I remember 20 years ago having to pay a professional to photograph our work for brochures. Back then we could only afford black-and-white photos. Now with newer, easier cameras we all have the means to take close-to-professional-quality photos. On top of that, the cost of color is now more affordable.
We have the ability to digitize photos whether using a film camera,
a scanner or a digital camera. If you are using a film camera now,
itís almost certain that eventually you will invest in a digital
camera in the future. Making the jump to a digital camera is a scary
step. I even found it mind-boggling to upgrade from an older digital
camera to a newer one.
As with any piece of equipment, you must commit to spending time
to learn good operation techniques to produce good photos. In the
world today, photographs are becoming essential to traditional print
media, e-mail and Web sites. Even if you hire someone to create
your marketing materials and Web site, you must furnish them with
content. Supplying them with good photos you have taken yourself
can save quite a bit on your marketing investment.
DIGITAL CAMERA ADVANTAGES
1. The primary advantage of digital cameras is instantaneous viewing
of the photos. You can immediately see your photos in the camera
monitor. You even can enlarge parts of the photo to see the details
2. All photos are automatically digitized on a media card, which
holds far more than the typical 24-exposure roll of film. The higher
the quality of the photo, the fewer photos can be saved on a media
I have a 128MB memory card in my old 2.5 MP (megapixel) camera.
It will give me 257 photos at normal quality or 90 photos one step
up in quality. In my new 7.1 MP camera, I have a 256 MB card, and
it gives me 146 photos at normal quality with 49 one step up in
quality. I have twice the memory on the second card, but more megapixels
used by the camera and that means it takes up more room (memory)
on the card.
3. You can read the media cards on your computer and thus you can
immediately see a much larger image.
4. You donít have to fill the media card to be able to view,
print or save any of the photos you
have already taken.
5. You can totally erase a media card and reuse it numerous times.
DIGITAL CAMERA PARTICULARS
I will address only what you need to consider for taking photos
of window treatments. If you also will use the camera for family
or hobby shots, you may have different needs. Before you start shopping,
know exactly how you want to use the camera and the photos youíll
create. It can make a major difference in what you should buy.
1. Megapixels: With digital cameras, the number of megapixels is
how many million dots per square inch (dpi) the camera is capable
of. Whether you get a good quality photo depends on how you set
the camera for quality and the size you make the photo afterward.
Understanding how all this relates is difficult but here are a few
points that should help.
Letís just say, if you set the camera on normal quality, some
of the information to create a photo is lost. All of the dpi may
have been used, but in order to save space in memory, some of the
information was not kept in those pixels.
On average, normal photos and those one step up the quality ladder
are .JPEG images. The step up saves more information on the pixel.
If you go higher up the ladder to a .TIFF image, all the information
is kept and retained. As an example, this is the memory space used
by my old camera for the photos. At normal .JPEG, the file sizes
are usually 350 to 700 KB; the next step up .JPEG images average
1,000 to 1,300 KB; the .TIFF images are about 5,600 KB or 5.6 MB.
But they all used the same number of dpi!
In general, 300 dpi is considered good quality. My old cameraís
images are 1,600-by-1,200 dpi. If I want to know the best size photo
I can create, then I divide each number by 300:
1,600 divided by 300 = 5.3 inches
1,200 divided by 300 = 4 inches
Technically, 5.3 by 4 is the best quality you can achieve. If you
start enlarging that size, you will start to lose quality, because
the same 1,600 by 1,200 pixels will get farther apart. However,
by trial and error, I know that my camera can do an outstanding
five-by-seven enlargement and a very nice eight-by-10, if the photo
was in sharp focus to start with. However, Iím not photographing
window treatments, which may need sharper detail. I suggest you
ask others in the industry what megapixel size they would recommend.
From what I have read, I think that three to four MP will do well
for you. I know that my new 7.1MP is overkill for most of you.
By the way, you should only use 640 by 480 dpi for display on the
Internet or to send via e-mail. A larger file would take too long
2. Point and shoot: If you do not want to learn different settings,
there are many good cameras that are automatic everything. They
may offer many adjustable options but you donít have to use
them. However, you must learn to work the zoom.
3. Optical vs. digital zoom: This feature can make you think you
have a lot of power, but it may do you no good. My new digital camera
has 5X optical zoom and 6X digital zoom, which the camera company
says gives me 30X zoom total.
What they donít tell you in advertising is that when you start
using the digital zoom, which brings subjects closer to you than
optical zoom, you lose quality and the photo gets progressively
grainy. It is actually taking a small part of the picture and enlarging
it, effectively using fewer pixels and moving them farther apart.
The optical zoom brings things closer to you without losing quality.
I compared my 3X optical zoom camera with the 5X. They get identical
pictures when they are as wide as they can go, which is the default
from which the camera starts. I could get closer to an object with
the 5X zoom. In taking window treatments, you would be better to
invest to get a wider zoom. A better telephoto (closer) zoom might
not be needed unless you need to get a lot of detail on very tall
There is another difficulty with the digital zoom. If you choose
to use it, you must use the monitor to focus the picture. It is
almost impossible to hold the camera steady when doing this. A tripod
is a must.
4. More megapixels = more memory: What we have not already discussed
is that more pixels will take up more storage space on your hard
drive. My computer, even with maximum RAM (768 MB), runs slower
simply to read the photos as thumbnails. If I do anything else with
the photos, like copy and paste to a CD or alter with software,
itís even slower.
I learned to not use the TIFF quality setting unless I was pretty
sure the photos would be outstanding. Trying to work with one 5-plus
MB photo is not bad, but working with several taxes my patience
and my computer. If you are only using your photos for marketing
materials, this should not be a major problem. This is why it is
so important to know how you will use your camera and photos before
5. Size and weight: While most digital cameras are small and not
heavy, this must be considered. If you want to be able to add different
lenses or a flash, etc., be prepared for the weight factor. Itís
one thing if you are only doing limited photographs in a customerís
home, but think about trade shows. There is enough to carry without
TIPS AND TRICKS
A good photograph speaks volumes, but knowing how to take a good
photo may be a little tricky. More often than not, window treatments
present problems that studio photographers donít see. At best,
you have a limited control of the setting. Here are some tips.
1. Dress up the scene. Remove as much of the unnecessary clutter
as possible. Remember, the purpose of the shot is to show off the
treatment. If the photo is too busy, it will draw the eye away from
the window treatment.
2. Backlighting (light coming in the window) causes a camera to
set itself for the brightness of the window, which leaves the treatments
in the dark. If your camera is capable, you can learn how to use
a light meter to set the camera. If that is not an option or is
too much trouble, then you can fool the cameraís automatic
Be sure the cameraís flash is on automatic. Look through the
viewfinder to compose the picture, zooming in and out as necessary.
Now move the camera enough to place the autofocus frame/mark (may
look like crop marks or brackets in the viewfinder) on the draperies
or on an area of similar darkness and distance from the camera.
For example, if you have narrow side panels or just a top treatment,
you may need to focus on the adjacent wall and the treatment. Half
compress the button and usually a green light will come on to indicate
the focus is ready (focus lock). Hold the button halfway while you
recompose the shot in the viewfinder without changing anything else.
Press the button all the way.
3. Flash reflection on the glass is another bothersome problem.
This most often happens when it is dark outside. Try standing at
an angle to the treatment so the flash hits the glass at an angle
rather than straight on.
4. Fuzzy pictures usually are caused by moving the camera when you
push the button. Try this: Get the camera focused and push the button
halfway down to lock the focus. Hold your breath and then push the
button all the way down. This can be very effective, but itís
best to use a tripod, whose purpose is to hold the camera still.
The legs are adjustable, and I recommend the latch style instead
of the screw style.
5. Read the instruction book! This should have been No. 1 but I
know you are not likely to do it in that order! I donít like
to read the instructions either, but I have learned how much better
my photos could have been if I had taken the time to read the instructions.
Is a digital camera necessary for a drapery workroom? Digitalized
information is becoming necessary for marketing, storage and documentation.
A digital camera certainly can assist in all these areas and, if
you use it for all these areas, it is less time-consuming and less
expensive in the long run than a film camera. It will give you the
means to create photos that must be as professional as you are.
Donít you think itís time to do a little research on cameras
and how to use them?
Next month: photo-enhancing software.
Kitty Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 26-year veteran
of the drapery workroom industry. Having owned drapery workrooms
as one person and as a company of nine, she is now president of
Workroom Concepts a consulting firm offering educational resources
to the industry on its Web site (www.workroom concepts.com). Her
experience in both the retail and wholesale window covering arenas
has contributed to her success as a business consultant. A professional
speaker and writer, she has authored several industry products including
Order in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications
and Price Your Work with Confidence, available through D&WC.