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On a digital camera, the resolution setting controls both the file type and the size of the photograph that is saved to the storage card. All cameras can save in JPEG format. Some also offer the higher-resolution TIFF and RAW formats. Within each format setting, you can also choose the resolution or number of pixels that the picture will contain. The more pixels, the higher the resolution and the larger you can display or print the picture without compromising quality.

Choosing the Right Resolution for Your Purpose

Before you choose the resolution setting for a photo, consider what you plan to do with the picture. If you plan to print a shot, you'll want the highest quality file format (TIFF or RAW). If you plan to display the picture on a Web page or send it via email, you can use JPEG.

Next, you choose the resolution. Some cameras have several resolution settings with names like SHQ (super high quality), also called Fine; HQ (high quality), or Normal; and SQ (standard quality), or Basic. The resolution setting determines the image size and the amount of information the camera saves for each picture.

You might think that you should simply take all of your pictures at the highest resolution so you'll get the best quality. There are several reasons why this is impractical. First, the higher the resolution, the larger the file size. And the larger the file size, the fewer pictures you'll be able to fit on the storage card. For example, if your camera came with an 8 MB or 16 MB card, you might only be able to save one or two pictures at the highest resolution. Unless you plan to make a major investment in storage media, and few people do, that's a pretty big limitation.

Another reason you won't want to use the highest resolution is the law of diminishing returns. If your plan is to ultimately display the photo on your Web site, the higher resolution is a waste of space, since the extra pixels are going to be thrown away when you reduce the size of the picture. See Chapter 10 for a chart of image sizes and their respective print sizes.

Remember that you can mix file types and sizes on the same card. So you can use different formats for different pictures just by changing the settings.

Setting Resolution on the Camera

Most cameras offer two methods for changing settings. You can set the most commonly used features, like flash settings, via buttons on the camera (Figure 4.1). Most of the settings are accessed using a menu. The menu is displayed on the camera's LCD display (Figure 4.2). To learn how to specify the settings on your particular camera, refer to the documentation.

Figure 4.1. Your camera probably lets you set most features with buttons.

Figure 4.2. Menu choices are displayed on the screen.

Some cameras have an option that lets you choose whether to have the camera save your setting changes or return to the defaults when you shut it off. Check your camera's documentation.

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