Digital Photography: How Digital Cameras Work, by Benigna Marko

Every camera gathers the light that reflects off objects to record images of those objects. When a photographer presses the shutter release, a series of lenses focuses the available light and captures the scene. Traditional cameras rely on a chemical process that reproduces an image on light-sensitive film, which must then be developed to stabilize the picture and make it permanent.

Digital photography works in much the same way as film photography, but the images are recorded differently. The photos taken by a digital camera are made up of a series of ones and zeros that represent the many small dots, called pixels, that comprise the image. The camera utilizes either a charge-coupled device sensor or a complementary metal oxide semiconductor sensor to change the light that bounces off the subject into electrons, which are then recorded as pixels. The value of each pixel depends on the brightness of the light that created it. The pattern of pixels is recorded in the camera’s memory, without any need for the development process required by traditional film. Photographers can also use a scanner to create a digital version of any photo.

Whether a photographer uses a digital or film camera, he or she must know how to compose a shot, and how to adjust the aperture and shutter speed for the light conditions. Even photographers whose cameras have automatic modes that take care of many of these details may find they obtain better results if they understand how the camera determines which settings to use. Once the shot is lined up, the photographer simply pushes the shutter release button and records the image. The image is now ready to be downloaded or developed.

About the author: Benigna Marko is a photography enthusiast who lives in Miami, Florida, and enjoys taking pictures of animals and people.