Take Better Pictures - Lesson 2

Hello again!

This is the second installment of digital photography tips. By the way, I have more lessons, tips and a few opinions on my blog that may interest you as well: imagemaven.com.

If you have any questions or comments about this newsletter, please let me know. I appreciate your feedback and I learn from your comments.

I am working my way through the most important settings on your digital camera. The previous lesson explained image size. Now I am going to examine image quality, which is one thing many people don't understand.

Lesson 2 - Image Quality

Camera menu

I'm going to keep the graphic above for all the settings lessons, as a reminder.

Image quality has to do with the how much your jpg photos are compressed when you take your pictures. Jpg is a lossy compression method. The more compression, the more image quality you lose, and the smaller the file. However, there is a big price to pay when you compress your images. The more you compress the crappier your picture looks! How's that for a descriptive term?

All jpg compression, no matter how good, produces artifacts. The more you compress the more artifacts you will see. You will also notice the artifacts more if you have solid colours in your photo. In a picture of a leafy forest you will not see the artifacts as much as a photo with a deep blue sky.

All cameras allow you to set different image qualities of the photos you are about to capture. These settings are named differently by various camera manufacturers. Here are a few examples, but there are many more:

So which setting should you use?

For best results always capture your images using the best possible file quality. Memory cards are much cheaper now than they used to be, and if you are trying to preserve card space on a holiday, then choose a smaller file size instead of a lower quality.

By the way, if you can't figure out which one is the best quality, compare how many photos you can fit on the memory card with each choice. The more photos, the more compressed, and the more image quality you will lose.

Extra tips for this lesson »

»What do artifacts look like?

Artifacts are commonly mistaken for pixelization.

enlargment of pixels

Pixelization (above) occurs when your image is really low resolution and, for example, you stretch that image to fill the screen on your PowerPoint presentation. You might notice jaggies, another technical term!

artifacts enlarged

Artifacts (above) on the other hand will show up in solid coloured areas and also occur when the colour or contrast changes from one part of the photo to another.


I have a presentation called Setting up your Digital Camera which is a pared down version of the lessons you are currently receiving. The presentation has more visuals than the newsletters, but no audio.

Download the full presentation here.

»Rah, rah, RAW!!

If you capture camera raw files instead of jpgs, you don't have to worry about file quality. It will always be the best because raw files have no compression at all!

And, in most cases you won't have to worry about choosing a file size until your do your post processing.

Now here's the fine print: Some newer high megapixel cameras allow you to capture a large or small raw file. So if you need to save space on your memory card, choose the smaller raw file, especially when practicing. It will save space on your computer hard drive as well.

Next Lesson: ISO - Sensitivity

This lesson will show up in your mail box in a few days.

In Between

LIfe gets busy, so sometimes you don't get the newsletters as fast as you might want them. In between the newsletters don't forget about my website, ImageMaven.com or the ImageMaven YouTube channel.

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Happy Shooting!