Understanding Photoshop is a biweekly column that takes an in-depth look at how digital photographs are built and manipulated. It is a college-level course in plain English for free at Photofocus. To learn more see this article.

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Acquiring images from a digital camera

There are two major ways of downloading images from a digital camera. Which connection type you choose will depend on your work environment and budget for additional hardware.

The first method involves plugging the camera directly into the computer. Many cameras ship with a connecting cable (generally USB). The advantage of this approach is that it doesn’t require an extra hardware purchase.

image ©diego cervo
image diego cervo

The primary disadvantages of this method are that it ties up the camera, and it is hard on delicate ports built into the camera. If you break the USB port by constantly plugging in and unplugging a camera, it can lead to an expensive service bill. The data port is interconnected with several other systems on the camera; a break at one end can result in problems in other areas. Additionally, if the cameras battery were to be depleted during image transfer, the memory card and its contents can become corrupt.

Fig 03_09 ReaderA better option for downloading images from a digital camera is to purchase a stand-alone memory card reader. There are many options available, so consider these questions and choose wisely:

  • Do you need only one card format, or do you need to read multiple formats?
  • How fast do you want your files to transfer? Be wary of card readers that are USB 1 or even USB2, which can take a long time to transfer files. Look for USB 3, FireWire, eSATA, or Thunderbolt for faster data rates.
  • Laptop users with a card slot can purchase an effective card adapter for fast file transfers without tying up ports.
  • Some laptops and desktops even ship with built-in card readers that tend to be reasonably fast.
  • Do you want to transfer multiple cards at once? Some readers allow for two or even four cards to be mounted at one time so you can initiate a large transfer and walk away.

Transferring files

The actual transfer of photos is not handled by Photoshop. Rather, you can use Adobe Bridge, which includes a Photo Downloader (File > Get Photos from Camera). If you are not using Adobe Bridge, the files are handled natively by your computers operating system. Just manually copy them to a folder on your computer.