put it on a steady, level surface as the exposure will look blurry if you try to hand-hold it.
Useful accessories include a good quality memory card (SanDisk and Lexar are both reliable brands) of 2GB or more. Memory cards are now very cheap and a large capacity card allows hundreds of maximum quality images to be stored without having to delete old pictures to make room for more!
An external flash unit is another useful accessory though more practical with an SLR than a compact. Apart from being more powerful than the inbuilt flash, an external unit can also be tilted and rotated to change the direction of light - particularly handy when shooting interiors.
To have ongoing success with your camera, ensure the front element of the lens is perfectly clean to avoid hazy images. If you choose an SLR camera, take care when changing lenses, as any dust entering the camera body will appear on your images as black dots, which are difficult to remove. Finally, as with any tool, treat your camera with respect and you should get many years of great use from it.

Randy Glass is the Owner/Editor of THE FEATHER RIVER CANYON NEWS, a newspaper serving the Feather River area of Butte County, California, since 1986. Visit Randy and his very informative newspaper on the Web and learn even more about digital photography.
Rachel Lewis is a freelance architectural photographer based in Melbourne, Australia.



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