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April, 2007

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Discovering digital photography
by Kristine Berey
Artist and photographer Sol Levinson wouldn’t dream of giving up his trusty Nikon SLR (single lens reflex) camera, his first choice for quality portraits. “When I’m doing people, I still use a film camera,” says Levinson, who teaches several courses in digital photography at the Cummings Jewish  Centre for Seniors.
But when it comes to almost anything else, whether taking pictures at family gatherings or documenting his travels across the globe or even posting his pictures on the internet, Levinson swears by his digital camera, small enough to fit into his pocket.
A self-taught photographer, he particularly enjoys having fun with his photographs, crafting  “movies” out of sequences of his favourite pictures, complete with the soundtracks of his choice. He does this using a related software, Adobe Photoshop, a program he also teaches a course on at the Centre. “You can do amazing things with Photoshop, things you’ve never even dreamed,” enthuses Levinson, as he demonstrates the potential of the program, changing colours, cropping and stretching the faces of his subjects in hilarious ways. “It’s an incredible program, the grandkids will love you.”
But first things first. Just how do you buy a digital camera? In a one-session course Levinson also teaches, he answers the digital novice’s questions and maintains that there is nothing intimidating or difficult about learning to purchase and use a digital camera, which is, in fact, a little computer. “I don’t even have a cell phone yet,” he cracks, instantly putting all the cell-phone toting pupils in his class at ease.
The key to using a digital camera lies in understanding the technical jargon, Levinson says. He proceeds to de-mystify terms such as “megapixel,” “Liquid Crystal Display
(LCD) screen,” “jpeg” and “memory card” by defining them in non-technical language and providing a glossary to take home. “The more dots, the better the picture quality,” Levinson says, adding that for non-professional use, a six or seven megapixel camera is perfectly adequate.
He suggests ignoring the “digital zoom” which crops the picture inside the camera. “Don’t use it, you are left with less of a picture. You can always do that later in your computer with Photoshop.” Optical zoom on the other hand is like the 35mm zoom lens, moving in and out of the picture.
The LCD screen at the back of the camera allows  you to preview the picture and delete all those great shots of your thumb or of people, headless or with their mouth full of birthday cake, that you’d really rather not print. Because the memory card in the camera stores hundreds of shots, you can snap away endlessly and print only the best.
However, Levinson prefers to use the optical viewfinder of his camera, keeping the LCD off and deleting once the photos have been transferred to the computer. “The LCD takes battery power and won’t work in sunlight,” he says. As well, he advises the potential consumer to double check if the camera he or she wants to buy actually has a viewfinder.
“In some digital cameras, the flash looks like an optical viewfinder, what you look through to take your picture. Some digital cameras only have the LCD screen, so be sure to ask.”
The Spring session at the CJCS begins in April. For information on all the courses available call (514) 342-1234 or visit www.cummingscentre.org


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