Capturing Images Using a Digital Camera

The age of digital photography is upon us. The increase in the quality of the images that digital cameras capture along with an equally impressive drop in their cost has made digital photography available to almost everyone. Digital cameras offer many benefits over film-based cameras, including the following:

  • No cost for each photo There is no film or development cost associated with images you capture with a digital camera. You simply download the image from the camera to your Mac. Because each shot costs you literally nothing, you might find yourself being much more liberal with the capture button than with the shutter button on a film-based camera. It is easy to delete any images that aren't what you want, and poor shots don't cost you anything. This frees you to be more creative when you shoot photos.

  • High quality The images you capture with high-resolution digital cameras are equal or superior to those you would capture with a film-based camera.

  • Customization Because the images you capture are digital, you can use an image-editing application, such as iPhoto, to customize those images in any way you can imagine. You can also easily correct flaws such as red-eye and bad background images.

  • Multiple use The power of digital images and the applications you can use to work with them enables you to use digital images in many ways. You can create digital photo albums, make slide shows, add them to your digital movies, and so on (you can even print them with nearly the quality of film images).

  • Easy transmission to others Unlike film photos that you have to copy and mail, you can easily (and instantly) provide your digital photos to just about anyone via e-mail or on the Web.

Choosing a Digital Camera

Obviously, before you can capture digital images, you need to have a digital camera. Obtaining a digital camera can be intimidating. Hundreds of models are now available, and more seem to come into the market every day. These cameras range in price from $100 to over $1,000. The vast array of features and designs that they offer can be bewildering. However, you can greatly limit the number of models from which you will want to choose by considering the factors described in the following sections.

Mac OS X Compatibility

This might seem like an obvious one, but some digital cameras do not support the Mac. And some support the Mac, but not Mac OS X. You should immediately eliminate any models that are not designed to work with Mac OS X.

If the camera you are considering supports the Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP), you can use it with Mac OS X even if its software is not Mac OS X?compatible. You can use iPhoto or Mac OS X's Image Capture application to download images from any camera that uses PTP. Make sure that you investigate this specification for models in which you are interested if their software is not compatible with Mac OS X.

iPhoto Compatibility

Because iPhoto is an ideal application to use for all aspects of working with images you capture with a digital camera (as you will learn later in this chapter), you are very likely to want to use it. To make the most of its capabilities, you should obtain a camera that is iPhoto-compatible. Fortunately, many brands and models are. To see whether the models you are considering are compatible with iPhoto, visit


Resolution is the single most important factor affecting digital image quality. The higher resolution the camera has, the more pixels that it captures in each image and thus the quality of the image is higher. Unlike some devices, it is common to measure the resolution of digital cameras by the total number of pixels in their images. Usually, this is referred to in millions of pixels or megapixels. And using the shorthand 2 megapixel or 3 megapixel further simplifies this.

The resolution you want is determined by how you are going to use the resulting images. If you are going to use images only for onscreen display, such as on the Web or in onscreen slide shows, you don't need images with as high a resolution as if you were going to want to print those photos at large sizes (such as 8x10).

A general guide to the resolution of digital cameras is in Table 15.3.

Table 15.3. Resolutions of Digital Cameras for Specific Purposes
Digital Camera Resolution Purpose
1 megapixel or less Low-quality images that should be used only on the Web or strictly for fun.
2 megapixel Medium-quality images that are great for all sorts of onscreen display and also can be printed at reasonable sizes with good results.
3 megapixel High-quality images that can be used for any purpose up to the most demanding professional applications.
3 megapixel + Anything above 3 megapixels should be considered for professional use only (unless you have plenty of money to burn).

All cameras enable you to change the resolution at which they capture images (they usually have low, medium, and high resolution settings). So, the resolution of the camera is really its maximum resolution; depending on the photos you are taking during a session, you might or might not take the highest resolution possible.


Many retail electronic sites on the Web are great places to do research on products you are considering?especially digital cameras. You can get the technical details about specific models, compare various models easily, and obtain price information instantaneously. One of the best places to look for digital cameras is at


All those pixels that a camera captures have to be stored in some form of memory. And as with your Mac, more memory is better. In the case of a camera, having more memory available enables you to take more photos without having to download them to your Mac. Some cameras have built-in or fixed memory, but most modern cameras use some form of removable memory (some options are listed in Table 15.4). Most of these formats are used in other devices as well (such as MP3 players), so choosing a memory storage format might depend on the other devices you have.

Table 15.4. Memory Storage Options
Type Uses
CompactFlash cards Cameras, MP3 players, and other devices. CompactFlash cards are sturdy memory cards that come in various capacities.
SmartMedia Cameras, MP3 players, and other devices. These cards also come in various capacities. They have been criticized for not being as robust as CompactFlash, but many digital cameras use them.
Memory sticks This form is proprietary to Sony. The memory stick is literally a small stick that acts just like other removable media. If you have other Sony devices, this can be a good choice.
CD-R A newer innovation in image storage used on some devices is an internal CD-R drive that stores images on a CD-R disc. This has the obvious benefit of making images easy to download and the media is quite inexpensive. However, including a CD-R mechanism in the camera makes it larger, heavier, and more sensitive to the environment and handling than RAM-based cameras.
Floppy disks Some cameras store images on floppy disks. Because your Mac probably doesn't have a floppy drive and floppy disks can't store many images that are high resolution, this really isn't a good option.


Decreasing the resolution of an image requires less memory to store it, so you can effectively increase the memory of a camera by capturing images at a lower resolution setting. The trade-off is that those images you capture at lower resolutions won't be as high quality as those captured at higher resolutions.

You can also swap out memory cards, which means that your camera's memory is limited only by the amount of money you can afford to spend on additional memory cards.


As you might expect, higher-resolution cameras are more expensive than lower-resolution cameras. As with most electronic devices, one of your most important criteria should be the amount you can afford to spend. Although prices change so fast that it is impossible to provide specific price information in this book, there are some general guidelines about the cost of various "classes" of camera.

Generally, cameras in the 3-megapixel class cost $350 or more. These cameras are good choices if you are interested in high-quality photos for both onscreen and hard-copy use. One excellent camera in this class is the Nikon Coolpix 885 (see Figure 15.1).

Figure 15.1. Nikon Coolpix cameras have a long history of being among the best digital cameras.


Cameras in the 2-megapixel class generally cost around $250. These cameras are suitable for all onscreen work as well as most hard-copy applications.

Cameras in the 1-megapixel class can be purchased for $200 or less. These cameras are fine for most onscreen work (such as capturing photos for Web sites), but probably will not be adequate for printing your photos.

Cameras in the 4- or 5-megapixel range can be purchased for $700 or more. If you are producing professional-quality images that are used in very high-resolution devices, you might need such devices. But for most people and purposes, a 3-megapixel camera has more than enough quality.


If you have a favorite brand, you can eliminate many models from consideration. If you are open to any brand, you have more research to do. Most manufacturers of film-based cameras also make excellent digital cameras. These include Kodak, Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Olympus.


All camera manufacturers maintain Web sites on which you can get extensive information about their products. Although this information isn't exactly unbiased, it is usually very detailed. You can often see very detailed images of a camera, such as the location of its controls, its shape, and so on.

To get to these sites, just go to For example, to learn about Kodak cameras, go to


Digital cameras offer more features than even film-based cameras do; in fact, the sheer number of features can be intimidating. Usually, you can limit the number of features you have to consider by first using the other criteria (such as iPhoto-compatibility, resolution, brand, and price) to eliminate most models from consideration. After you have a "short list" of possible models, you have to decide which features are the most important to you. You aren't likely to find a single model that offers exactly the features you want, so you are looking for the best mix of features to suit your needs.


Some digital still-image cameras can capture video clips, and some digital video cameras can capture still images. Usually, the video capture by a still camera is of fairly low quality, but some digital video cameras can capture still images that rival the quality of still-image cameras. An example of this is the Sony DCRPC110. In addition to excellent video, it can capture megapixel still images.

Using a Digital Camera

Using a digital camera is quite similar to using a film-based camera. There are several major differences, however, which include the following:

  • Memory management Because each shot doesn't "cost" you anything, you are likely to take a lot more photos during one session than you would with a film-based camera. You need to keep an eye on the amount of memory you have available so that you don't run out before you are done taking photos. Because digital cameras use counters that work just like those in film-based cameras, this is not a hard task. Unlike film-based cameras, with most digital cameras, you can preview your photos on-the-fly and delete those you don't want. This frees up memory you can use to take more photos. Of course, if you have additional memory cards with you, you can simply pop in another card to boost the available memory.

  • Battery management Digital cameras are power hogs. They burn through batteries many times faster than their film-based counterparts, especially if you use the LCD monitor that most cameras have (which you will). When using a film-based camera, you have to think about battery replacement in terms of years. When using a digital camera, you have to think about it every time you use the camera because you will consume all the battery power in just a few shooting sessions. In fact, this is the only real disadvantage to a digital camera.

    You should use some form of rechargeable batteries in your digital camera, and you will want to have a couple of sets of them so that you can change them during a shooting session as needed. There are also ways to minimize a camera's power consumption, such as turning off its LCD monitor.


With cameras that use "standard" batteries, such as AA, you should also carry an extra set of "emergency" nonrechargeable batteries for those situations in which you run out of rechargeable batteries (and you will?usually right in the middle of a particularly important shoot). This is assuming that your camera is capable of operating on such batteries, of course.

After your images are captured, the real power of a digital camera comes into play. Unlike film-based cameras in which you have to have the film processed, you can immediately download images to your Mac and begin working with them.

Installing a Digital Camera's Software on Your Mac

If you have a camera that is compatible with iPhoto, you don't need to install any software, including the drivers and applications that came with the camera. This is because iPhoto can manage all aspects of working with that camera.

However, if your camera is not iPhoto-compatible or you want to use other applications to download your images (why you would, I don't know), you will need to install your camera's software. This software might include any drivers needed for your Mac to be able to communicate with the camera and usually includes applications you can use to manage and edit the images you capture.


If the digital camera you use supports the Picture Transfer Protocol, you don't need to install its software to be able to download images because you can use Mac OS X's Image Capture to do so even if you don't use iPhoto. However, you might still want to use the camera's software for its special features.

Installing a digital camera's software is similar to installing other applications on your Mac.

For help installing applications, see Chapter 6, "Installing and Using Mac OS X Applications," p. 121.


If Classic is launched when you attempt to install your camera's software, see "Classic Is Launched When Installing Camera Software" in the Troubleshooting section at the end of this chapter.


There are several types of devices you can use to mount the memory card directly on your desktop. For example, the ScanDisk ImageMate enables you to mount CompactFlash memory cards directly so that you can copy the image files from the memory card to the Mac. These devices cost only about $30 and can be simpler even than using Image Capture.

Downloading Images to Your Mac

There are four main ways in which you can transfer the images you capture from the camera to the Mac. These are covered in the following sections.

Using iPhoto to Download Images

iPhoto is the best and easiest way to download and manage your images.

To learn how to use iPhoto to download images from your camera, see "Downloading Images from a Digital Camera into iPhoto," p. 431.

Using Image Capture to Download Images

Mac OS X was designed to work with digital cameras; it includes the basic Image Capture application that provides a consistent interface for various models of digital cameras. Its single purpose is to download images from the camera to your Mac. Because iPhoto is also included with Mac OS X, there isn't a whole lot of reason to use Image Capture, but because Image Capture remains part of the standard Mac OS X applications, you should understand its capabilities.

Image Capture will work with cameras that support the Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP). Many cameras do support this protocol, but some do not. Check the manufacturer's Web site and product specifications to see whether a particular model supports PTP.


The more technical name for PTP is ISO 15740.

Image Capture can be used to download images from some scanners, and that is the more likely circumstance in which you will use it. But it works similarly whether your image source is a camera or a scanner.

Image Capture can be configured so that it automatically downloads images when you plug your camera or scanner into your Mac. By default, Mac OS X is configured to open iPhoto when it detects a camera. You can change this behavior with the Image Capture Preferences command.

Working with Image Capture is straightforward. Use the following steps to get images from your camera to your Mac:

  1. Connect your camera to your Mac using its USB cable.

  2. Power up your camera (if it has a mode selector to communicate with a computer, choose that mode?most cameras switch to this mode automatically). If you haven't configured Image Capture to open automatically, open the application (Applications folder). If you have configured Image Capture to open automatically, it will do so when your Mac detects the camera. You will see the Image Capture window, which isn't all that interesting to look at (see Figure 15.2). The application will communicate with the camera to determine how many images need to be downloaded. When the camera is ready to begin downloading images, the Download Some and Download All buttons will become active.

    Figure 15.2. When you connect a supported camera to your Mac, Image Capture displays the number of images that are ready to be downloaded (and you might even see an image of the camera, as is the case for this Kodak DC4800).



    If your camera is not recognized by Image Capture, it probably does not support PTP. In that case, you will have to use the camera's software to download images from it.

  3. Choose the directory into which you want the images to be downloaded on the Download To pop-up menu. By default, Image Capture selects the Pictures, Movies, and Music folders option. You can choose Other on the menu to choose a different directory.

  4. To download all the images on the camera, click Download All. The images you download will be downloaded into the appropriate directories in your Home directory or in the directory you selected on the Download To pop-up menu. For example, photos will be downloaded to the Pictures directory. As the images are downloaded, you will see a progress dialog box that shows you a preview of the images being downloaded (see Figure 15.3). When the application is done downloading images, it will move to the background and the directories into which it downloaded images will be opened.

    Figure 15.3. As Image Capture downloads your photos, you see a preview of each image it is downloading.


  5. Move to the appropriate directory to work with the files you have downloaded.


Notice that the default download folders are Pictures, Movies, and Music folders. Some cameras can capture movies and sound. If your camera has QuickTime movies on it, those will be placed in the Movies directory in your Home directory. Likewise, sounds will be placed in the Music directory.


If Image Capture does not recognize your camera, see "The Digital Camera Is Not Recognized by Image Capture or iPhoto" in the Troubleshooting section at the end of this chapter.

To download only selected images, use the following steps:

  1. Connect your camera and open Image Capture.

  2. After the application is ready to begin downloading images, click Download Some. You will see a window that shows you a preview of each image stored in the camera (see Figure 15.4). By default, the window appears in the Icon view.

    Figure 15.4. You can use the preview window to select images to download; you can also rotate images or delete them.


  3. Click the List View button or choose View, as List to see the images in the List view. In this view, you see the images in a Finder-like window. You see a lot of information for each image, including its name, file size, date and time of capture, width and height in pixels, resolution, color depth, aperture, exposure, and so on. You can change the width of the columns in the List view; however, you can't change the sort order?the window is always sorted by image number.

  4. Return the window to the Icon view by clicking the Icon view button or by choosing View, as Icons.

  5. If you need to rotate images, select the images you want to rotate and click the Rotate Left or Rotate Right buttons.

  6. Select the folders into which you want to download the images on the Download folder pop-up menu. The default is the same as when you download all images, but you can change it to be any folder you'd like to use.

  7. Select the images you want to download (use the Shift and graphics/symbol.gif keys to select multiple images) and click Download. The images will be downloaded into the selected directory.


You can connect multiple cameras to your Mac at the same time. To choose the one with which you want to work, use the Camera pop-up menu.

Image Capture has other options that are useful:

  • Automatic Task You can attach AppleScripts to Image Capture so that it performs an action you select from the Automatic Task pop-up menu when you download images. There are a number of actions on the menu by default, including Build web page, Build slide show, Format 3x5, and so on. You can use any of these tasks or add your own. To add a task to the menu, place it in the Mac OS X/Library/Image Capture/Scripts directory, where Mac OS X is the name of your Mac OS X startup volume.

  • Options dialog box If you click the Options button in the Image Capture window, you will see a sheet that contains three tabs. The Download Options tab enables you to configure how downloads are handled, such as whether all images are downloaded automatically, or whether images are deleted from the camera after they are downloaded. The View Options tab enables you to configure the two views in the Download Some window; for example, you can choose the size of the icons in the Icon view or determine which columns are displayed in the List view. The Device Options tab displays information about the device you are using, such as the type of camera and the application your Mac is using to interface with it. If you use Image Capture regularly, you should explore these options.


Image Capture will download only those images that aren't already in the selected directory. So, you won't get duplicate files if you have previously downloaded images on the camera and then perform another download with new images.


Image Capture has a customizable Mac OS X toolbar. You can show or hide it, and change the buttons it contains just like other toolbars, such as the toolbar in Finder windows. To customize this toolbar, choose View, Customize Toolbar.

Several automatic tasks are useful, but the Build web page task is a particularly useful one. When you choose this, Image Capture will build a Web site for the images you download. After the script runs, the Web page will open and you will see your images (see Figure 15.5). On the Web site, you can click an image to open a full-size version (click the full-size image to return to the preview page).

Figure 15.5. This Web site was built automatically when Image Capture downloaded images to my Mac.



The combination of the List view and the Build web page automatic task is powerful. You can select the images captured on a specific date, such as a party, and quickly build a Web site containing only those images.

Give the Build web page script time to work. You will see it processing each image you selected in the Finder. When it finishes, the Web page will open in your default Web browser (the title of the window will be the directory into which the images have been downloaded). If you mess around with the files while it is working, it can't finish the job.

After you download images using the Build web page task, the directory in which they were downloaded will also contain a folder called Index. If you open this folder, you will see the index.html file. Open this file to see the Web page that was created. This is a great way to catalog and preview your images.

If you want to share your images with others, simply post the Web site that Image Capture creates. For example, you can copy the index.html file and the Index files folder into your Sites folder to publish it. You can also drag those items onto the Sites folder on your iDisk to publish the site on the Internet.

To learn how to publish Web sites, see Chapter 14, "Putting Yourself on the Web," p. 369.


If you change the images you downloaded after the Web site is built, the updated image will not be shown on the Web page.

If you use Image Capture to download images from a camera or a scanner, you should configure it to open automatically when the respective device is attached.

  1. Choose Image Capture, Preferences.

  2. On the Camera Preferences pop-up menu, choose Image Capture (iPhoto is selected by default).

  3. In the Scanner Preferences pop-up menu, make sure that Image Capture is selected (it is by default).

  4. Close the Preferences window.

Both pop-up menus include the No application and Other options. If you choose No application, your Mac won't take any action when you connect a device. If you choose Other, you can select any application on your Mac and it will open when a device is detected.

Using "Disk Mode" to Download Images

Some cameras use a disk mode to download images to your Mac. When you attach the camera to your Mac using the USB cable and then power up the camera, it is mounted on your Mac just like a hard or removable disk. To download the images to your Mac, you simply drag them from the camera's disk to the location on your Mac in which you want them to be stored.

This is the same mode you use if you attach a memory card reader to your Mac. The memory card you insert in the reader acts like any other volume you can mount. You simply drag files from the memory card into the appropriate folder.


If your camera is not mounted on the desktop, see "The Camera Is Not Mounted on the Desktop" in the Troubleshooting section at the end of this chapter.

Using Camera-Specific Software to Download Images

Some cameras use a specific application to download images. This software might offer more features than Image Capture or the disk mode (but probably not more than iPhoto), although its purpose is the same. If the camera you use includes such software, check the documentation for your camera to learn how to use it.

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Lifestyle