Digital photography has come a long way from where it was just a
few years ago: Though light years from maturity, it's safely past the early-adopter stage. Turning digital now brings enormous creative power to the photographer, with far fewer early-generation problems. Cameras capture enough data to produce good-size prints-at the high end, extraordinary prints. Onboard processing power arms you against difficult light situations. Photo software and an inexpensive photo printer turn the PC into a desktop darkroom and print lab, minus the chemicals. Add a scanner and you can repair pre-digital
photos as well, then save all your treasures by burning a photo archive to CD or DVD.
Even the silver-halide purists, who are right that film retains advantages over digital—more data in the medium, richer tonal range in
the print—concede that digital could fuel a renaissance
in amateur photography.
But to be a good digital photographer requires new hardware and software chops. You need to understand storage media, data transfer, formatting and how to wield
picture-editing tools like the polygonal lasso and the clone stamp. Here, a guide to the technology that powers digital creativity—and a peek at the tech of tomorrow.