What You Need for Digital Photography

HARDWARE – Our best suggestion is to bring the most powerful computer you have. If you are driving to the conference it is OK to bring a desktop computer and monitor. However, the trend in computer sales is away from desktop computers to laptop computers.

Keep in mind that laptop computers are like calculators and other electronic devices. They get better and cheaper with time. Most of the warehouse and/or discount stores have laptops starting at $800 and going up that will work very well with the basic Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 software.

Here are a couple of things you want to look for in a PC laptop: 1 Gigabytes or more of Ram, USB2 ports on it and the fastest processor you can afford. Your machine can use either Windows XP or the newer Windows Vista operating system. Windows XP is a simpler operating system than Windows Vista. Computers loaded with Windows Vista should have 2 Gigabytes of Ram.

If you are a MAC User, you know more about their computers than we do, so bring the fastest MAC you have with you. Fortunately, Adobe is cross platform software and our Mac students have had very little problems following along in class in our demonstrations using a PC.

You will need a power strip with a SURGE PROTECTOR. We can not guarantee the quality of the electricity on site. A surge protector is CHEAP INSURANCE for your computer, and many of you already have them for your sewing machines.
You can learn a lot in the class, and we suggest that you make the learning process as easy as possible for yourself. DO NOT LET YOUR EQUIPMENT MAKE THE LEARNING PROCESS HARDER FOR YOU. Bring the most powerful computer you have to the class. If you are driving, it is OK to bring your desktop computer and monitor in place of a laptop.

SOFTWARE – in this class will use Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 for the PC. If you want to use Adobe Photoshop CS4, please, contact us first. If you want to use some other software besides Photoshop, this class is not for you.

If you want to use older versions of Adobe Photoshop Elements, please, contact us. There are major differences between Photoshop Elements 4 and 5, and even more so with version 6. So, if you have not upgraded to Elements 6 you should do so.

You will need to have Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 or 7 loaded on your computer. Our demonstrations will be with a PC running Window Vista and Photoshop Elements 7. If you wish to use Windows XP and Photoshop Elements 6, you may do so.

The current cost of Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 is $79 from the warehouse stores like Costco, or it can be bought from Sometimes there are coupons and you may find it even cheaper. We recommend that you upgrade to Photoshop Elements 7 even if you are still running on Window XP.
If you have no experience whatsoever with Adobe Photoshop Elements, DO NOT WORRY. We start from the beginning with Photoshop Elements 7, including showing you how we set it up. We will print out your images on fabric in the class -- your task is to make the digital files that we print for you using Photoshop Elements.

: Keep in mind that as of this writing Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 is the latest version available for the MAC, but it is very similar to the PC versions 6 and 7.


  1. A laptop or desktop computer with Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 or 7 loaded on it
  2. A digital camera – either a point-and-shoot or a digital SLR.
  3. The camera manual
  4. 2 blank storage media cards
  5. A card reader to download your photos to your computer
  6. A flash drive or thumb drive that plugs into your USB2 port -- it needs to be at least 512 MB in size.
  7. We recommend that you bring your original Photoshop installation disk with you in case you have a problem and need to re-install the program.

You do not need a printer or laminated fabric for printing on for our class. Your lab fee includes the printing out of fabric for you on our Epson 4800 printer with archival Ultrachrome inks. It also includes the laminated fabric from Color Textiles that we will print your files on. The term laminated fabric refers to the cotton poplin fabric that is laminated to paper so it runs easily through printers like the Epson 4800. The Color Plus fabrics that we use from Color Textiles are treated to get the best prints on the fabric. You will get three pieces of fabric 17-inches wide by 12-inches high. Time permitting, we will be glad to print more fabric for you for a small fee.
If you are an advanced student and have printed fabric before on either a printer with Epson Ultrachrome inks or other printers, please, feel free to bring that fabric to the class. Be sure to bring notes that tell us what fabric you used and what printer you used to print it. We will be glad to discuss any issues you may have with printing fabric with other printers.

Based on past questions and to make your experience the best one we can in our class, we are making the following equipment suggestions. Remember, they are only suggestions -- you do not need to buy a new computer for our class unless you want to use the class as an excuse to do so.
If you want to ask more specific equipment questions, feel free to e-mail us at


For those who want more technical information about what computer to use, here are some suggestions. Remember, they are suggestions not requirements.

PC Laptop or Desktop Computer

  1. 2 GB RAM – Especially if you are using the Windows Vista operating system. Graphics programs use a lot of memory -- the more memory, the faster it will process your image files.
  2. USB2 Ports for plugging in accessories like External Hard Drives, Flash Drives, and Card Readers, etc.
  3. Largest Internal Hard Disk you can get – the more storage space your computer has, the better.
  4. Fastest processor you can afford (the newest fastest processors are always the most expensive – as long as you are getting the RAM you want you can save some money by getting a slightly slower and less expensive processor).
  5. CD Read/Write Drive or DVD Read/Write Drive for files to be printed or to back up your files.

Mac Laptop or Desktop Computer
Mac users, you know your equipment options better than we do, so bring the most powerful Mac you have with you. Adobe is cross platform software but we will be demonstrating with a PC.


  1. Flash or "Thumb" drives for quick transfer of files – minimum recommendation is 512 MB, but 2-8 GB flash drives are readily available and like pixels, more bytes are better.
  2. Digital Media card reader
  3. Blank CDs for saving image files
  4. External Hard Disks for saving image files. We are very fond of the compact Western Digital Passport External Drives.


  1. Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 – One of the best bargains from Adobe outside of their free Acrobat Reader. This program sells for $79 at warehouse stores like Costco and from Amazon.


  1. Photoshop Elements 7, The Missing Manual by Barbara Brundage published by Pogue Press/O'Reilly. Retails for about $45 but you can buy it at a discount on Amazon (
  2. Photoshop Elements 6 for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby, published by New Riders. While this book is for Version 6 there are a lot of good tips that will apply to Version 7, and it retails for about $45. The latest edition of this book for Elements 7 is expected out in early March 2009.

While you can use any digital camera for the class, here are some helpful suggestions to give you better results. If this techno-talk is over your head, don’t worry – you will be learning about this in class. This is for those with more specific questions about their equipment in relation to our class.

The two most common questions asked about cameras are:
- How do I get good color in my prints (paper or fabric) from my camera?
- How do I get the best, clearest images from my camera?

The answer to the first question about color revolves around the ability of your camera to record color. This is often referred to as the color space or color mode that the camera uses. Most cameras have a default color space of sRGB. If you want more and better color, look for a camera that allows you to use the wider color space, Adobe RGB.

The second question deals with the difference between shooting pictures to be viewed on a computer screen versus printing the picture.

To get the best, clearest image, more pixels are better. For example, you get more pixels with a 6 Mega Pixel camera than with a 2 Mega Pixel camera. Currently there are many camera choices in the 10 Mega Pixel range at reasonable prices.

Once you are using a camera that has a lot of Mega Pixels, choose the largest file size you can use to take your pictures. If your camera only shoots in the JPEG format, shoot the largest file size, such as Large JPEG or Fine JPEG with resolution set at its highest setting.

While you will get the most pictures on a memory card using the smallest or Basic JPEG setting, it will also have the smallest resolution. Those images may look good on your computer screen but when you go to print them, they often print poorly.

If you have a 12 Mega Pixel camera but you shoot Basic JPEGs at the smallest resolution, the files will be like shooting with a 2 Mega Pixel camera when you go to print them.

Based on those two most asked questions and to make your experience the best one we can in our class, we are making the following equipment suggestions. Remember, they are only suggestions -- you do not need to buy a new digital camera for our class unless you want to use the class as an excuse to do so.
Again, if you want to ask more specific equipment questions, feel free to e-mail us at


  1. A camera that allows you a variety of formats to save your images – some cameras only allow you to save images as a JPEG. Consider a camera that allows you to also save your images in a non-compressed format such as TIFF or RAW.
  2. A camera that allows you to change from sRGB color space or color mode to Adobe RGB in the camera’s menu settings.
  3. Cameras with interchangeable lenses give you more options for taking pictures and better quality in terms of image clarity.
  4. If you already have an investment in a particular brand of 35mm film camera and SLR lenses you might want to consider getting that brand’s digital camera body. You can often use older 35mm SLR lenses in the manual mode on your digital camera body. If you have a question about the compatibility of your old 35mm SLR lenses, check with the camera manufacturer.
  5. Invest in a good camera strap if the camera does not come with one. A camera strap is valuable as you are less likely to drop your camera when you are taking pictures.
  6. Invest in UV filters to protect the front element of your lenses. If you drop or knock the camera about, a UV filter might save your lens. They screw into the front of the lens. If you hit the front of the lens, the UV filter is a layer of protection that might save the lens.
  7. If you are buying a camera kit (digital camera, zoom lens, camera strap, storage media etc.) consider buying just the body and a better lens. Often the kit lens is an inexpensive lens. You can spend as much or more on a good lens as you did on the camera body. The camera body (film or digital) is the recording device. The clarity of the camera’s lens is the eye that goes to the recording device. The better the quality of your lens, the better the picture is that will be recorded.
  8. Compatibility of storage media: it helps if you have more than one camera in your family that they all use the same type of storage media (i.e. Compact Flash Cards, SD Media Cards, etc.). You can think of storage media as film that can be reused once you have saved the images on the card.
  9. Invest in extra storage media cards -- most camera kits come with a small card. We recommend having two 2GB cards.


  1. External flash unit for your brand camera
  2. Squeeze air blower – Do not use a blower/brush or cans of compressed air to clean the internal parts of your camera.
  3. Tripod -- a useful accessory, especially if you want to photograph your quilt
  4. An inexpensive line level to use with your tripod for photographing quilts
  5. Cable release for shooting pictures when the camera is on the tripod
DIGITAL GREY CARD – in the film world this was the popular 18% Grey Card. In the digital world it is not the same. You can use it, but it is a different grey. Digital grey cards are a must if you are shooting in your camera’s RAW mode. You use them for a quick and easy color balance when you are processing RAW images. Our favorite digital grey card comes from Robin Myers and we will have them for sale in class.
Email with any questions or comments about this class
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