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Digital cameras offer full spectrum

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According to Michael J. McNamara, technology editor for Popular Photography and Imaging magazine (formerly Popular Photography magazine), "Many digital cameras offer better color accuracy than any film we've tested."

So, many digital camera shooters have no problem getting true-to-life colors, if they set their camera's white balance control for the existing lighting condition, and if their computer monitor and Inkjet printer are properly calibrated.

But do we always want 100 percent color accuracy in our pictures? Some creative photographers might not.

For those digital shutterbugs, cameras are available that offer several color modes: color, black-and-white and sepia. Using the black-and-white and sepia modes can produce pictures that look more artistic than straight color shots, because the simple process of removing some of the reality from a scene, color in this case, can make a picture look a bit more artistic.

One of my friends, actress Kelly Packard (currently co-hosting TBS's "Ripley's Believe it or Not!" series), often sets her camera to the black-and-white mode when taking people pictures. She likes the "flawless" effect of black-and-white photography. The idea for this week's column came from Kelly's black-and-white 2002 greeting card.

For an extra touch of creativity, you might want to try to experiment with infrared digital pictures. By adding a Hoya R72 or Tiffen 87 infrared filter over your lens, you might get an infrared-like image. I say "might" because not all digital cameras, including high-end pro digital SLRs such as the Canon EOS 1D, are capable of producing the infrared result in camera.

Before you run out and buy an infrared filter (which can cost from $30 to $100 depending on your lens), you can test your camera to see if the filter will work. If you have a point-and-shoot digital camera, first turn on the camera's LCD screen. Then have someone point your TV's remote control at your camera while he or she presses the remote's ON button. If you see a bright red glow from the remote control's LED on the camera's LCD screen, the filters will probably work on your camera, and you'll get the infrared effect.

If you have a digital SLR, you'll need to take a picture of the remote while the ON button is being pressed. If the remote's LED is bright red in your picture, an IR filter will probably work.

Even if you take a color picture with your digital camera, you can create black-and-white, sepia and infrared effects with many imaging programs in the digital darkroom. That's fun, and creative, too. Try those effects on some of your favorite pictures. You might be pleasantly surprised with your results.

If you are looking for some inspiration for creative pictures, you'll find it in a new book by New York-based photographer, Jill Enfield. "Photo-Imaging — A complete guide to alternative processes" (Amphoto, $29.95), offers dozens of ideas for creative imaging. "Making Digital Infrared Images" is one of my favorite chapters.


Rick Sammon is the host of the Digital Photography Workshop on the DIY Network.