This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

November 3, 2018

Understanding what a digital image is

Since I've spent my life in graphic design, I tend to throw around terms that I often take for granted. One of them is a "digital image". And it's just a name for any image, photo, drawing, whatever, that you can see on a computer screen.

I'm a big believer in digitizing, especially photographs. I use the jpeg format, which stands for (in case anyone asks you) Joint Photographers Expert Group, and is a standard that was developed in the 1990s and is still the most widely used format for images today. In fact, I'll often hear people say, "Give me a jpeg" the way the people say, "You can Google that". It's become something that has gone into common use. Of course there are many other digital formats, and as an old Photoshop guy, I can provide you with any of them, but usually people want jpegs.

There are advantages and disadvantages to digitizing things. The main disadvantage is that you need a computer that understands the digital information in order to view the image. In other words, if a photo is just on a piece of paper you don't need to do anything but look at it. But it's the paper that's the problem with photos. Photos printed on paper deteriorate, they fade, they burn, they can be damaged with light, with water. Digital images, of course, can't be harmed that way - they aren't on paper, they're just ones and zeros. Of course that data needs to exist somewhere physically, and if for example my computer blew up right now all of the jpegs on it would disappear. But with a digital file I can make a copy, which I do. I have a backup drive connected to my computer, and I also have a remote server which I can upload the images to. And of course if I've shared them with people who have saved them and shared them and saved them there are many copies. Of course there's no guarantee that everyone who has made a copy of a file wouldn't all lose their data, but at least the chances are less than if the photo exists only on one precious piece of paper.

In the last few years I've seen more and more precious photos digitized. Most of this work is now being done by Universities, but there are a lot of people like me who do it just for the joy of it. And of course photos are just part of what is being digitized - there's also books, movies, that sort of thing. It's a huge worldwide effort, and the more than can be done, the less of a disaster it is when the old paper images get destroyed, or simply fade away.

On any given day I'll take a digital image, optimize it, save it with a file name, upload it to my server, and share it on the internet. Everyone who takes that file helps the possibility that it will be preserved. My personal interest is in images of old Phoenix, of which I now have nearly 10,000, and I've shared them all for many years, and will continue to do so. This started as a personal hobby for me, and now I know that it will be my legacy when I'm gone. Those digital images will outlive me I know. No fire can burn them, they can't end up in a box at the dump. I have great personal confidence in the future technology of the internet, and of course jpegs, which has now been around for a couple of decades.

I've seen attitudes about digitizing changing in the past few years. Not long ago, jpegs were just considered small "previews" of the real thing, which was a piece of paper somewhere. But recently the technology has advanced to the point where the digital image is the real thing, in high definition (what computer geeks like me call high resolution).

OK, so that's what a digital image is, and that's why I care so much about it.

Here is the index file for the folder that I have uploaded with the digital images for Phoenix

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