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Correction to This Article
An article in the Dec. 19 Business section incorrectly stated that digital photos of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison were taken by National Guardsmen. They were taken by Army Reservists.
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Digitized and Brought to Life

I had read the stories when I was young, but as the clippings became too brittle to handle, the details faded from memory. When my grandmother died in 1999, more than a decade after my mother, I inherited the folder, which sat in a drawer until a few months ago when I purchased a $99 scanner at Sam's Club.

I bought the scanner as I began to learn how much you can do with photos once they are in digital form -- clean them up, lighten dark areas, blow up small sections and inspect details you might otherwise never see in a 4-by-6-inch print -- all using entry-level photo software. I had bought my first digital camera in 1998 and have taken thousands of photos since then, driving people crazy by aiming the shutter at them at five to 10 times the rate I did when I had to pay to develop film.

For her photo book, the author was able to clean up pictures using entry-level software, making family history immediate and memorable. (Julia Ewan -- The Washington Post)

Digital Snapshot Digital cameras are displacing film models, creating new markets for photo-sharing Web sites and image-editing software.

In the past two years I slowly moved from capturing images to exploring the many things I could do with them.

I decided it was time to scan in my family's aging paper documents -- not only to preserve them for future generations, but to share them the way I share photos, by e-mailing and posting them online. I pulled out my grandmother's portfolio and started scanning her faded newspaper clippings into my computer. Though my scanner was cheap, it captures images in super-high optical resolution -- up to 3,200 dots per inch by 6,400 dots per inch. Why does resolution matter? Because the more dots per inch a scanner can capture, the bigger you can blow up the images it creates without losing clarity.

I opened the scanned image of the first article in my editing software, cropped it to display only the image of John Holmes, brightened and sharpened it, then used the "zoom" button to fill my entire screen with his face.

There, for the first time, I got a really good look at this man who had died two decades before I was born. As I inspected the big floppy ears that looked suspiciously like mine, I understood for the first time the power digital imaging has to affect our perceptions of life, in part by adding detail and texture to the stories we develop about ourselves and others.

Industry in an Uproar

What may be good for consumers may not be so great for the photographic industry, which is going through convulsions it hasn't seen since the first burst of innovation when photography was born. It is hard to believe it was only 165 years ago that the daguerreotype -- an image on silver-plated copper -- was introduced to the public.

Daguerreotypes launched the first of several worldwide waves of excitement over the methods inventors developed to record precise images -- on glass, on iron, and finally on paper negatives soaked in silver chloride, the forerunners of the flexible film George Eastman pioneered in 1884.

Modern-day inventors have worked furiously over the past decade to develop electronic sensor systems that have steadily improved the quality of digitally captured images. Late last year, prices tumbled to about $300 for three-megapixel cameras, which meant that, for the same price, people could buy a digital model nearly matching its film counterpart in quality.

Consumers stampeded into digital because it offers two big benefits -- the ability to see photos right away on the camera display screen, and reusable memory cards that make each photo virtually free.

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