Printing Digital Images
For all practical purposes consumers wishing to process their holiday snaps would hand the film over the counter and wait a few days to have them returned. Apart from the demise of film photography, the process remains the same for many people except that their chosen image processing lab now deals mainly with digital media, either smart media (compact flash) cards or via the Web, as uploaded images.
As mentioned above, the quality of image produced is not a direct factor of resolution but for the average consumer, the higher the resolution, the likely higher the quality and size of print which can be produced. All contemporary cameras should produce vibrant standard-size photos in the 4 x 5.3 inch range and most will deliver excellent results for 8 x 10.6 inch prints. Levels of quality will vary dependant on the fidelity of the original image capture but modern processing labs use equipment which analyses and compensates for common deficiencies such as under exposure, poor contrast or colour intensity.
But since the maturation of ink-jet printer technology, home users can now develop their own photos, either on a standard colour printer after processing images on their PC or through use of dedicated photo printers from the likes of Canon, HP, Epson, Kodak, Sony, etc. which can process images directly from the camera or its media storage card.
The quality of output of home processed photos depends on the capabilities of the digital camera and printer and to some great extent on the skills of the user, not just in terms of photographic composition and camera dexterity but also, if a computer is employed to manipulate the images through software, on the sophistication of the individual programs employed and the user’s operational ability.
Digital camera manufacturers are now marking the distinction between consumer and professional photographers by accommodating the emerging prosumer (professional consumer) market. The falling manufacturing costs and increasing sophistication of digital cameras has meant features once found only on expensive top-end film or digital cameras are now available to hobbyists and amateur photographers.
Such devices offer a wealth of features controlling how the image is derived, processed and delivered in areas such as focusing, metering, white-balance, ISO (light) sensitivity, f-stop (aperture/depth of field), flash, shutter speed, white balance and many more features professional photographers have come to expect from a top-of-the-range film camera.
Users who were willing to experiment with digital photography and who had the time, patience and eventual skills to master the complexities of photographic processing would soon be rewarded with a new breed of camera, the dSLR (digital single lens reflex).